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Documents for Earth Summit II

[ Back to NG Documents for Earth Summit II ]

Lighting the Path to Progress

Women's Initiatives and An Assessment of Progress 
since the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) 

Submitted by Women's Environment and Development Organization (WEDO)

Introduction

I. The Fire: The Vision of Rio

II. The Boiling Point: Critical Issues and Priorities

III. Steaming Ahead: Women's Initiatives for Sustainability

IV. Each Voice: A Candle- Values & Principles

V. Dimming of Flames: Policy Gaps and Constraints on the Implementation Of Sustainability

VI. Lighting the Campfire: Reflections and Recommendations

 

Introduction

In reviewing the progress made since the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, WEDO has chosen to focus its report on the image of fire. Across religions, cultures and mythologies, fire exerts a powerful and evocative symbolism. Fire is elemental and transformative, a life-giving force that can nurture and sustain, giving warmth, light and energy. It can also scorch and destroy, turning to ashes instantly what may have taken a lifetime or a millennium to build.
Women everywhere are the users and keepers of fire. Everyday, millions of women, especially from the South, spend arduous hours in search of fuel wood to kindle a fire and feed their families. Elsewhere, women can simply light a flame with a turn of a knob.
But women everywhere have need of fire.
As we near the new millennium, women may well judge their progress through their relationship with and control of the flame. Women need to ask themselves, and the world, whether the last decade of the century and the years since the Rio Summit have improved their access to this basic resource.
But there are many forms of heat that determine our well-being and that of the planet. The most frightening reality of the degradation of the environment is global warming. The heating of the atmosphere can lead to rising tides, flooded lands, new diseases and a resurgence of old ones as ambient temperatures become more favorable to microbes.
At Rio, global warming was considered to be of such importance that a special summit was demanded to take stock of the problems of the small island states who were considered to be so at risk that some could actually be immersed and lost to the future.
Can we take the heat? Can we afford to ignore the flawed patterns of production and consumption that lead to a warming of the earth's atmosphere and deepen poverty and deprivation? Can we continue to gloss over the disparity in lifestyles between North and South that underpin the inequalities of a global division that relegates growing numbers of the poor to a life in the cold? Can the fire-eaters be allowed to produce and consume at a pace that is devouring the earth's resources? Can women protect the flame and prevent a raging blaze?
The five-year review of the Earth Summit is an opportune moment for us to ask these and other questions of all committed to making the planet a healthy and sustainable one.

I. The Fire: The Vision of Rio

"Human beings are at the center of concerns for sustainable development. They are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature." Principle 1 of the Rio Declaration
A fire was lit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Five years later, how hot is it? Much positive activity has been undertaken, but the spirit of Rio today seems to flicker as embers rather than blaze as a fire. The question, therefore, is how to fan the embers of progress into the flame of widespread change?
The Rio+5 gathering is an opportunity to identify ongoing obstacles to major progress since the United Nations Conference of Environment and Development (UNCED), focus the considerable energy of civil society on key necessary breakthroughs, and particularly to prioritize the current and future roles of women.
UNCED did not seek mere incremental progress--it was a call for true structural change. However, it is now apparent that the policy and practical changes envisioned by the Rio accords must take place in a climate of unprecedented economic globalization, to some extent underestimated by the UNCED process. NGOs during the preparatory phase of the Earth Summit negotiations as well as in Rio warned of the consequences of the end of the Uruguay Round, which gave birth to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1994. Assessing progress since Rio, in any sector, is impossible without taking economic globalization into account.
Moreover, five years after Rio, post-Rio economic forces seem, in practice, out of synch with the Rio consensus, despite their theoretical harmony.
There is a question, therefore, as to how successful civil society, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and small businesses can be in achieving the Rio vision without concomitant major actions within local, regional and national governments, as well as private sector and multilateral economic and financial institutions. The changes necessary in the operation of these large entities, day-to-day and on-the-ground, have thus far not been forthcoming.
Women's initiatives have been vital to keeping the vision of Rio alive since UNCED. But, perhaps even more than five years ago, it is evident that without intensified leadership, involvement and participation of women at every level, post-Rio implementation will not achieve the pace or scope its urgency demands.

Agenda 21 and other International Accords

The importance of women to the vision of Rio is reflected in the Rio agreements, thanks largely to the unflagging advocacy efforts of women themselves. This advocacy has intensified since Rio at related international meetings, demonstrating increasing strength.
One of the more significant methodologies for consultation developed in the process was the establishment of the Women's Action Agenda 21 that became the guiding document for action for women involved in the negotiations during the preparatory meetings and in national fora. Astonishingly, the first draft document for the Earth Summit hardly mentioned the word women. Given the obvious role of women in the reproductive and productive role of women in all societies, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that the framers were little influenced by the realities of ordinary life.
Aghast at this omission, women who were involved in the process organized to ensure that the negotiations and the documents they yielded responded to the real world. One of the most significant ways in which the deficiency of the process was addressed was the holding of the World Women's Congress in Miami in 1991, where under the auspices of WEDO and its International Policy Action Committee made up of 55 women from around the world, 1,500 women from 84 countries gathered and developed the Women's Action Agenda 21. This brought to the intergovernmental process and that of NGOs the realities of women's experiences, women's knowledge and women's aspirations.
This Women's Action Agenda 21 came to serve as a minimum consensus agenda within the women's caucus and offered a democratic methodology for arriving at decisions during the negotiations. They also permitted the ventilation of global as well as sectoral issues within and across states in such a way that women who were a part of the actual negotiating process within the conference framework were not only informed but empowered to continue to negotiate. Assured in the knowledge that their positions were underpinned and reinforced by a continuous process of information and feedback, the women were armed by the Nairobi Forward-Looking Strategies developed in 1985 which mothered many of these concerns and ideas.
The conference discussions were further strengthened by the evidence accumulated during the 1991 UNEP conference, Global Assembly -- Partners in Life, which celebrated 218 success stories in environmental management, living proof from the world over of women's concrete and vital, if not always visible, role in the management of the environment.
A women's caucus was established within the conference which impacted both on the official process and the NGO negotiations themselves. The final outcome, Agenda 21, was to contain not only references to women's realities within each chapter but importantly a separate Chapter 24 on women -- Global Action for Women Towards Sustainable and Equitable Development.
Chapter 24 of Agenda 21 recommended elimination, by the year 2000, of the "constitutional, legal, administrative, cultural, behavioral, social and economic obstacles to women's full participation in sustainable development and public life." This chapter made other recommendations in such areas as women's health, child care, family planning and access to credit.
Since Rio, other international gatherings have occurred that cannot be separated from an evaluation of post-UNCED progress. The International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), held in Cairo, in 1994, and the World Summit for Social Development, held in Copenhagen in March, 1995, have gradually deepened, elaborated upon and extended the recommendations of Agenda 21 and other Rio accords.
Most notably, the Platform for Action adopted by the U.N. Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in September 1995, is the strongest statement of international consensus on women's equality and empowerment that has ever been agreed upon by governments. Moreover, the Beijing Platform was pivotal to moving governments from making only recommendations to undertaking actual commitments.
In fact, some 90 governments committed to undertake various and specific actions to implement the Platform, and NGOs kept a running tally in Beijing as these commitments were made. Monitoring these commitments at the local, regional and national levels continues to be a major focus of women activists and women's organizations, and the building of effective monitoring networks must also be counted as significant post-Rio progress.
Underlying all the Rio and post-Rio agreements, however, is a philosophy so basic, humane and just it should go without saying. It was, nevertheless, also codified in the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, namely Principle 1 which states: "Human beings are at the center of concerns for sustainable development. They are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature."
Every strategy and recommendation at UNCED was aimed at accomplishing the goals of Principle 1. The international women's movement has long been dedicated to realizing this idea, by struggling to ensure that women everywhere can lead healthy and productive lives for their own sake, and for the sake of the families, communities and future generations which they shape.
Five years after Rio, though the consensus remains imperfect and can be strengthened, an irrefutable international political foundation has been built, largely by women, to underpin the initiatives of women around the world.
This stands as a major accomplishment of the last five years.

