Highlighting Rivers at Rio+20

Monday, June 4, 2012

In the preparations for the twentieth anniversary conference of the Earth Summit (aka Rio+20), the word “Rio” flows from everyone’s lips. But are rivers properly integrated into the consciousness – and agenda – of organizers of the official proceedings?

In June 2012 the UN Conference on Sustainable Development – returning to Rio de Janeiro, which hosted the historic Earth Summit in 1992 – brings together governments, corporations, and a subset of NGOs. The official proceedings will focus on economic growth under a banner of the "Green Economy."  Meanwhile, thousands of civil society groups – including International Rivers – representing the global majority living with the economic and environmental consequences of a failing global economic program are meeting to advance grassroots sustainable development solutions within the parallel People’s Summit forum, and beforehand at the Xingu+23 gathering in the Amazon.

The latest Rio+20 special issue of World Rivers Review explores how far we've actually come since the first Rio Earth Summit with a focus on rivers and the key development issues – energy exploitation, displacement of sustainable livelihoods, regional food security, climate change resilience, and biodiversity loss – that are at the confluence of the global hydro-dam boom. 

There's no better way to put Rivers on the agenda at Rio+20 then to amplify the story of the Amazon – a basin of rivers threatend by over 150 dams planned or under construction on nearly every tributary. As the world turns a few days of attention to Rio, International Rivers' Executive Director Jason Rainey and Amazon Program Director Brent Millikan are bringing attention to the growing resistance from Brazilians to the Belo Monte monster dam under construction on the Xingu River, and launching a report that outlines an energy plan for Brazil that would protect the Amazon – a river basin of planetary importance.

  • From June 13-17, Xingu+23 – the 23rd anniversary of the historical gathering of indigenous communities that resulted in successfully stopping construction of the Belo Monte Dam – took place in Altamira and Santo Antȏnio along the Xingu River. There was a celebration in honor of the village of Santo Antȏnio’s patron saint, a public hearing on violations of human rights and environmental legislation in the process of dam licensing and construction, a street march in Altamira, and an occupation of the Belo Monte Dam site. Brent Millikan, Amazon Program Director for International Rivers, was in attendance, along with Christian Poirier and Maíra Irigaray of Amazon Watch.
  • From June 15-23, the Alternative People's Summit is happening in Rio de Janeiro. Events will include a gathering of activists from the Amazon and other regions on debunking the myth of dams as clean energy, a workshop on strengthening the campaigns against Belo Monte and other destructive projects, and a series of street protests. Jason Rainey, Executive Director of International Rivers, will be covering many aspects of the event on our World Rivers Blog, along with Brent, many people from Amazon Watch, and partners from Latin America and around the world.
  • A symposium on environmentally sustainable and socially just alternatives for Brazil's electrical energy sector was held in Rio on June 18th.
  • About 1,500 people came together to create a human banner on Flamengo Beach in Rio on June 19, calling for Rios para a vida (rivers for life).