From the TUC

Judith reports from Rio+20: no social justice without environmental protection

20 Jun 2012, by in Uncategorized

 The Brazilian government seems to want to close negotiations on a final communiqué that lacks specific commitments to tackle the global equality, environment and economic crises we face.  With set pieces for prime ministers rather than serious negotiations, Judith Kirton-Darling, ETUC Confederal Secretary, reports from the conference floor that “the European union delegation is extremely frustrated and angry about the process.” Some progress on green jobs and decent work promises “has been undermined by weak environmental commitments and the outrageous deletion of women’s reproductive rights from the final draft.”

Following a complicated process of closed door negotiations and a ‘take it leave it’ approach of the Brazilian hosts of the UN conference, Ministers negotiating in Rio ahead of the arrival of heads of state and government tomorrow, including UK Deputy PM Nick Clegg, have concluded a provisional agreement today.

Judith reports that, following strong pressure from the trade union movement, the text includes strong language on the current unemployment crisis, decent work, and the promotion of social protection floors like health and social security systems. “Just transition” is in there (one mention, para 152) and the role of workers and their trade unions in sustainable development. However, there are few concrete proposals on how to take them forward. Unions will be demanding clear actions from governments and the EU to implement these statements.

However, these steps forward for international work on sustainable development have been totally over-shadowed today by the deletion of women’s reproductive rights from the text agreed by ministers, under intense pressure this week from the Vatican (a non-state actor in the process).

Moreover, the provisional agreement’s chapters on environmental protection from the Earth Summit’s draft agreement are unacceptably weak and well below the ETUC or ITUC’s demands. For instance, renewable energy has been placed in an equivalent level as fossil fuels based energy in the energy chapter, and the right to water and sanitation while recognized has been restricted ‘according to national law’.

The international and European trade union movement were hugely disappointed that ministers so rapidly endorsed the document which steps back from commitments made in previous international agreements.

Trade unions are sending clear messages to their governments in Rio that social justice is only possible if environmental protection and human rights are guaranteed and promoted.