II. The Boiling Point: Critical Issues and Priorities

"To achieve sustainable development and a higher quality of life for all people, States should reduce and eliminate unsustainable patterns of production and consumption and promote appropriate demographic policies." Principle 8 of the Rio Declaration
Despite unprecedented political agreement, however, worrying gaps between stated intent and living reality persist.
The core goal of the Earth Summit was to steer human history toward sustainable development, namely, economic development that is based on, and inseparable from, social equity, inclusion of women in policy-making, human development and environmental stewardship. But five years after Rio, global poverty, social deprivation and environmental degradation remain ongoing. Alarming statistics accumulate despite the breadth and specificity of international agreements.
* Five years after Rio, 1.3 billion people try to survive on less than $1 per day;
* The globalized market economy has deepened economic polarization between developed and developing nations. In 70 countries, average income was lower than it had been in 1980 and in 43, lower than in 1970. The difference in income between the developing and industrialized world tripled from $5,700 in 1970 to $15,400 in 1993 (UNDP Human Development Report, 1996);
* One billion people lack access to potable water and sanitation services;
* Nearly 50,000 people, mainly children, die each day from preventable causes;
* Over half a million women lose their lives in childbirth or as a result of unsafe abortions.
Yet, all of these problems, among many others, were the subject of intense international discussion and negotiation at Rio, Cairo, Copenhagen and Beijing.
Even in nations experiencing traditional economic growth, and those traditionally considered wealthy, the numbers of poor and disenfranchised are rising. The enormous economic profits derived from globalization concentrate in the hands of relative few.
The over consumption of the North is driving many aspects of the worst environmental and human crises of the world. Over consumption patterns of the North have begun to dangerously take root in pockets of the South fired by the ideals of pervasive growth-oriented market-driven policies that are eroding all cultures. Equally true is the fact that the growing poverty attendant on these policies is also emerging in the north.
"In debates (on sustainable development) it is often asserted that developing countries with large populations pose a greater threat to the world environment than developed countries with smaller populations. However it is well known that developed countries have higher levels of consumption than developing countries and that consumption exerts pressure on the environment.
"The conclusions obtained from estimates of population adjusted by consumption seriously question the assumption that countries with larger populations pose a greater environmental risk. Sustainable development is based on the premise that there has to be a balance between population and consumption within overall limits imposed by nature. Then it becomes clear that not only population but also consumption has to be reduced if sustainability is to be achieved." (Our Global Neighborhood)
Meanwhile, despite much-stated recognition that a healthy natural resource base is essential for economic health, and the increasing acceptance of so called "Green GNP" indicators--pioneered by women several decades ago--unbridled environmental exploitation seems to accompany most economic activity, including habitat destruction, deforestation, loss of species, energy waste, coastal degradation, and soil degradation.
Private sector investment, much praised in the post-Rio era as a substitute for overseas development assistance, flows only to a handful of the strongest developing countries and often to the most environmentally exploitative industries.
These social, economic and environmental trends are well-known, much discussed, and were already reaching frightening proportions when the Earth Summit was convened. They were, however, the legacy of numerous parallel, interacting and powerful phenomena such as the industrial and information revolutions, large and small wars, the advent of the toxic nuclear and high-tech militarism, the green revolution, colonialism, feudalism and slavery.
Five years is but a moment of time in which to overcome history's legacy. Still, since the Earth Summit, in the international women's movement, as well as in many other arenas, the following have been named as key problems that require priority action:

A. Inconsistencies between UNCED and the effects of the removal of trade barriers and international capital mobility
Under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and its successor, the World Trade Organization (WTO), most countries are being forced to open their markets to the free entry of foreign goods and, in the process, becoming more dependent on imports for food and other essential items. Countries with large foreign debts are pried open further by structural adjustment programs imposed by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The programs emphasize the increase of export earnings so that countries can service their debt and pay for imports, a debt that has been repaid in real terms many times over, claiming more than 50 per cent of government revenues. These export-oriented policies of the World Bank and IMF have wreaked havoc on many developing nations and forced women to increase their unpaid work.
The long-term implications of the explosion of free trade, though noted at Rio, escaped real scrutiny in favor of securing consensus on the core agreements. However, it is now crucial to examine the relationship of debt payment structure and trade to the implementation of the Rio accords. The WTO, under U.S. leadership, held its first ministerial meeting in Singapore in late 1996 and is moving ahead rapidly to eliminate the last remaining trade barriers.
The doctrine in favor of free trade argues that the investment it stimulates creates economic growth, prosperity and jobs. However, women worldwide have noted that the jobs created are largely offset by the loss of livelihoods destroyed, for example, by the importation of basic foodstuffs to the detriment of local small-scale farmers, or the shift of agricultural production away from local food production toward production of high-priced food commodities for export. Furthermore, often jobs that have been created through foreign investment--such as clothing assembly factories--pay meager wages for work under horrendous conditions that include exploitation of women and children. Investors seeking "flexible" work forces can shop around the world to find the lowest wage standards, and the most lax or least enforced environmental regulations, thus pitting nations against each other in a race to the bottom to attract foreign capital.
At the same time, developing countries, already operating at a disadvantage on the trading stage, are being forced to choose between implementing the goals and aspirations of Agenda 21 and winning foreign investment that can often be at odds with this implementation.
Reversing these trends, while not subjecting developing countries to unfair trade practices, is essential if the goals of Rio are to be achieved. This area is a high priority of women's organizations.

B. The rise of transnational corporations (TNCs)
As wages and working conditions suffer a downward spiral, an upward spiral fuels consumption.
Private businesses exploiting natural resources, such as in minerals and forests, have always been prime agents of environmental destruction. Government agencies also have been inefficient in managing and protecting public assets, such as natural resources, and are often corrupt, barely enforcing regulations where they existed. The pursuit of profit over all other objectives, all the more potent today, means that entities must exploit workers and natural resources to the limits.
TNCs are wooed aggressively by governments seeking to lure capital and investment, which compounds the power of TNCs to dictate their terms of business.
Through international trade agreements and investment contracts, which have little actual or conceptual connection to the Earth Summit accords, governments surrender sovereignty, and hence the people's right to demand accountability of institutions operating in their countries. This phenomenon is highly visible, five years after Rio, in negotiations connected to the Global Climate Change Convention, one of the major accords reached at Rio. In 1992, nations set a voluntary goal of reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, to 1990 levels by the year 2000. This goal applied only to developed countries, which are responsible for most current emissions.
However, as a practical matter, the voluntary goal set in Rio has all but been abandoned. And nations have only a few more months to forge a new target, having themselves set a cut-off date of late l997.
Paragraph 37.4(b) of Agenda 21 states:
By 1997, the Secretary-General should submit to the General Assembly a report on the achievement of improved policies, coordination systems and procedures for strengthening the implementation of technical cooperation programmes for sustainable development, as well as on additional measures required to strengthen such cooperation. That report should be prepared on the basis of information provided by countries, international organizations, environment and development institutions, donor agencies and non-governmental partners.
Although energy efficiency is a much-advertised pre-requisite for economic growth, large transnational corporations dependent on the sales of fossil fuels have played a very large part in slowing down establishment of a set of realistic targets and timetables. This delay will have long-term consequences for economic and health conditions in both developed and developing countries, not to mention the global climate.

