Junk the “Green Economy”- Filipino Women’s Groups to Rio +20

Filipino Women’s Groups Urgent Message to the

Philippine Delegation to Rio+20

As women who primarily carry both the privilege and burden of social reproduction and care for the human family and ecology, and participate as well in activities that drive societies and economic production, we express our deep concern at the debates and discussions assessing the last two decades since the first Earth Summit and the solutions being forwarded to address the conditions of crises we are caught in today.

The Green Economy

A major push coming from UN agencies, corporations and North governments has taken the form of the Green Economy – the framework that will supposedly address crisis conditions in water and food, energy, the economy, climate and the environment. But we find that behind this cunningly coined concept, is the clear intent by neoliberal forces, primarily corporations, to monetize and commercialize nature, thereby addressing the current crisis of capitalism and pursuing goals of extraction, unhampered growth, mindless consumerism,  wealth accumulation and monopolization.  This is simply a further elaboration of the ideological framework of neoliberalism that is now being extended to nature.

We are angered that in the face of serious environmental crisis threatening the survival of the world’s disadvantaged peoples, big business and North governments are exploiting the situation to protect their own endangered commercial and business interests. Not only are they repackaging or green-washing their profit-seeking and continued capital accumulation. They are actually proposing to reach deeply and widely into the environment and natural resources for capital, on top of their financial capital and exploitation of human beings as capital, and seeking the mantle of the United Nations and high-level government commitment for the same. In truth, this direction is already manifested in such mechanisms as carbon trading and REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) where the atmosphere and forests are given price tags just like other capital goods, and can be traded and sold in the market for profit.

Two decades after the first Earth Summit, we are in greater crisis than before and in deeper levels of impoverishment and deprivation, inequity and injustice. How much longer should we bear this profit-hungry and growth driven route to development that has brought us to these situation of multiple crises today? How much longer should we accept the patriarchal and “macho” responses in the form of fast, large-scale, highly technological systems (even those labelled “green”)?  How long will it take people to realize that this social and economic arrangement is the main culprit behind the fast depletion of the world’s natural resources and the potentially catastrophic warming of the earth? Today’s crises require a critical questioning of systems and structures and building alternatives along just, democratic, non-discriminatory, equitable and sustainable lines.

Commodification of land and water have already resulted to large scale displacement of food systems and peoples’ culture and means to survive; further marketization and privatization of nature will translate to grabbing access, control and care of the world’s still unexploited resources in private and corporate hands. Women in the Philippines and South countries are in the forefront of food production but have the least access and control over land and other resources. In practically all countries, especially of the global South, women make up the greater majority of people living in poverty. While commodification can lead to the “visibility” of the labor of nature in the economy, this process will ultimately suffer the same fate as the commodification of  the labor power of toiling peoples, iand women’s labor and bodies  in particular.

The Green Economy totally veers away from the spirit and substance of the agreement in Rio in 1992.

It contradicts women’s perspective on economy and ecology, which we believe are mutually enhancing systems for sustainable development, not sources of capital and profit.

It is also alarming that agencies of the UN, and some donor and funding agencies have apparently partnered with big business, including those with environmentally destructive records, in promoting this track of commoditizing nature. We continue to fight against these corporations that live on human exploitation and natural resource extraction and have destroyed the lives of peoples, especially the poor and marginalized.  We are disturbed that alongside talk of rights, empowerment, democracy and development, these agencies also support moves of “greening” resource extraction and fail to question the undiminished privileging of and pursuit of growth. The Philippine government must diligently examine and assess these forms of development aid, against human rights and particularly women’s rights standards.

“Gender and women” as add-ons

We strongly emphasize a widely accepted fact — that women constitute half of the Philippine and the world’s population, doing both productive and reproductive work and have key roles in environmental protection and renewal. This has been widely affirmed, yet the negotiating text (as of 22 May 2012) marginalizes and trivializes women’s rights and gender equality.

