Filipino Women’s Groups Urgent Message on 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)
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)
Kilusan at Ugnayan ng Maralitang Pasigenos (KUMPAS)
Koalisyon Pabahay ng Pilipinas (KPP)
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)
World March of Women Pilipinas
Endorsed by the following Regional Organizations
Coalition Against Trafficking in Women Asia Pacific (CATWP)
Jubilee South Asia Pacific Movement on Debt and Development (JSAPMDD)
Photo Courtesy of Yahoo News