C. Growing private ownership of natural and biological resources
Post-Rio, through the new WTO, GATT and other attempts to assign economic value to natural resources, there is now in place a very distorted notion of private property--property of the intellect and the earth. Patents are being issued on products that could not be made at all without the ingredient of local knowledge that is centuries old. Private interests can engage in what amounts to piracy, for example, to appropriate existing local knowledge of herbal medicine, or plant-based drugs, or basic irreplaceable seed stocks. And very often, this knowledge is the repository of women, indeed acknowledged as special in Chapter 24 of Agenda 21 and other above-mentioned agreements.
Even the Biodiversity Convention, one of the main agreements reached at Rio intended to protect plant and animal resources, tends to reinforce the notion that plants and animals have an economic value and can be bought and owned by private interests. Private and semi-private organizations send ethno-botanists into rainforest areas, for example, to inventory natural assets. Sometimes, local people are employed in this process. However, the salaries they receive to share their knowledge are entirely disproportionate to the profit that will be made by the exploitation of that knowledge on the global scale envisioned.
Farmers' seeds are now declared 'primitive cultivars' and 'land races,' suggesting no intellectual work had gone into their evolution. The Green Revolution varieties were called 'elite' and 'modern varieties.' These varieties, themselves evolved from a narrow genetic base, were spread throughout the world, thus displacing the millions of crop varieties that farmers had evolved over millennia. (Vandana Shiva, The Seeds of Our Future, The Journal of the Society for International Development, vol. 4, 1996.)
If the benefits of this exploitation remain in private hands and are not properly distributed to the people, an insidious transfer has occurred, all in the name of biodiversity protection.
For example, the Neem, an Indian tree that has been used as a bio-pesticide by local people for centuries, is a key ingredient in a product patented by W.R. Grace. Now, this international chemical company earns profits based on indigenous discoveries that are unremunerated.
Further, under the WTO's Trade-Related International Property Rights provisions, countries are required to enforce patents on plant varieties for periods of 17 to 20 years, making traditional seed exchange between farmers illegal and resulting in higher prices based on profitability for private seed companies. As a few powerful corporations gain control of global seed supplies, farmers will be forced to abandon traditional varieties and become entirely dependent on commercial supplies.
In many cases, the same companies selling seeds also control other inputs such as fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. The loss of crop diversity, together with higher prices for inputs, is a recipe for destruction of traditional sustainable farming practices, as these are replaced by large-scale industrial agriculture based on monocultures and heavy use of chemical inputs. Often, this trend is reinforced by the drive for export earnings, as discussed above.

D. Concentration of power and the exclusion of large segments of global society, including most women from government, business, industry, military and post-military decision-making
Those in positions of power have always been able to shape the lives of others with less power. Today, however, small groups of people, such as boards of directors of large corporations or owners of media conglomerates, can profoundly shape the lives of hundreds of millions of people, often instantaneously. A very few economic decisions can influence the cultural behavior and consumption patterns of whole nations. These decisions can often transcend, even neutralize, the best intentions of government and non-governmental organizations.
Those who wield this degree of power are overwhelmingly male, and largely from countries of the North and in Southeast Asia, and are indeed often operating in private arenas, thus out of reach of the public through voting or other democratic means. Even in well developed democracies, they are by and large unaccountable to those over whom they have power.
The heightened concentration of economic power supported by governments, and the continued exclusion of vast segments of society--especially women, the poor, marginalized racial and ethnic groups, indigenous people and others--from decisions that so deeply affect their lives and dictate their options, over-rides and mocks the vision of Rio.
Five years after Rio, despite much public acknowledgment of the importance of "civil society," it is clear that until institutions of power become more inclusive, representative, accountable and truly responsive to all segments of society, the prospects for making sustainable development a reality are bleak.

E. The continued under-representation of women in decision-making
Though roughly half the population of the world, women are far from holding half of the world's power in political and economic decision-making, despite high-level and global recognition of the importance of gender equality. Five years after Rio, women hold only about 11 per cent of the seats in parliaments around the world, only six per cent of cabinet-level positions, and are virtually invisible at the highest levels of the multi-lateral financial institutions whose activities so influence national capacity to implement Agenda 21 and corollary agreements.
The results of the gap were succinctly put by WEDO President Bella Abzug at a U.N. ceremony in her honor in the fall of 1996: "Unless and until women are 50 per cent of the decision-makers in the United Nations and in every single country, we cannot expect any meaningful change; we cannot expect a new vision."

F. Persistent pre-eminence of military and nuclear energy activities
It is only in the aftermath of the Cold War that the true extent of the devastating environmental effects of military activity and nuclear weapons production has become apparent. Cleaning up the toxic legacy of weapons production tests the capacity of even the richest countries. And thus far no nation has truly addressed the ticking time bomb of where and how to safely dispose of tons of nuclear waste generated in conventional civilian nuclear power plants.
Yet, military spending continues at approximately $800 billion per year globally, sucking vital human and financial resources away from pressing social, educational and industrial needs.
Meanwhile, the prospect of increasing legal traffic in plutonium for reprocessing and use in nuclear power plants is truly frightening. It is likely to spawn an illegal traffic in the highly lethal substance, the policing of which would undermine the most basic concepts of civil liberty and freedom of movement.
Also, the main weapons-producing nations have increased their export of conventional weapons, sometimes to offset reduced domestic military procurement. This has created a glut of weapons on the world market, which only worsens civil strife and local tensions.
Mindless industrialization, export promotion and import of toxic wastes in India has led to environmental degradation. Imports of toxic wastes from Australia, Canada, UK, and the US has multiplied many times. Much of this toxic waste comes in the name of recycling but facts indicate otherwise. Imports of non-reusable lead battery waste are up from 126 tones in 1992 to 346 tones in 1993. Greenpeace International reports that just one company in Tamil Nadu, Futura Industries, has imported 10,000 tons of plastic waste since 1992, of which 30-40 percent could not be refused (Political Environments, # 4, a publication of the Committee on Women, Population and the Environment, Summer-Fall, 1996).
Women have long been involved in global disarmament, and have been the strongest voices claiming the elusive "peace dividend" for the betterment of the human condition. Women continue to organize to draw attention to the ongoing health and environmental problems at Chernobyl and Chelyablinsk, to continued nuclear testing in the Pacific, and to rapacious uranium mining on indigenous lands in the US Women are in the forefront of demanding a halt to the construction of new nuclear plants in favor of other renewable energy sources. While welcoming agreements on non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and ending nuclear testing, they continue to call for elimination of all nuclear weapons.
In Russia, the Movement for Nuclear Safety, an NGO, is striving to educate citizens about the dangers of nuclear energy for civilian use through campaigns by sending fliers to activists, mass media channels, citizens' groups, schools and universities. As people gain access to information they become more concerned and this increases their involvement in environmental causes.
In Germany, Mothers Against Nuclear Energy led a successful campaign whereby together with other groups they prevented the construction of a project for reprocessing a nuclear fuel in Wackersdorf, Bavaria. The group also hopes to prevent the completion of a nuclear research reactor in Garching, which is supposed to produce neutrons with the help of highly enriched uranium.
The Mozambican Campaign Against Landmines (CMCM), along with the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) and other Southern African Landmines Campaigns, will host the Fourth International NGO Conference on Landmines in Maputo, Mozambique, from 25 to 28 February 1997. Thousands of women and children have either been killed or maimed by landmines at an alarming rate.
There are over 62 types of mines from 17 countries, including the former Eastern Bloc, the US, China, Italy, Portugal, France, Sweden and South Africa. On the continent of Africa which is the most heavily mined continent, countries like Mozambique have had a lot of landmine accidents:
On December 5, 1995, in a village in Maputo province, Mozambique, several children were collecting scrap metal to sell. Among the bits they found was a landmine. When the scrap metal was weighed on a scale in the market, the landmine exploded, killing eight children instantly. Three others died later at the hospital.
Women's organizations also consider the reduction of military spending to be an essential prerequisite to true implementation of Agenda 21 and further agreements.

