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A deepening systemic crisis and rising social response


In the third quarter of 2012, several climate records were broken, in the US, India, the Arctic and many other parts of the world. The economic crisis has gotten worse in Europe and has begun to knock on the doors of the emerging economies. A global food crisis is on its way because of the droughts, the floods, the diversion of crops to biofuels, and the speculation on food commodities in the financial markets.
 
The difference though with the previous crisis is that this time the capitalist system has touched the boundaries of the planet Earth and the financial speculation has spiraled out of control as it has overtaken the real economy and become the main driver of profit.
 
To make matters worse, the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO are only compounding the problems. The international financial institutions are repeating old mistakes of austerity plans for the people and bailouts for the banks.  The United Nations is not addressing the environmental crisis. The UN Earth Summit or Rio+20 and the latest climate negotiations of the UNFCCC in Bangkok did not produce anything relevant except proposals for new market mechanisms in relation to the environment under the name of “green economy” and “REDD.” And this is no accident; the stalemate in the climate negotiations is the result of the complicity of the elites in developed and emerging countries that are prioritizing the profits of their corporations over the future of humanity and Mother Earth.
 
We are at the beginning of a chaotic historical period, with events likely to move quickly and unpredictably. This is a critical time for progressive movements to forge  systemic change from below.
 
The social response is escalating—from Chile to India, from Occupy Wall Street to indignados in Europe, from the unemployed youth to the elders without social security. Everywhere, the affected are standing up, going to the streets and raising their voices.
 
It is within this context that social movements in Asia, led by La Via Campesina, gathered on the 31st of August in Bangkok with activists of traditional movements and new movements of different parts of the world to discuss how to strengthen the solidarity and link social and environmental struggles at a global level, especially in relation to climate change.
 
Climate change may not be the priority issue of all social movements but as climate and environmental issues impact on their daily lives—as food becomes scarce or food prices become too high for people to afford, or access to water, energy and health services become limited, these are issues mobilizing the people. In this regard, it´s necessary to make the links between  the climate crisis, the food crisis and the financial speculation highlighting the connections with current campaigns in relation to agro-fuels, GMOs, speculation on food derivatives, water, land grabbing, health, human rights, free trade agreements, the impunity of transnational corporations, and alternatives like food sovereignty, rights of nature, financial transaction taxes and others. Our struggles are inextricably linked to each other and as we link our fights, our impact shall be stronger. As a result of these movements’ dialogue in Bangkok, a statement of solidarity with Occupy Wall Street on the occasion of their first anniversary was sent out under the title “Stop financial speculation on food and climate,” and Occupy Wall Street developed an action for the 17th of September under the slogan: “When it comes to the environmental crisis all roads lead to Wall Street.”
 
Internally, Focus on the Global South, in this third quarter, finalized its process of transition and redefinition of its new program, “Whose New Asia?,” and adopted the decision to change from its previous news letter FOCUS ON TRADE to a more all encompassing one called FOCUS ON THE GLOBAL SOUTH that will come to your mailbox every three months.
 
Turbulent times are ahead but we are excited and hopeful for the staggering potential of the power of social movements from all over the world  for changing the system and reclaiming our future.
 
Pablo Solón
Executive Director

Why are Climate Negotiations Locked in Stalemate?

By Pablo Solon and Walden Bello

Focus on the Global South, through this piece by Pablo Solon and Walden Bello, pushes for a new approach to the climate talks, now in stalemate even as developed countries have failed in the last two decades or so to make deep cuts in carbon emission that could have made genuine impact on climate change vulnerabilities. There is real urgency in demanding Annex 1 countries to make legally binding commitments to real deep cuts (40-50 percent until 2020) without offsets, and at the same time, also demand that China, India, Brazil and South Africa, which have been into high-speed,consumption-dependent and greenhouse gases-intensive growth paths, to agree to mandatory cuts, though lower than the Annex 1 countries. They can no longer hide behind G-77 and invoke development in the name of their poor populations to avoid making mandatory greenhouse gases reduction commitments.
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The Challenge to Asia's Social Movements