It ignores the various forms of violence and abuse inflicted upon women by the patriarchy in capitalist systems that takes advantage of the unpaid care labor women largely render, and their generally subordinated position that manifests, among others, in their low wage levels, limited employment opportunities, job insecurity, and inadequate to utter lack of social benefits. The adverse effects of these conditions on the basic and reproductive health of working women are well known, and are further aggravated by the poisoning of our air and water resources by dirty energy, and exposure to various toxic substances such as GMOs, pesticides and chemical fertilizers by which corporations exploit nature beyond its carrying capacity and allow them to profit more.

We stress the accountability of the Philippine as a signatory to the wide-ranging Beijing Platform of Action, and a state party to the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and its Optional Protocol. We have campaigned successfully to localize the CEDAW through our own Magna Carta of Women. It is a basic principle in human rights-based approaches, which the Philippine government subscribes to, that there must be no retrogression in the legal obligation of states parties to respect, protect and fulfil human rights.  The watering down of women and gender equality issues and concerns in the negotiating text is clearly a retrogression and a violation of what the Philippine government has legally committed to, internationally and domestically, not only in respecting and promoting women’s rights but ensuring the enjoyment of the very same.

Another fundamental rights-based principle is full and meaningful participation. We assert this right, and further seek increasing women’s informed participation through accessible, well-resourced mechanisms enabling of the capacities of women and their organizations. Women should be part of any effort to change society, from direction and agenda-setting to implementation. We push for broad-based citizen’s participation within the frame of a new politics that is linked to people’s movements and advances innovative and transformative practices in dealing with crises.

We believe, together with many other women from the South, that there are many alternatives to corporate-led approaches in dealing with the multiple crises we now all face. We reject these market-oriented, patriarchal approaches, and reiterate  several of the points raised by the Women’s Major Group during the Asia Pacific Regional Preparatory for Rio+20 held last year in Seoul, Korea, that  –

“…we  are  working  to  realize “sustainable  economies”  that  are  gender  just  and  enable  long-term  social  and  wellbeing  outcomes  for  present and future generations, especially marginalized groups such as indigenous, ethnic and sexual minority groups.

“As  women  comprise  half  the  world’s  population  and  also  count  among  the  poorest,  a  “sustainable economy”  must  recognize  women’s  paid  and  un(der)paid  contributions  to  economic  production,  must generate  sustainable  livelihoods  by  which  women  can  realize  the  full  enjoyment  of  their  human  rights, including  sexual  and  reproductive  rights,  and  prevent  all  forms  of  discrimination  and  violence  in women’s exercise of their economic rights and co-stewardship of the earth’s resources. Central to this is women’s  unmediated  right  to  access,  own,  control  and  benefit  from  productive  resources  and  assets, which  includes  land,  water,  seeds,  energy  sources,  livestock,  financial  resources,  public  subsidies  and appropriate technologies.

“…women  farmers  must  be  recognized  as  co-managers  of  community  resource  bases  and  co-

decision-makers in determining the use of natural resources and the distribution of benefits arising from


“We further seek from our governments a  commitment  to  the  rapid  reduction  and  elimination  of  toxic  substances  and  highly  hazardous pesticides and fertilizers, while steadily phasing-in non-chemical approaches.

“…as  marginalized  and  excluded  groups,  women  bear  the  harshest  impacts  of  the  current  climate crisis,  including  increased  ecological  and  economic  displacement.  States must  address  the  gender-

differentiated  impacts  of  climate  change  while  ensuring  greater  and  more  meaningful  participation  of women in the climate deliberations and outcomes, and in adaptation and mitigation strategies.”

Our lives and the lives of future generations in the world are at stake in the the discussions in Rio and all the other discourses on the environment.

Our calls and demands:

1.     Junk the “Green Economy” as the framework for addressing the crises in food, water, energy, the economy and the environment, and delete all references to it in the Rio+20 outcome document;

2.     Foster and build new socio-economic and political systems that reject growth as the sole parameter of development and puts premium on the equitable distribution of wealth and resources in the context of the earth’s endangered carrying capacity; respects, protects and fulfils human rights; and recognizes and ensures, at the heart of all economic, social and political development goals, gender-fair responsibility for the critical role of social reproduction and care labor in the development and the future of human society and our planet;

3.     Genuinely integrate women’s sentiments, lived experiences, voices, issues and demands in the Rio+20 outcome document, resisting the tendency towards retrogression, and in accordance with the Beijing Platform for Action as well as the normative standards and legal obligations established by the international bill of human rights – the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the two International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; and the Women’s Human Rights Convention or the CEDAW.