G. Women's Initiatives in Peace and Human Rights
In Sudan, the Sudanese Women's Voice for Peace (SWVP) is working at the grassroots level with women, the church and community leaders to initiate a constructive dialogue among the warring parties of southern Sudan. This group of women came together to advocate for the suffering of women, children, the aged and the disabled. SWVP is addressing issues such as lack of food, shelter, clothing, human violations-rape and the problem of refugees.
Women's WORLD, an international group of women writers and publishers working on gender-based censorship, condemns the strictures on women imposed by the Taliban after their takeover of Afghanistan. The Taliban has attacked women's human rights by forcing women to withdraw from work force, denying women and girls the right to education and severely curtailing their mobility. Women's WORLD urges all those working with women and on democratic rights and civil liberties to come out and protest against the oppression of women in Afghanistan.
In Rwanda, Pro-Femmes Twese Hamwe, a collection of Rwandan women's organizations, was named the first winner of UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize for the Promotion of Tolerance and Non-Violence. This association of 32 women's groups has worked under extremely difficult conditions to promote peace in Rwanda. Not long after the April 1994 massacres in Rwanda, Pro-femmes launched the Action Campaign for Peace to fight for social justice and against the denial of women's rights. They ran rural development programs, gave aid to widows and orphans and conducted health and training courses.
In Russia, the Soldiers' Mothers' Committee of Russia was honored with the Alternative Nobel Prize for defending soldiers' rights in the Russian military and for their effort to end the war in Chechnya. On December 9, 1996, an award worth $250,000 was presented to the committee.
The International League for Human Rights has awarded the Carl-von-Ossietzky Medal to the Saturday Women of Istanbul in Turkey for their efforts for the human rights in Turkey. About 150 women have been holding sit-ins in downtown Istanbul each Saturday since May 1995 to protest against the disappearance of relatives and violations of human rights in their home country.
Turkish security forces conduct many arbitrary arrests. For example, Leyla Zana, who was the first Kurdish woman to serve in the Turkish parliament, elected from the Kurdish city of Dyarbakir by an overwhelming margin on October 21, 1991, is serving a 15-year prison sentence in Ankara for "speaking too much". Last year, the European Parliament awarded her with the 1995 Sakharov Freedom award. Leyla Zana was honored because of her exceptional courage, dynamism, intelligence and fortitude.

III. Steaming Ahead: Women's Initiatives For Sustainability

"Women have a vital role in environmental management and development. Their full participation is therefore essential to achieve sustainable development." Principle 20 of the Rio Declaration
To counteract current and historical forces that continue to track the world on an unsustainable course, individual women and women's organizations are leading countless initiatives -- from the community level to the global. The challenge remains to transform these initiatives into a critical mass of effort toward solving the priority problems.
Following is a selection from countless women's initiatives since 1992 that demonstrate the critical problems and possible solutions. The examples were drawn from WEDO's ongoing contacts with women and women's groups around the world, as well as a special global solicitation for contributions for the Rio+5 forum. The selection is by no means meant to be representative; rather it illustrates the complexities involved and inspiration of what can be achieved.
There is no doubt that when women lead, initiate and implement an action, the results are transformatory.

A. Giving Women Credit
In rural areas throughout the world, lack of capital prevents poor women and men from taking steps that would increase their productivity as well as the sustainability of their livelihoods. With greater privatization and commercialization of agriculture, traditional livelihoods are typically destroyed, without new jobs being created. Without other options, poor people can be forced to turn to unsustainable practices, or migrate to already overcrowded cities.
Access to credit is one of the best mechanisms for expanding options, and is increasingly recognized as an important component to achieving sustainability. The growth of the micro-credit movement has been a critical force in post-Rio progress.
Poor women generally have faced the greatest obstacles in borrowing money, for a variety of legal, cultural and other reasons. Currently, many NGOs around the world are engaged in delivering financial services to poor women, with high success and payback rates
Rural credit initiatives will become increasingly important to post-Rio implementation, especially as food production becomes less locally controlled and rural communities must search for alternative incomes. At the 1996 World Food Summit, it was made quite clear that poor people, especially landless poor tenant farmers, seeking to produce food for themselves will find they are in increasing competition for land with those who wish to produce more lucrative crops for export. Therefore, alternative livelihoods are vital to generate earnings with which food can be purchased.

Nigeria
The Country Women Association of Nigeria (COWAN), led by Chief Bisi Ogunleye, a member of WEDO's board of directors and recipient of the 1996 Hunger Project Award, has since the early l980s, administered an African Traditional Responsive Banking system. Based on traditional savings and credit practices, the project now serves nearly 80,000 women throughout Nigeria. Borrowers typically use loans to expand food processing activities, for example, cassava, palm oil, soybeans, maize, and rice; or small-scale manufacturing such as cloth, mats and pottery.
One key to COWAN's success has been its working closely with community leaders in organizing informational and planning meetings, monitoring borrowers' collateral and convening arbitration courts to discourage and discipline defaulters. COWAN is now planning to formalize these activities by establishing a Rural Women's Development Bank.

Bangladesh
The Grameen Bank, both a bank and a poverty alleviation organization, was created after seven years of experimentation with an action research project intended to demonstrate that the poor can generate enough income from small enterprises to support small-scale lending. Grameen became a government lending bank in 1983 with the objective of providing credit to the rural poor. Today, the Grameen Bank is the largest operating NGO in Bangladesh with more than two million members and served by more than 1,000 bank branches.
Grameen Bank has also created much support for poor women. Women's participation in groups for borrowing gives them the confidence and support that enables them to assert their rights to economic assets. Bangladeshi economist Mahbub Hossain, in semi-structured interviews with 120 female borrowers, found evidence of increased social status of women. The women reported that husbands were more likely to treat them as equals, and that there was a decrease in physical violence, threat of physical violence and other verbal abuse.

India
The Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA) has set up the Shri Mahila SEWA Sahakari Bank, a separate bank of poor, self-employed, women workers at the initiative of 4,000 self-employed women workers with a capital of Rs 60,000 in 1974. The bank is owned by self-employed women as the shareholders, and policies are made by their own elected board. Today it has nearly 51,000 depositors and a working capital of Rs 100 million (US$ 1 = Rs 35).
The SEWA Bank has been a catalyst for many changes in laws and practices in addition to the changes in institutional arrangements and processes. It is the first bank of its kind in India and was able to demonstrate that poor women do save, use loans productively and repay loans in a timely manner (in fact better than others). Based on this example, many other groups have taken training at the SEWA Bank and have subsequently started saving and loaning cooperatives, for instance, the Cooperative Development Foundation, Working Women's Forum and Indore Mahila Cooperative, among many others.
Drinking water is another area where SEWA women have taken the lead. Gujarat being a dry, and in some regions, desert state, water is a major issue for most people. SEWA has helped women to build their own water structures -- wells, ponds, hand-pumps-- and helped them to manage these through their own water committees. Thus SEWA gives poor women control of natural and financial resources.

Thailand
Poonsap Suanmuang, an Ashoka Fellow for the environment, is promoting cloth-weaving and natural dying, showing how village women can develop both income-generating skills and environmental consciousness, and greatly empower themselves in the process.

Uzbekistan
Meryem Aslan (U.N. volunteer -UNDP/Women in Development Unit, Turkey), initiated an income-generation project with private funds for women. She bought chickens for eight women in two villages. Each woman got 25 chickens with feed for a year. During the first year, these women support a fund that ensures that they have money to purchase more feed, build better coups and purchase new chicks, medicine, expand the project, etc. This process is based on self-help whereby the income from the first group of women who received chickens is used to assist other women to join the business.

Egypt
The Sharmoukh Community Development Association, an NGO, has established activities that generate income for the population in this area. Women have a choice either to weave baskets or breed cows and goats. There is also a weaving program for men. This is an example of grassroots development. The income these women make from the baskets covers the monthly clothing allowance.

