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Volunteers attend Río+20 Conference in 'Cancillería Argentina', Buenos Aires

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By Andrew Furness and Federica Pisi Between the 20th-22nd June, Río de Janeiro will host a United Nations summit to discuss a green economy and world social development. The idea is to develop a “global model” and on the 11th June in Buenos Aires, members of the Red Social Argentina met to discuss how Argentina should present themselves and what should hope to be gained for South America from the meetings. This year’s official United Nations document explaining the summit tells us that the name comes from the fact that a similar world summit was held in Río in 1992 (20 years ago). The conference is due to be attended by Governments and heads of state from member nations, as well as relevant NGOs and crucially; social movements and “civil society”, i.e. artists, journalists and urban-syndicates but to name a few. This final addition to the invited list has caused great excitement in Latin America as it means a potentially ‘environmental’ conference can be used to discuss a wider range of issues and indeed at the conference myself and Federica attended, one of the speakers was a representative from the indigenous community. In terms of this conference, the introduction was a clear sign of the attitude of the group. I should explain that the ‘Red Social Argentina’ is a group made up of leading figures from the government and social organisations. Both their introductory document and the Ambassador’s opening discourse called for the “Sustainable Development” conference to include more than just ecologists and environmentalists but political and academic interests too. It was stressed that a sustainable social development model must include what they consider the 3 pillars of development: The Economy, Social Work and Care for the environment. This meeting took place in the Cancillería Argentina and all of the speakers told us what an honour it was to be presenting in such a prestigious location that for so long “was closed to la voz de los pueblos” but now directly represents this voice which is speaking clearly for a summit with wider interests and a slight shift in focus. For Argentina, social dynamic will be the most important factor. The presenters spoke one after the other to talk about their specific points of views from the perspective of their organisations. They were: Hugo Yasky, Secretary General of the CTA (Worker’s Association), Government Members Edgardo Depetri, Claudia Giaccone, Mara Brawer, the junior secretary of Environmental policy Silvia Révora, the network’s ambassador: Oscar Laborde and the junior secretary of foreign policy María del Carmen Squeff. Below is a brief summary of each speaker’s presentation which followed Ambassador Laborde’s introduction: 1) María del Carmen Squeff -Mentioned again the 3 pillars of Economy, Social work and Environmental care and added that these are the key for not only a better environment but for the fight against poverty. -She said she was happy to see the importance placed on social inclusion and participation in the decision making process. 2)Indigenous Towns representative -Spoke of how the indigenous are important to this summit and these projects as they give a perfect example of how to live in harmony with nature. -Expressed gratitude for being recognised in various constitutional laws and hopes this can be continued into a universal trait. 3)Claudia Giaccone -Climate Change co-ordinator: spoke of vital statistics that needed to be addressed in Río this summer, ¾ of the world population doesn’t have enough food or resources -Brought a positive perspective in the sense that since Río 1992 the level of interest has raised and there are now more projects regarding education, health and food worldwide. Said there are opportunities here for a gran avanza 4)Silvia Révora -Talked about the political theory behind these talks; the government does not want to accept a supranational power and thinks the UN has the potential to be controlled by a small number of countries -Agrees with a global venture such as this but primarily wants to ensure the defence of the countries agriculture industry and identity. (Joked that she wasn’t used to applause when her speech received a very positive response) 5) Mara Brawer -Spoke of the human element; a healthy environment is the only way to enable those in poverty to live well -Made reference to Europe’s involvement: “The E.U. sees this as a platform to convert the world to their models but there needs to be a compromise” 6)Edgardo Depetri - Made a very passionate and patriotic speech; Argentina should give examples to the conference -His main points were that Argentina must protect its natural resources because America and Europe are trying to control key international areas in order to recover the damages from their economic crises. 7)Hugo Yasky -Took the position that a global model could be beneficial; the world has a tension between the Northern and Southern hemisphere but this inequality happens inside individual nations too. -Delighted with the progress shown in 20 years (cited example of the original town representative speaking after a government minister) and pushed for policies that would continue benefiting Argentina after the Río meeting. There is one more similar event happening on the 11th and 12th May which will include specific workshops to finish preparation, we hope some future VG volunteers will be able to see what developments occur at this. But overall the objective for Argentina remains to use the ‘important opportunity’ of Río+20 to establish a new global model that will overcome the challenges of existing regulations.

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