4.     Ensure and expand spaces/processes for the full,  informed, empowering participation and engagement of women’s movements, especially marginalized women and their organizations

5.     Put in place mechanisms for accountability and sanctions to meaningfully realize gender justice and climate justice.


SIGNATORIES (15 June 2012)


National/Local Organizations:

Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL)

Alliance of Progressive Labor- Women (APL Women)

Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC)

Freedom from Debt Coalition Women’s Committee (FDC WC)

Integrated Rural Development Foundation (IRDF)

Kalayaan Philippines

Kilusan at Ugnayan ng Maralitang Pasigenos (KUMPAS)

Koalisyon Pabahay ng Pilipinas (KPP)

Makabayan Pilipinas

Migrante International

Pambansang Koalisyon ng Kababaihan sa Kanayunan (PKKK)

Partido ng Mangagawa (Labor Party – Philippines)

Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM)

Public Services Labor Independent Confederation (PSLINK)



Society of Transexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP)

Task Force Food Sovereignty (TFFS)

Unlad Kabayan Migrant Services Foundation, Inc.  Manila Office

Women’s Legal and Human Rights Bureau (WLB)

Women’s Dayoff

World March of Women Pilipinas

Regional Organizations

Coalition Against Trafficking in Women Asia Pacific (CATWP)

Endorsed by:

Jubilee South Asia Pacific Movement on Debt and Development (JSAPMDD)


Individual Signatories

Rebecca Lozada

Women’s Legal and Human Rights Bureau, Inc. (WLB)
Room 305 College of Social Work and Community Development Building
Magsaysay Avenue, University of the Philippines
Diliman, Quezon City
Philippines 1101
E-mail addresses: wlb@smartbro.net or womenslegalbureau@yahoo.com
Telefax number: (63-2) 921-4389
Skype ID: womenslegalbureau

Lethal ingredients in the Rio+20 mocktail

United Nations Conference on Environment and D...

United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (Photo credit: United Nations Photo)

      N. S. TANVI, The Hindu


Commodification, commercialisation and financialisation of nature will produce a greedy, not green, economy

Over 100 world leaders will meet in Rio de Janeiro this week for the U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development, popularly referred to as Rio+20 Global Earth Summit.

It is being held amidst “‘a world running low on drinking water and productive land’ and set against the backdrop of accelerating global warming, climate change, chemical contamination of air, land and water, drinking water depletion, extinction of forest and bio-diversity organisms, extreme weather events, energy insecurity, ocean acidification and environmental degradation.” The current growth process has devastated natural resources and habitats, created environmental refugees and is, today, posing a serious threat to continuation of life on planet earth itself.

The Rio+20 meet is taking place 20 years after the 1992 First Earth Summit, when more than 120 heads of state met against the background of imminent ecological disaster caused by a development paradigm based on unlimited growth and industrial expansion premised on the limitlessness of natural resources.

“Sustainable development” — growth which does not endanger the rights of future generations to access and enjoyment of the same resources — came to be accepted as the test for deciding the path of all growth and development processes. Protecting environmental resources, empowering marginalised communities and a central role for public institutions remained the central pillars of the Rio 1992 approach.

The failing of the “sustainable development” model was that it created a false understanding that “sustainability” was possible without having to counter the logic or model of industrial society with its paradigm of accumulation of capital.

The context for the U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development Rio+20 meet is outlined in the UNEP Document “Towards a Green Economy: Pathways to Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication.” The document details the “widespread disillusionment with our prevailing economic paradigm, a sense of fatigue emanating from the many concurrent crises and market failures experienced during the very first decade of the new millennium, including especially the financial and economic crisis of 2008.”

Economic value on nature

The Rio+20 document seeks to create an architecture of environmental protection by placing an economic value on nature and natural processes. Nature would be treated as “products” to be traded in “commodities and futures” markets, open for speculation in the “derivatives” markets. Similar to “carbon credit trading,” those who damage nature in one region could continue environmentally damaging processes by growing forests in some other part of the world to earn “natural resource” or “bio-diversity” credit.