B. Fighting Large Infrastructure Projects

China
Trained as a missile engineer, Dai Qing worked as a military intelligence agent, a post which led her to become extremely disenchanted with the policies of the Chinese government. From 1982 to 1989, Dai Qing worked as a journalist at the Enlightenment Daily, where she began to question the proposal of the Three Gorges Dam. This infrastructure project , which was approved in 1992, will result in the world's largest dam, taming the Yangtze river and generating 84 billion kilowatt hours of electricity a year.
The construction of the dam, 610 feet high and spanning 6,846 feet, will create an inland cesspool , fouled by 265 billion gallons of raw sewage each year and the effluent from the flooding of 1,000-year-old landfills, threatening water supply to millions of people, and will possibly lead to disease and extinction of endangered aquatic and terrestrial species. Critics such as Dai Qing argue that approximately 1.9 million people's homes stand to be flooded and scenic panoramas and archeological sites could be destroyed. They contend that if the project is not stopped by the end of 1997, it will have reached the point of no return.
With the support of various activists and international environmental agencies, such as the Sierra Club and the Environmental Defense Fund, Dai Qing has been an instrumental activist in the fight against the construction of the Three Gorges Dam. As part of her tactics to pressure the United States and the World Bank to withdraw support, Dai Qing, along with 40 other Chinese scientists and intellectuals, wrote Yangtze! Yangtze! in 1989, condemning the project and the Chinese government. Dai Qing had to endure 10 months in prison as a result. She has recently completed another book titled The River Dragon Has Come, which gives details of China's worst dam failures and reveals problems that the government tried to hide. Although she has been offered political asylum in the United States and Germany, she has decided to pursue her campaign in her country and resides in Beijing under heavy surveillance.

The Philippines
The Women in Development Foundation (WID) based in Pasay City, Philippines, has long been dedicated to promoting women's empowerment through participatory economic development, feminist organizing and institution building within the conceptual framework of environmental sustainability. For the past three years, WID has been engaged in a campaign initiated by a group of women of Balinao, Pangasinan, against a proposal to build the world's largest cement plant complex in their village. This proposed project, backed by foreign funding and a transnational consortium, threatens to displace and marginalize women in the allocation and use of natural resources.
If approved, this project will displace approximately 10,000 women whose livelihoods depend on the local fishing industry, and cause irreparable damage to the environment, specifically to the Lingayan Gulf area which has been designated by environmental experts as an "environmentally critical area". The plant would also destroy archeological sites that could add to the collective knowledge of how women lived in the past.
WID's chairperson, Virginia Passalo, has been a key advocate for the anti-cement movement. She and her organization have carried out information-gathering, strategic planning, media campaigns at many different levels and networked with various concerned agencies and individuals. In the past year, WID has turned to developing alternative, integrated macro and micro planing processes at the local level based on agricultural and marine industries that will provide sustainable economic activities while protecting and preserving the natural resources and cultural heritage of the region.
WID has received endorsements of support against this cement complex proposal from organizations such as WEDO, the UNDP and Greenpeace.

Kenya
When President Daniel Arap Moi decided Kenya needed a third airport, in his hometown no less, Dr. Wangari Maathai, founder of the Greenbelt Movement, launched a campaign to protest this white elephant that would only increase the Kenyan people's burden of foreign debt for an airport they neither want or need. In the face of strong international criticism, the Canadian firm contracted to build the airport pulled out, as did the World Bank which was to fund the project through loans. Despite these setbacks, Moi decided to go ahead with building the airport, tapping into the national coffers. This means Kenya will have less money for schools, health clinics and agricultural programs.
Although the airport has been built and test flights have been conducted, Dr. Wangari Maathai is continuing her fight for debt forgiveness and good governance in Kenya. Her campaign focuses on the accountability of public leaders to ensure that scarce resources are diverted to projects which serve narrow political interests rather than broad social objectives.

C. Fighting Unsustainable Fishing Practices

Bangladesh
This is a particularly vivid example of how the Rio consensus is being undermined by global economic pressures, and to what lengths women must often go to resist and overcome destructive and dangerous practices.
Export-oriented shrimp cultivation in Bangladesh is fueled by the drive for export earnings, and the luxury market demand of the North. Not only are people prevented from growing food on land illegally occupied by shrimp farms, but plots of land near the shrimp farms are destroyed by salinization. In these areas, powerful shrimp farmers pay hired thugs and local police to forcibly gain control over common lands, especially fragile mangrove ecosystems that are often the only resource to which poor families have access.
Shrimp cultivation is threatening both the survival of large numbers of people and the mangroves of southwestern Bangladesh, which are in turn critical nursery habitats for juvenile fish and other sea life along the coast.
Landless women in Bangladesh are responding to the destruction of their livelihoods by commercial shrimp farming and the ensuing violence, including at least two deaths in 1994.
With support from prominent NGOs like Nijera Kori ("Doing it Ourselves"), landless people have mobilized against the shrimp farmers. As the primary targets of violence, men may be forced to go into hiding, while women are left to face police harassment. Individual women have displayed remarkable bravery in confronting conditions against which the most well-intentioned international agreements and institutions seem impotent. As one woman explained:
"My husband was in hiding for the last few days and I had no food in the house. On top of everything else, the police came into my home, used obscene language, and pushed me around. I had no place to hide. I was pushed against the wall. I had no choice but to defend my children and myself with whatever I had. So I picked up my broom and beat the policeman with it."
In a few areas, this type of resistance and activism allowed people to keep their lands as "shrimp-free zones," at least temporarily, as of 1995.
However, this sort of situation does expose the extent to which the Rio consensus can be rendered moot at the local level by international economic competition. As long as shrimp prices remain high, and export earnings remain the highest priority, local food production will receive short-shrift to the detriment of local people and local ecosystems. Local involvement in the shrimp market may be viable, and could be undertaken sustainably, but a major realignment of the shrimp industry would be necessary if its benefits were to become more universal.

Papua New Guinea
The Women in Fisheries Support Project in Papua New Guinea (PNG) broke from the unsustainable export-oriented, male-targeted focus of earlier development projects to emphasize family food security and income generation through enhancement of women's post-harvest fish processing skills, given their responsibility for this stage of fish production. To determine the scope of the project, the PNG government carried out local surveys to identify women's training needs, appropriate extension activities and potential constraints. Training workshops were adapted to different regions, with content based on local findings. In addition to technical advice, the project later offered credit for purchasing equipment and other capital needs.
The project is considered a model in the region, and its success is attributed to its emphasis on meeting the needs of women as identified by the women themselves, thus securing their involvement and commitment at every stage.

Europe
In 1996 a National Shrimp Consumer Campaign took place in Sweden and the U.K. Christian Aid of the U.K. and the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation are using this campaign to launch a nation-wide consumer education about the social and ecological costs of commercial prawn farming for export to other countries. These NGOs have conducted extensive research of conditions in producer countries. This has enabled them to produce materials on how shrimp can be produced in a sustainable manner and they ask consumers to demand sustainability in shrimp production from suppliers.

D. Women's Movements Against Corporate Ownership of Seeds and Plants
One of the most important movements since UNCED is confronting monopolies in seed and plant material, especially trade-related intellectual property rights codified in GATT. The relevant chapter was drafted by multinational corporations with major interests in this sector, and lobbied by them before their own and other governments. This represented an unprecedented involvement by industry for self-interest in GATT procedures.
Ironically, the same corporations that came before GATT to argue that they invent new qualities in plants, and therefore need patent protection, also argue in the bio-safety fora of the Biodiversity Convention that there is nothing new or unsafe in their products--"this is how nature made it." In other words, when it comes to biosafety, the product is harmless and natural but when it comes to property rights, the product is a totally novel and original creation. The women's movement has long maintained that this separation between rights and responsibilities is the highest symbol of patriarchal power and characterizes the irresponsible use of power.
In Europe, women won a ten-year struggle in 1995 when they managed to overturn a directive that would have allowed the patenting of life forms.
In India in 1995, a combination of grassroots movements and advocacy and lobbying in Parliament managed to block the implementation of that section of GATT which would turn life forms into the private property of corporations and give exclusive marketing rights to pharmaceutical and agricultural companies, which would then carve out larger shares of monopolies.
Plant breeding strategies of maintaining and enriching genetic diversity and self-renewability of crops were substituted by new breeding strategies of uniformity and non-renewability, aimed primarily at increasing transnational profits and first world control over the genetic resources of the Third World. The Green Revolution changed the 10,000-year evolutionary history of crops by changing the fundamental nature and meaning of seeds. (Vandana Shiva, The Seeds of Our Future, Journal of the Society of International Development, vol. 4, 1996.)
The issue of patents and property rights remains highly charged, and women are extremely active in this sphere. Their success must be considered a measure of the increasing strength of the voice of women post-Rio. However, the question of how to reconcile concerns about "ownership" of life forms with economic "value" of biodiversity resources remains one of the most intractable dilemmas of the post-Rio era.

