Johannesburg made it clear that the real clash of cultures is between cultures of life and cultures of death. The anti-poverty movement, the justice movement, the sustainability movement, the ecology movement are actually one movement, the movement to defend the resources for sustenance and right to sustenance as a natural right – a right that is not given by states and cannot be taken away by greedy corporations. Corrupt deals on pieces of paper cannot extinguish that natural right. This is why in Johannesburg the movements had the moral power, not the corporations or governments.
The moral degradation of the ruling elites was also evident in the privatization of life through biotechnology and patents. Southern Africa has been made a victim of drought and famine under the joint impact of climate change and structural adjustment programs. The World Bank has forced countries to destroy and dismantle their food security systems. Faced with severe drought, lack of food security is creating conditions of famine. More than 300,000 people face starvation. Famine caused by western powers is now being used to market GMOs through food aid. Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique have refused to accept GMOs in food aid. The WHO was mobilized to force African countries to accept GM food. The US government made the force-feeding of Africans with GMOs a major issue.
When Colin Powell, representing President Bush kept insisting on African countries importing GM food from US in the closing plenary of the Earth Summit, he was heckled by both NGOs and Governments. African farmers had come to Johannesburg with alternatives – small-scale, indigenous and based on rights to land, water and seed.
The Earth Summit in Johannesburg in 2002, organized 10 years after the Rio Summit which gave us the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Biosafety Protocol, was also reduced to a marketplace for pushing biotech on Africa. Hundreds of African farmers and government representatives condemned the US pressure to force GM contaminated food aid. As civil society representatives from Africa stated,
‘We, African Civil Society groups, participants to the World Summit on
Sustainable Development, composed of more than 45 African countries, join hands with the Zambian and Zimbabwean governments and their people in rejecting GE contaminated food for our starving brothers and sisters:
1. We refuse to be used as the dumping ground for contaminated food, rejected by the Northern countries; and we are enraged by the emotional blackmail of vulnerable people in need, being used in this way.
2. The starvation period is anticipated to begin early in 2003, so that there is enough time to source uncontaminated food.
3. There is enough food in the rest of Africa (already offered by Tanzania and Uganda) to provide food for the drought areas.
4. Our responses is to strengthen solidarity and self-reliance with in
Africa, in the face of this next wave of colonization, through GE technologies, which aim to control our agricultural systems, through the manipulation of seed by corporations.
5. We will stand together in preventing our continent from being contaminated by genetically engineered crops, as a responsibility to our future generations.’
There was, in fact, not one Summit, there were many. There was the hijacked Summit at Sandton, the richest suburb in Johannesburg. To get to the Convention Center we had to pass a shopping mall. It was an appropriate symbol of a Summit that became a market for the earth resources. There was a limp official NGO gathering at NASREC. At a school, St. Stithians, was the celebration of the People’s Earth Summit, and,in Soweto, children gathered for a Children’s Earth Summit. The landless people and the small farmers had their own Summits. The alternative Summits were planning a people-centered, earth-centered agenda for the future. In the midst of corruption, they were creating courage and truth. In the midst of hopelessness they were creating hope. In the midst of violence they were creating non-violence.
When, as civil society, we walked away from the official process on September 4 and withdrew our consent, we did so in peace, in confidence and joy. We were brutally assaulted by the police of the apartheid era. We remembered Gandhi who was also assaulted on another September 11, and instead of responding to violence with violence, he shaped non-violence into the ultimate power of the weak and excluded. His ‘Satyagraha’, the ‘force of truth’, was a different response from that to the events of September11, 2001. His ‘satyagraha’ is our inspiration. As we said in our statement issued from the People’s Earth Summit,
‘We are outraged that the World Summit on Sustainable Development, instead of being an Earth Summit, which reinforced the commitments made in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro to protect the Earth and strengthen the rights of the poor has been subverted by governments and corporations for their own ends at the expense of civil society and the Earth. We refuse to collaborate with laws and systems of governance that deny the most fundamental birthrights of people and our responsibilities within the Earth Community and future generations.’
Our collective civil society statement issued on September 4, when we disassociated ourselves with deep concern from the outcomes of the World
Summit on Sustainable Development was simultaneously a declaration of our resolve and commitment.
‘We celebrate our common resolve to strengthen the diversity of human cultures and the integrity of our Planet Earth. We reaffirm that “another world is possible” and we shall make it happen.’
For further information contact:
Navdanya / Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology
A – 60, Hauz Khas, New Delhi – 110016 – INDIA
Tel: 91-11-6968077 / 6853772, 6561868
Fax: 91-11-6856795, 6562093
Email: [email protected], [email protected]
Vandana Shiva, writer and ‘ecological scientist’, directs the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Natural Resource Policy in New Delhi. Her current work centers on biodiversity and sustainable agriculture.