What the new “Green Economy” is putting forward is the notion that it is because nature and nature’s resources are not “valued” that people abuse nature. The heart of the new UNEP “green economy” paradigm is a corporate-led, evolved and inclusive vision of the future of the planet. This definitional paradigm is, however, destructive, dangerous and damaging.

The Green Economy proposes that a financial value be placed on “nature” and, what the paper calls “Nature’s Services” like clean air, water, trees, fruits and so on. In simple words, what the Green Economy proponents propose is that organisms like “bees, butterflies and birds” act as nature’s service providers providing “services” like pollination, fertilization, seed germination which today, they say, is done free. If these services are “priced” they can be made available for sale in the “biodiversity” market!

Thus, once ecosystem “services” and biodiversity “goods” are priced and can be sold and purchased like any other commodity, new markets in ecosystems and biodiversity will be created.

Arising from this framework are a number of new speculative, derivative based market instruments — very thoughtfully and evocatively packaged as “ecosystem services” and “biodiversity banking.” Thus forests and rivers become “natural capital” and natural processes such as pollination by bees become “ecosystem services” provided by the corporate entity, “Earth.”

“Benefit transfers,” “biodiversity banks” and speculator trading in financial instruments derived from the artificially assigned value of ecosystems set the context for “forest carbon credit” markets and “biodiversity credit markets.” The outlines of this process is etched by one of the architects of the Green Economy, a former banker of Deutche Bank, Pavan Sukhdev in his report, “The Economic of Ecosystems and Biodiversity.”

Ignoring the crisis factors

The voluminous 600+ pages of the Green Economy document pays pious homilies to the sanctity of the environment and the need for eco-restoration. But not even once does the report acknowledge that today’s crises have been caused by dangerously polluting industries, the extractive mining sector, chemical industries or industrial agriculture.

The fixation with corporate-techno-managerial solutions presented by the UNEP report stands out against the poor respect and recognition given to traditional knowledge systems for governing the commons and customary practices of managing waterways, forests, bio-mass and seas.

Some positive proposals include “sustainable public procurement policies, ecological tax reform, public investments in sustainable infrastructure — including in public transport, renewable energy or retrofitting of existing infrastructure and buildings for improved energy-efficiency.”

The core issue of a true green economy, however, is the fundamental principle that all natural resources belong to the global commons and are too critical for life to be commoditised or financialised, to be determined by the fickle world of markets.

Contrary to the UNEP view that “it is a myth that there is a dilemma between economic progress and environmental sustainability,” the truth is — as a set of concerned world citizens put it — that “a sustainable, commons-based model cannot, in good conscience, further the myth of limitless, extractive development. That would be to promote a false expectation that will lead to the collapse of our societies and planet.”

The corporate centredness of UNEP is exposed by the calculated manner in which it ignores examples of alternate attempts to evolve a more holistic, integrated, equitable, inclusive paradigm. Environmentally ravaged countries in Latin America like Bolivia and Ecuador have come up with exciting new paradigms for development. Bolivia’s “Mother Earth” policy recognises the “right to life and to exist; the right to continue vital cycles and processes free from human alteration; the right to pure water and clean air; the right to balance; the right not to be polluted; and the right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered.” It also enshrines the right of nature “to not be affected by mega-infrastructure and development projects that affect the balance of ecosystems and the local inhabitant communities.”

In Ecuador there has been a vigorous movement for a “Universal Declaration of the Rights of Nature.” Noted Ecuadorian economist Alberto Acosta put it eloquently, “Nature has much to say and it is high time we, its children, stopped playing deaf.”

The Second Earth Summit will come and go the way many other summits have gone, with little, if any, difference to Mother Earth’s predicament. The Government of India too, did not deem it necessary to consult its citizens to ask them how, together as a nation, we should face the pressing environmental crises of our times. But considering the pro-corporate dispensation of the UPA-II, it is not surprising at all. For India’s elite, as elsewhere too, have forgotten Mahatma Gandhi’s solemn warning: “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need but not every man’s greed.”

(V. Suresh is National Secretary, PUCL, and N.S. Tanvi is a student at the National Law University, Jodhpur.)


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