E. The Women's Caucus: Unprecedented Power For Women's Advocacy At U.N. Conferences
Since its inception, WEDO has facilitated the participation of NGO women through the Women's Caucus, held daily, at five world conferences: UNCED, ICPD, the Copenhagen Social Development Summit, the Beijing Women's Conference (where the name used was the "Women's Linkage Caucus), and Habitat II, held in Istanbul in June, 1996. A women's caucus at the Human Rights Conference in Vienna was a vital force in the recognition that women's rights are human rights. Women also participated in a key negotiating session prior to the November, 1996 World Food Summit held in Rome, to insure that prior commitments made to women in Cairo and Beijing were reaffirmed in the final Food Summit documents. And whereas prior to this caucus process, begun at UNCED, the tendency among civil society might have been to dismiss the United Nations as a high-minded talk shop where words on paper carried no weight, post-UNCED, governments are being increasingly held accountable by their citizens, especially women, to take international agreements seriously.
However, the constant need to protect nearly universal past consensus from continued attempts by a handful of ideological interests to roll them back, sadly, has cost vital time, money, energy and human resources that could have been better applied to advancing consensus on critical areas of implementation.
Indeed, at times the trade-off has been reduced to holding ground rather than gaining ground.
The objective of the Women's Caucus methodology, developed by WEDO and collaborating groups, is to mobilize women from every region around common agendas and to facilitate the participation of women from developing countries in policy advocacy. Examining negotiating documents line by line, suggesting deletions and additions, women became skilled lobbyists, often working side by side with their national delegations in unprecedented peer acceptance. Success was sometimes achieved in a single critical word or paragraph. But in the case of the ICPD documents, nearly two-thirds of the final recommendations of the Women's Caucus were reflected in the final Programme of Action.
Subsequent conferences, particularly the Copenhagen Social Development Summit and the Beijing Conference on Women, demonstrated that women are a powerful force in international negotiations, and largely as a result of their work, the Women's Caucus, and many women's organizations, both the Copenhagen and Beijing conferences produced more concrete commitments by governments than had been expected during the conference preparatory discussions.
Women's emergence as a force to be reckoned with at the U.N. is a major achievement since Rio. However, women continue to be disproportionately underrepresented in senior positions within the U.N. administration, and women heads of mission to the U.N. remain scarce.
The task ahead is to translate the power women acquired in negotiating U.N. conference agreements to the institutions that oversee and control implementation.

F. Women Take On the Environmental Causes of Breast Cancer Worldwide
Breast cancer is by far the most frequent cancer among women worldwide, accounting for 19 per cent of female cancer, each year causing 161,000 deaths in industrialized countries and 147,000 deaths in developing countries. Worldwide, breast cancer rates have increased 26 per cent since 1980.
Though there are regional and other variations in the patterns of the disease, increasingly, connections have been made between incidence of breast cancer and environmental factors, including water contamination and excessive or dangerous use of pesticides. At the November 1991 World Women's Congress for a Healthy Planet organized by WEDO in advance of the Earth Summit, women called for a major international assault on the environmental and developmental causes of the disease.
As part of its follow-up, WEDO and the New York City Commission on the Status of Women, both headed by Bella Abzug, held a first public hearing on breast cancer and the environment, bringing together scientists, researchers and activists to submit testimony to legislators about the issues. Other highly visible initiatives have followed, such as the successful effort by a group called "l in 9"--the incidence of breast cancer among women in Long Island, New York--to secure a $5 million study on the environmental factors that may be linked to higher breast cancer incidence in that area.
Thanks to the efforts of women, breast cancer has emerged as a key public health concern in the United States, with increasing emphasis on prevention and environmental links to the disease (The First World Conference on Breast Cancer, organized by WEDO and the Kingston Breast Cancer Conference Committee, will be held in Canada, July 13-17, 1997).
Canada and the U.K. have seen a new wave of activism, spearheaded by such groups as the Toronto-based Women's Network on Health and Environment and the Women's Environmental Network. In Latin America, and the Caribbean, increased activism has resulted in communities receiving diagnostic mammography equipment where it has been previously non-existent or very limited. In Brazil, as a follow-up to the Beijing Conference on Women, free breast and cervical cancer examinations are to be provided to all women aged 35 to 59.
A significant step forward has been the commitment of 110 ministers from countries around the world to development of a legally binding instrument for the reduction and elimination of emissions, discharges, manufacture and, where appropriate, use of 12 of the most persistent organochlorine substances which have been found to pollute the marine environment. These substances are also implicated in breast cancer, and the agreement is an important victory.

G. Women Make Links between Environment and Health
In Cameroon, the League for Woman and Child Education decided to tackle the problem of poor sanitation head on in the capital city of Cameroon-Yaounde. It organized bands of women and girls to clear the city's streets of the mountains of garbage that had become a breeding place for mosquitoes, rats and flies. Residents had started burning the garbage and this led to pollution and a number of respiratory diseases. Today, young girls and women are out sweeping the streets of the capital as early as 6:30 a.m. The success of this project has led to the birth of other NGOs in Cameroon.
In Russia, the Center for Independent Ecological Programs, an NGO, has focused attention on the contamination of human breast milk with dioxin in different regions of the country. Research is now ongoing to determine the source and extent of the contamination.
The Native American Women's Health Education Resource (NAWHERC), an NGO from the U.S., is working to improve the health and welfare of indigenous women in their immediate community and beyond. NAWHERC is trying to stop toxic industries from targeting indigenous land because of their impact on reproductive health and cancer.
In Pakistan, Shirkat Gah, a women's resource center, has focused on creating awareness on environmental issues and to highlight the linkages between environmental change/degradation on women's lives. This is done through a bi-monthly wall newspaper produced in simple Urdu, addressing women and focusing on issues that confront their daily lives. Easy tips to prevent problems form part of each newspaper, 6,000 copies of which in Urdu and 1,000 in Sindhi are distributed across the country.

H. Women Claim Political Space

Brazil
A record 100,000 women ran for electoral office in Brazil in 1996. To fulfill pledges made at the 1995 Beijing conference, the Brazilian Congress also passed a law requiring that at least 20% of all candidates for municipal office be women.
Among the women winning office this year was Alba Corral, the mother of Thais Corral, a Vice-President of WEDO. REDEH ("Network in Defense of Humankind"), the NGO headed by Thais Corral, has also produced a series of radio programs that have been used to train radio journalists on gender issues. The productions have been aired on 140 local and commercial stations throughout Brazil.

South Africa
The South African Women's National Coalition uses the government's commitments to the Beijing Platform for Action as a tool to break women's silence in the building of the young democracy. Women have learned to ask big, strategic questions and take big, strategic action. In asking how to make the Platform for Action relevant to the national transformation, they answered: "Bring women's issues out into the open so the they become public debates and issues, not only women's issues." On development questions, they asked questions such as, "How do trade agreements work?" Which they answered with, "It is our business to find out how trade agreements affect us."

Cameroon
NGOs on their return from Beijing used the momentum from the conference to press for women's greater political participation, and doubled the number of women who ran for local public office from 400 to 800.

India
An important legislative measure is the drafting of a bill to give women 33 per cent of the seats in state legislative assemblies and in Parliament. The prime minister has given an assurance that the bill will be passed during the current session of Parliament. The bill is not likely to be opposed since almost all political parties had promised such a reservation in their manifestations in the recent elections.

Zambia
A national women's lobby group worked to ensure that more women participated in the local government, parliamentary and presidential elections last year in an effort to implement the Beijing conference agreements around increasing women in local and national decision-making positions. The non-partisan group issued a declaration of peace in Africa which condemned the perpetration of violence and any threats to peace, and also called for the inclusion of women in peace negotiations led by the Organization for African Unity.

