Ibrahim Ouédraogo, Responsible of VECO West Africa Dakar office, attended the RIO +20 summit as a member of the Senegalese civil society, more precisely in the Enda Third World delegation. We had a short interview with Ibrahim.
Ibrahim, what was the reason for your presence in Rio and what is for you the importance of the summit?
I was in Rio + 20 as a member of the Senegalese civil society, more precisely in the Enda Third World delegation. This indicates the quality of the relationships between Veco and the other players in the civil society. It also goes without doubt that I was there as Representative of the Veco West Africa Dakar office.
Moreover, it should be noted that in addition to the World Conference on Sustainable Development, which was the “official” event, there was the People’s Forum, which is a space dedicated to the Civil Society as well as a meeting of sustainable cities, especially megacities.
Personally, I went to present and facilitate a workshop on land grabbing in Africa. It must be noted that it is a phenomenon that is growing daily, and menaces the existence of family farming in several regions of Africa. For instance, before leaving Dakar (Senegal), I was informed by APROVAG (Association of Producers of the Valley of Gambia), one of the boundary partners of VECO), that several villages and GIE are under the threat of expropriation. I was there also to build networks with other organizations that work on the same subject, especially formulating proposals for the Conference; learn more about different subjects (agro-ecology, green economy, energy issues, sustainable city management etc.).
Tell us a bit about the activities in which you participated.
I facilitated a workshop on land grabbing in Africa, which was attended by Cambodian, Colombian, Brazilian,… farmers’ leaders. I also participated in a workshop on the right to live in cities, energetic alternatives, agro-ecology, the march of peoples, the global network of farmers etc. I met many interesting persons. I also heard certain heads of state speak in plenary. Basically, I spent most of the time of my stay there between the People’s Forum and the World Conference, as I was accredited as civil society.
Do the political leaders that were present attach sufficient importance to the challenges of making agriculture more sustainable ? And to the role of family farming in the future ?
The African States had already expressed their expectations on October 25 and 26, 2011, in Addis-Abeba, Ethiopia, through “the consensus statement for Rio + 20”. They are rather distant from family farming and the sustainability issues, and are mostly about financing the struggle against poverty, as that is a prerequisite to sustainable development (this was reaffirmed in the final declaration of the Conference), on their sovereignty over their natural resources, the institutionalization of sustainable development or an environmental governance that is not be the exclusive preserve of developed countries, etc.
Meanwhile, the present African civil society together expressed and very firmly reaffirmed its commitment to the strong recovery of the sustainability challenges and in favour of family farming. Certainly the final declaration acknowledges the importance of this agriculture without taking a concrete commitment to its promotion.
Were there farmers’ organizations present ? Where do they come from ? What are their messages ?
At the People’s Forum, Roppa and its national platforms were well represented. There was a strong presence from leaders from women farmers’ organizations at the global network of farmers (m/f). We cite the presence of farmers’ organizations from Latin America and Asia. But mostly, an important presence of Brazilian farmers (m/f) was noted. However, their presence was less important in the World Conference at Rio Centro. As usual, their message was for the recognition of the rights of family farmers and the promotion thereof; the promotion of sustainable agriculture and of a fairer commerce; against land grabbing and agro-business; against the control of sustainable development by the multinationals. It should be noted that the farmers’ organization as well as civil society as a whole has expressed a feeling of distrust concerning the green economy concept.
Which is your final opinion of the results of the summit?
My point of view varies depending on the event. The meeting of cities has lead to the elaboration of a common programme in favour of sustainable management of 57 large cities. That seems rather concrete and hopeful to me. The people’s summit was marked by a number of initiatives and innovations concerning sustainable development. Rich experiences were presented, very interesting meetings and exchanges were held. In certain cases concrete proposals were addressed to the World Conference. However, the absence of coordination, even minimal actions, should be noted. Self-organization, sometimes even improvisation, has damaged the quality of certain events.
Even if certain workshops were very rich and rather professional, the World Conference’s programme was changed continually as the announced workshops were suppressed or moved at the last minute. The most important weakness of the Conference was however the contents of its declaration. A total absence of concrete co,mmitments, a litany of exhortation, recognition and reaffirmation of old resolutions. The shadow, even the dictate of the big powers and multinationals for which sustainable development means less profit and constraints in their modes of production, distribution and consumption as well as more transparency, was present throughout the Conference. I remember a sign I saw during the people’s march, on wich was written “Rio 92 + 20 = 0”. I will not express such a level of disappointment, but let’s say that the final declaration is far below my expectations. The binding commitments achieved in Kioto are old memories.