By Walden Bello

In this opening speech delivered during the International Social Movements meeting in Bangkok, 31 August 2012, Philippine lawmaker Walden Bello underscores the link between the financial/economic crisis and environmental crisis. He argues that the global crisis should be seen in the much broader context of "fossil fuel-addicted" mode of production.  This is not just a crisis that indicates temporary growth setback, but one that signals "end of growth."  And in this situation, "international civil society, of which we are a part, is being challenged to step into the vacuum.  We must step up to the plate, end the stalemate among the states, and come up with the alternatives to pull the planet from the debacle to which global capital has plunged it."
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Thai Power Development Plan is at Odds with Reality

By Rebeca Leonard, Jacques-chai Chomthongdi and Faikham Harnnarong

Does the increase in Thailand's energy demand and consumption a real indication of the people's need for energy? Who benefits from the new power plants that the government has embarked to build with the private sector? Or is it just the elite Thai businessmen and politicians benefiting from keeping energy demand at high levels even at the expense of the environment and other social-economic costs to the people, especially those who will be marginalized and harmed by government's new power projects? These and more critical questions are tackled  in this report, and glaring data that challenge government and business' arguments are presented.
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Criminalisation of Forest People

This is a revealing piece on how small-scale farmers in Thailand are now being criminalized and called forest encroacher;  they are being blamed for deforestation and global warming even as they are trying to survive on their farming. Are they really the cause of deforestation--and are these acts of defense of their livelihood and access to land the real culprit? What is government doing to make major loggers, large-scale commercial plantation owners, or emitters in the industrial sectors accountable?
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Greening Free Trade Means Protecting the Status Quo

By Joseph Purugganan

Asia is now in the middle of the global phenomenon called resource grab,as developed countries use free trade agreements (FTAs) as weapon in the growing conflict over resources.  Developed countries have now turned to FTAs, especially those negotiated with Asian countries, to maintain their edge and competitiveness, moving for further elimination of export restrictions to facilitate the trade in raw materials, while using green economy to maintain and protect the status quo.

Defending Water Justice and Democracy: Alternatives to Commercialization and Privatization of Water in Asia

By Mary Ann Manahan, Buenaventura Dargantes and Cheryl Batistel

While privatization of Asia’s water sector has been seen as failure, another mechanism for liberalization of the sector is in the works: regional and bilateral free trade and investment agreements, which will give more market access and corporate control through foreign direct investments. But Public and community responses and alternatives to the commercialization and privatization of water abound, especially in access to and sustainability of drinking water supply or water service provision in both rural and urban areas. These alternative models of water service provision are discussed in this piece that was culled from a research undertaken by Manahan, Buenaventure and Batistel.
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Bangkok, UN Climate Negotiations Move Towards Burning the Planet

By La Via Campesina

Climate change has had undeniable impacts on humans and nature. We've witnessed how extreme rainfall or extreme dry weather, too much heat or too much cold have destroyed farming patterns, and displaced peoples from livelihoods and homes, leaving many who have long been vulnerable and marginalized hungry and homeless, creating out of them new population of climate migrants and refugees. While many have been rendered vulnerable, those who have enjoyed economic and political power continue to grab the earth's remaining resourcesas the capitalist system’s way of reviving itself from its near collapse. But social movements have been coming together to reclaim its power in the fight against climate change. This piece reports on one such gathering that took place in Bangkok to coincide with the UNFCCC meetings.
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Focus on Trade: Chronicler of an Era

By Nicola Bullard

For 15 years, Focus on the Global South through its newsletter "Focus on Trade" became part of the anti-imperialist and anti-globalization movement, as it chronicled, reported and debated on the key aspects of the movement.  Nicola Bullard, the newsletter's editor, recounts here how Focus on Trade contributed to the larger conversation on globalization and the building of the anti-globalization movement in Asia and globally.
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We feel that in the current financial and climate crises our work to promote alternate paradigms to neoliberalism is more relevant than ever. If you agree and would like to help us continue our work, please donate now to Focus on the Global South here: focusweb.org/content/donations

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