United States
Thousands of women and girls from every state in the U.S. joined a national day of discussions on September 28, 1996, on a proposed National Action Agenda for women. The goal was to help develop a national plan to implement the Beijing Platform for Action mandate at local, regional and national levels.
Many groups held all-day meetings, panels and other sessions. But all groups linked up to a two-hour teleconference held by the President's Interagency Council in Washington, D.C., which is holding subsequent discussions with women's organizations to seek their recommendations for the national plan of action. Earlier, WEDO launched a Contract With Women Of The USA campaign to galvanize a national action and consultative process to implement commitments made by the U.S. government at Beijing in the 12 key areas of the Platform for Action, including an end to poverty, educational equity, work place rights, sexual and reproductive rights and environmental protection.

I. Women's Eyes on the World Bank
The "Women's Eyes on the World Bank" campaign intends to make the World Bank more accountable to women, and is a joint project of WEDO, Oxfam America and the Bank Information Center. The campaign is also closely tracking the NGO-World Bank Structural Adjustment Participatory Review Initiative (SAPRI) to insure that the review includes gender issues. SAPRI, a major gain for NGOs worldwide in efforts to eliminate the negative social and environmental effects of structural adjustment programs, will work with governments and World Bank officials to assess the actual impacts of these programs from the grassroots point of view.
Countries involved are Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Ghana, Hungary, Mali, Philippines, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
The Uganda chapter of the Council for Economic Empowerment of Women in Africa coordinated consultations between grassroots women's organizations and World Bank officials, including its President, James Wolfensohn

J. Women Promote Sustainable Agroforestry
In Nicaragua, women producers in the arid region of San Rafael del Sur have organized into agroforestry associations to promote sustainability in this area. A project administered by Nicaragua's Institute of Natural Resources offers training and technical assistance in soil conservation, nursery maintenance, and reforestation for association members. The women grow the kind of trees they need--mainly for construction, soil protection and fuelwood--utilizing both common land and individual plots. Through regular meetings, leaders selected by association members share ideas, experiences and seedlings with other women's groups.
Many members initially faced opposition from their husbands, but after witnessing the positive results of the efforts of their wives, most men became supportive and joined the project themselves.
In Mexico, Paty Ruiz, an Ashoka-Nature Conservancy Eco-Entrepreneur, is educating the population of Queretaro, Mexico to preserve the forests and ecosystem. Degraded by decades of deforestation, pollution, soil erosion, the land is becoming less and less productive for farming and ground water is becoming contaminated by sewage and other pollutants. Ms. Ruiz's efforts combine education in primary and secondary schools with community trash pick-up drives, composting, and tree-planting.
Other Ashoka fellows have been involved in education and environment. Edvalda Torres of Brazil designed rural community education programs that combine ecological perspectives with traditional farming systems. Her methods create schools that build on the community's own knowledge and needs, intertwining symbols and cycles from the natural and human environments into educational tools. Ximena Abogabir educated Chileans about the environment by generating teaching materials for trainers and the public. According to Ashoka: Innovators for the Public, Ms. Abogabir views each ecological crisis as an "opportunity to invest more harmonic forms of cohabitation, and to motivate people to learn to act for the common good."
K. Women Strive for Environmental Sustainability in Africa
Kenya's Green Belt movement has been historic in its campaign to protect the environment, empower the poor and women and challenge the unbridled powers behind large-scale top-down development. The Green Belt Movement originated from Wangari Maathai's idea of planting trees and shrubs as a way to help create jobs for the poor in the early 1970s in Kenya. This movement formally began in 1976, when Wangari Maathai was invited to join the National Council of Women of Kenya. In the past two decades, this movement has grown exponentially and has created over 3,000 tree nurseries which are mostly managed by women.
This movement approaches development from the bottom and moves upward to reach those who plan and execute the large-scale development models whose benefits hardly ever trickle down to the poor. The movement has no blue print, preferring to rely on a trial and error approach which adopts what works and quickly drops what does not. It calls upon the creative energies of the ordinary local women and men, on their expertise, knowledge and capabilities. It addresses both the symptoms and the causes of environmental degradation at community level by teaching the community members to recognize differentiate between the causes and symptoms and to discern the linkages. It encourages participants to develop expertise in their work and not be limited by their illiteracy or low level of formal education.
The movement also identifies and subsequently educates citizens about economic and political issues which form important linkages with environmental concerns and which are likely to have a negative impact on the environment. These include holding seminars and workshops on the development of a democratic culture. It also addresses the role of the civil society in protecting the environment and urges a participatory, accountable and responsible governance which puts its people first, protects their human rights and the rule of law.
Promotion of sustainable agroforestry is one of the major goals for majority of African NGOs because, the continent of Africa is facing the worst desertification problems. Progreen: Trees for Africa (South Africa), Agri-service in Ethiopia, and Progress in Action Through Home Resource Development in Gambia are some NGOs striving for environmental sustainability.
Uganda Women's Tree Planting Movement, an NGO, founded by Ms. Mubiru, has created environmental awareness among both rural and urban communities through seminars, workshops, conferences and mass media. Ugandans have realized the need to plant trees, and the government has declared May 31 of every year as National Tree Planting Day. For her dedication to restoring her country's ecological stability and teaching the women of Uganda the importance of trees, Ms. Mubiru was awarded with the 1995 Global ReLeaf Jean Giono Award.
The International Working Group based in Nairobi, Kenya, is trying to incorporate a gender perspective in the implementation of the Convention to Combat Desertification. The groups is focusing on five key areas -- land tenure and land rights, access to credit, women's role in decision-making, information, communication and networking and the representation of women at the local level in the drafting of national action plans. The working group, set up by the sixth session in 1994 of the Intergovernmental Negotiations for the Convention to Combat Desertification, is coordinated by the Women, Environment an Development Program of the Environment Liaison Center in Nairobi, Kenya, and has 30 members, most of them from Africa, which is worst hit by desertification. More than a million hectares (73 per cent) of the total cultivable land in Africa is desert.

L. Women Monitor Governments Worldwide
Five years after Rio, women and women's organizations closely monitor virtually all governments on earth with respect to specific actions, legislative decisions and budget allocations. This strength derives from the decades of effort and struggle of the international women's movement, and has been greatly aided by the networking that has ensued as a result of the Earth Summit and other subsequent conferences.
The Second Women's Congress for a Healthy Planet was held August 13 - September 1, 1995. Organized by WEDO, the two-day Congress reviewed accomplishments gained and setbacks faced by women around the world since the first Congress in Miami in November 1991, in their struggle to create a peaceful, healthy and sustainable world. Featuring a tribunal of eminent women judges who took testimony from expert witnesses, the Congress provided an opportunity to highlight many critical issues. Witnesses provided holistic and feminist analyses of the interconnected and structural problems that continued to block their goals.
Rather than aim at comprehensive "State of the World's Women", WEDO organized the Congress so that it would spotlight key and emerging issues facing women in the 21st century. We sought to build upon the international work of women over the past decade - not only in Nairobi at the U.N.'s Third World Conference on Women (1985), but also throughout the process of subsequent U.N. conferences and summits, as well as in other local, national, regional and international struggles.
Testimony presented at the Second World Women's Congress for a Healthy Planet was delivered over two days in four thematic sessions -- Status of Women and Our Earth; Weaving New Concepts of Global Security and Justice; Health and Environment and Lifestyles; and Global Dimensions of Diversity & Democracy. The testimony of each witness was intricately interrelated. Their stories created a whole that was visionary, powerful and true to the reality of women's lives. (Weaving a Better Future: WEDO's Final Report of Daughters of the Earth: The Environment and Development Collaborative Web Including the Second World Women's Congress for a Healthy Planet, NGO Forum on Women in Huairou, China, August 31-September 8, 1995.)
One year after the Beijing Conference, almost no country in a survey of 51 countries had failed to involve NGOs in some way in the post-Beijing process. The report compiled by WEDO in a document called Beyond Promises, covered roughly one-third of U.N. member states,. In many countries in Asia and Latin America, NGOs were involved as consulting partners for the first time, both during and after the Beijing process, as, for example, in Pakistan.
In the Republic of Korea, the national committee on women's policies is headed by the Prime Minister and is involving women experts and women NGOs in policy formulation. Similar partnerships seem to be emerging in Indonesia. In South Africa, the office of the status of women was established within the presidency. As of mid-1996, however, some open democracies like Canada, New Zealand and Australia seemed reluctant to involve NGOs in Beijing follow-up.
Efforts are not unfaltering. Nations slip ahead, then fall back, then move ahead again, depending on the issue, the current political climate and the willingness and ability of citizens to become involved. However, it is undeniable that women are highly effective monitors of the pledges and commitments of governments. The vigilance of women significantly helps continuity in policy-making, and the overall influence of women continues to acquire momentum and strength.

