NGO Documents for the Earth Summit, 1992
Non-Governmental Organization Alternative Treaties
at the '92 Global Forum
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Treaty 2. Rio de Janeiro Declaration
1. We, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from the entire world, national and
international networks and social movements, gathered in Rio de Janeiro at the United
Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) and at the Global Forum, assert
our commitments to the future.
2. We have become aware of the contradictions of this unjust and unsustainable dominant
model of civilization, which is built on the myth of unlimited growth and which ignores
the Earth's finite limits.
3. We understand, therefore, that the salvation of the Planet and of its present and
future peoples demands the creation of a new civilization rooted in an ethic that
establishes a basis for limits, prudence, care and respect for diversity, solidarity,
justice and freedom. We emphatically stress the impossibility of attaining sustainable
development unless our struggle is shared with that of societies' deprived and excluded
sectors against poverty and the causes of impoverishment.
4. We strongly refuse to allow the concept of sustainable development to be simply
turned into an economic notion, restricted to new technologies and subordinated to the
latest market products. To allow this would be to perpetuate structural poverty and wealth
that arise from the dominant model of civilization we have denounced.
5. To achieve sustainable societies, we affirm that the rich countries have the duty to
slow, stabilize and even decrease their growth rates, so that other countries are able to
exercise their right to seek and achieve dignified living conditions and civil rights for
their peoples. The right of women to control their own lives must underlie any action
involving population, environment and development.
6. Having demonstrated that the major responsibility for the planet's degradation and
poverty lies with the majority of countries in the northern hemisphere, we also see that
in the southern hemisphere governments, transnational corporations, international
regulatory institutions, banks and the local elites themselves have united to reproduce
the same bankrupt and unsustainable model, which is passively accepted by society.
7. We are aware that today's North-South relations, based on inequality, domination,
exploitation and unequal confrontation, are no longer acceptable. This places before us
the challenge of working together on the mechanisms that create injustice and degradation,
uniting the social forces which aspire for change against those which defend the
maintenance of the status quo.
8. The Earth Summit has frustrated the very hopes which it had raised for humanity. It
has remained submissive to powerful dominant economic interests and to the prevailing
logic of power. The UNCED process has shown that, notwithstanding the official rhetoric, a
majority of governments were unable to hear the NGOs and, above all, to listen to the
cries of the international civil society.
9. We must emphasize, however, that the Conference was not a total failure. Countries
have displayed different positions: in many cases, citizens and public opinion have led
governments to move forward. The process has also moved towards greater awareness and
cohesion among all those who struggle in their own continents against poverty and for true
10. For civil society, especially, the positive side is that, after the 1992 UNCED
process, it will now be impossible for governments or international institutions to decide
on our future without hearing our voices. On the basis of our new awareness and autonomy,
we will fight for the democratization of states, international organizations and the
United Nations (UN) itself. We will fight for the active participation of citizens in the
various decision-making mechanisms and in control over their policies.
11. We denounce the fact that the major transnational corporations have become a power
above the nations, in collusion with international public organizations, presenting
themselves as champions of sustainable development. It is urgent, lest our countries'
sovereign rights be attacked and the UN lose all face, that democratic controls be
established over these huge corporations and the so-called free market. Only when they
offer practical evidence that they have given up on the myth of unlimited growth will we
be able to believe in their current alleged interest in sustainable development.
12. When we look at our societies, we see how far we have to go. Those who benefit from
economic growth are reluctant to give up their consumption patterns; those who aspire to
one day achieving those patterns support development at any cost; meanwhile, many cannot
even express their desires, bereft as they are of even minimal living conditions.
13. We have discovered that a sustainable society is being built out of and in the
practice of groups, communities and peoples. Part of the challenge is to value the small
experiences and solutions and at the same time to promote them regionally, country-wide
and even around the world.
14. To counterbalance proposals currently underway for integration of Southern
countries through market blocs, we propose the democratic alternative of integrating their
peoples in the struggle for a common future of justice and democracy.
15. Our goal continues to be justice in each national society and between nations. In
many cities and rural areas, populations have lost their right to a healthy environment.
We definitely do not want environmental exclusion to be added to the social exclusion
which we have already repudiated.
16. In a world rife with crises, in order to escape from the economic power that
determines our desires and our future and from political powers that are far-off,
threatening and divorced from our peoples, we are often tempted to close ourselves off
into our own ethnic, cultural and religious traits. Our task is to turn this cultural,
linguistic, ethnic, gender, institutional and political diversity into our very wealth.
17. Our greatest immediate challenge is to carry out and strengthen actions, dynamics
and inter-relations that, based on our peoples' needs, progressively build common
perspectives and projects. To this end, we must take a qualitative leap in leadership
towards greater awareness, education, organization and inter-relation with national and
international civil societies. We have no right to await the 50th Anniversary of the UN to
make this project reality. Rather, 1995 should offer us the chance to evaluate all we will
have done over the next three years, and be a meeting point for new challenges.
18. To speak of environment and development is to speak of life as a whole. To try to
address this whole over the past several days, we have broken out a number of separate
issues: climate, biodiversity, forests, savannahs, deserts and semi-arid areas, fresh
water and oceans, toxic and nuclear waste, energy, fisheries, human settlements,
industrial working conditions, land reform, sustainable agriculture, new technologies,
communication, poverty, urban and rural violence, racism, militarism, population issues,
indigenous issues, children and adolescents, women, foreign debt, international trade,
transnational corporations, General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), International
Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, global decision-making mechanisms and environmental
19. We have been moved in our debates and in the drafting of our commitments by our
sense of responsibility to those who are fighting like us for a better world, and to all
oppressed and abandoned peoples. We assert our commitment to struggle 'for them and with
them'. To struggle 'for them and with them' equally includes defense of the environment
and of nature which, like them, are used as disposable raw material. These are the
commitments which we reaffirm at this starting point of the future, in this marvelous and
wounded city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
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