IV. Each Voice, A Candle: Values and Principles

"The right to development must be fulfilled so as to equitably meet developmental and environmental needs of present and future generations." Principle 3 of the Rio Declaration
The values inherent in the examples presented above are self-evident. Each reflects a key principle of sustainability, as expressed at UNCED and since, but cannot be isolated from other principles of sustainability. They neither move closer to nor away from the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, for there is very little debate remaining on what values should infuse sustainability. In short, each example expresses the most basic truth about sustainability: its elements are inseparable.
The above examples reflect situations that have resulted in clashes of values, for example between values of self-sufficiency and global interdependence, or sustainability and profits.
They demonstrate that accountability and public participation are critical to successful post-Rio implementation.
However, overall, the examples reflect the importance of understanding that success, five years after Rio, is highly relative, and that monitoring progress is insufficient. Five years after Rio, it is time to demand more concrete action and broader progress.
It is testimony to the nature of post-Rio "success" that success stories almost always depict individuals or small groups throwing themselves against titanic global forces. Clearly, responsibilities rest with the global forces and decision-makers who must acquire the values of sustainability, not only with those who have undertaken initiatives against the odds.

V. Dimming of Flames: Policy Gaps and Constraints on the Implementation Of Sustainability

"States shall enact effective environmental legislation ... Standards applied by some countries may be inappropriate and of unwarranted economic and social cost to other countries, in particular developing countries." Principle 11 of the Rio Declaration
In short, the imperatives of the global economy seem to be outrunning the post-Rio agenda, five years later. How to bring them into closer step is the current challenge.
Clearly, national budget allocations are not sufficiently in tune with post-Rio needs, and neither are national policies that seek and maintain foreign capital investment. A critical problem developing countries face here is the accumulation of external debt. Despite debt relief measures in favor of least developed countries since 1990, their total external debt increased from $114 billion in 1990 to $127 billion in 1993 (UNDP Human Development Report, 1996). Some of the world's richest nations are now forging a plan to relieve the poorest nations of this crushing burden, but the plan is being jeopardized by some countries and multilateral institutions.
As a rule, the private sector and large private entities do not yet take the post-Rio agenda seriously, and it is these very entities that remain to a large extent outside the control of NGOs, civil society, even at times of their own stockholders.
Moreover, there is a serious question as to how effective a catalyst for implementation the U.N. can be. Nations are notoriously unself-critical when they make national reports at the UN, and private sector interests participate only voluntarily.
There is no international forum in which private sector activities can be effectively examined for their "compliance" with Agenda 21 and other agreements, which are, after all, mainly non-binding. There is no global stimulation of more environmentally sensible investment patterns, and the Environment Committee of the WTO seems hopelessly mired in highly technical issues such as "eco-labeling," and is not chartered to bring the WTO agenda into better coherence with the post-Rio agenda. Attempts to "green" the WTO agenda at the 1996 ministerial meeting in Singapore were unsuccessful, in part because developing countries did not wish to see further actions that could undermine their already vulnerable trading positions.
Even "green labels" intended to educate consumers and discourage unsustainable consumption patterns in developed countries can have a negative impact on the export earnings of developing countries, if the countries concerned cannot meet the environmental standard devised in the labels, for any number of sound reasons outside their control.
Thus, the main gap does seem to be between today's global economic forces and the inherent requirements of the post-Rio accords.

VI. Lighting the Campfire: Reflections and Recommendations

"All States and all people shall cooperate in the essential task of eradicating poverty as an indispensable requirement for sustainable development, in order to decrease the disparities in standards of living and better meet the needs of the majority of people of the world." Principle 5 of the Rio Declaration
Powerful vested interests can be discouraging to envisioned solutions. However, history has indeed shown that large numbers of disenfranchised and enlightened people can confront powerful institutions and succeed. Democratic structures must be strengthened, and private interests must be more accountable, including to governments, even though the trend is toward less government oversight of private initiatives.
The private sector, too, must be infused with the vision of Rio, but this requires a re-evaluation of free-market theory that world powers do not yet appear willing to undertake. Policy-makers must differentiate between the private sector and eliminate the bias towards the largest entities of the private sector, which are not the biggest employers of people, and support the small and informal sector which employs large numbers of women. The 200 largest corporations in the world now control a quarter of the global economy activity but employ less than one per cent of the global workforce.
All governance structures, global and national, in the next century must continue to enhance the fundamental principles of equal representation and accountability.
The following recommendations highlight some of women's priorities in implementing the Rio agenda, although they are by no means an exhaustive list. What is important is that the Rio+5 process emerge with agreed priorities that address the fundamental and key obstacles to major progress on the Rio and corollary agendas.

1. Expand efforts to eliminate negative effects on developing countries by reconciling WTO rule-making and global trade practices with the post-Rio agenda.

2. To achieve gender balance in governance, expand, enhance and improve affirmative action programs or other incentives that will encourage and support the leadership and involvement of women in political decision-making.

3. Evaluate the activities of existing local, regional and national Councils on Sustainable Development for gender balance and evidence of concern about gender issues. Ensure that these councils are established where they have not yet been.

4. Expand NGO access to and participation in the U.N. General Assembly and related committees. Encourage international NGOs, such as IUCN and WWF, to support and strengthen commitments to gender equality as a prerequisite to achieving sustainable development.

5. Strengthen the reporting functions of the Commission on Sustainable Development and its links to corollary Commissions. Widen public dissemination of information on environmental degradation and government compliance in achieving U.N. conference goals.

6. Strengthen links between the World Bank, IMF, WTO and post-Rio accountability. Ensure that the WTO does not threaten national sovereignty in controlling the extent and nature of investment decisions.

7. Work for international codes of conduct for corporations and to govern weapons trade and export subsidies. Support an international negotiation process on new financial instruments such as a tax on speculative capital transactions to reduce market instability and generate resources for social sectors.

8. Reconcile private sector investment codes and indicators with post-UNCED criteria, and particularly implement the Habitat II agenda which calls for "regulatory and legal frameworks ... to promote socially and environmentally responsible corporate investment and reinvestment in and partnership with local communities."

9. Encourage NGOs to intensify demands that local privatization contracts take into account gender, environmental, and social issues during the privatization process, as well as increase monitoring activities of the privatization process.

10. Enforce compliance with ILO agreements and promote an international code of conduct to protect the rights of workers in developing countries and prevent their gender-based and economic exploitation by transnational corporations. Establish a ranking system, like MisFortune 500, for TNCs to indicate their adherence (or lack of it) to Agenda 21 goals.

11. Reduce over-consumption in the North and support a new plan being forged by some rich nations to relieve Third World nations of their crushing debt burden to break down North-South barriers.

12. Evaluate efforts of handling hazardous wastes such as nuclear waste and plutonium and support the goal to eliminate nuclear weapons.

13. Raise $21.7 billion to ensure that 100 million of the world's poorest women and their families receive credit for self-employment by 2005, and remove legislative barriers to women's control of land and other productive resources.

14. Ensure that governments enforce the new ILO convention to protect home-based workers and implement the Beijing commitment to construct satellite accounts to the gross national product to measure unwaged work.

15. Ensure that the ideas and values enshrined in U.N. conferences and conventions are taught in the school system to produce environmentally and socially responsible citizens.

 

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