For the Secretary of
Environment and Development from the
state of Amazonas, in Brazil, is a tremendous absurd for the
whole world to say that the Brazilian forest should be preserved,
because of its value in natural terms. People have to remember
those who live in the forest, he said, in unacceptable poverty.
"Once more it was confirmed that the market is placed ahead of the citizen,"
affirmed the general coordinator of the Brazilian Network for the Integration
of Peoples (Rebrip), Iara Pietricovsky, in a collective interview at the conclusion
of Brazil’s Civil Society Forum. She was analyzing the weeklong meeting of
the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), which ended
June 18 in São Paulo.
Magalli Pazello, representing
the non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) linked to women, was another person
disappointed with the final results of the UNCTAD XI meeting. She complained
that women were viewed more as "object than subject."
"What happens is
that the interests of capital are white and masculine and therefore never
concede anything to women," Pazello denounced. She also regretted that
the UNCTAD XI concentrated its discussions on security.
Paul Nehru Tennassee,
from the World Labor Confederation, also criticized aspects of the final document
issued by the UNCTAD XI. He lamented that, even though they were frequently
alluded to in the speeches made by invited officials, "the goals for
generating employment were not even mentioned in the document." For this
reason, he recommended that the new UNCTAD Secretary-General, who will be
named shortly, "recover the lost time and space."
The final document of
the Civil Society Forum indicates certain "qualities" for the next
UNCTAD Secretary-General. Among them, he (or she) should have "the highest
moral and ethical standards" and be committed to "recovering the
lost space, realigning priorities in light of the apparent awakening of the
South-South keynote, supporting the brain gain by countries in the South,
and determining goals for job creation in the world."
Women at Work
Earlier in the week, the
United Nations (UN) had issued a report on the situation of women in the labor
markets of developing countries. The document, entitled "Trade and Gender:
Opportunities and Challenges for Developing Countries," was presented
during a session of debates.
The study shows that female
participation in the labor markets of South American countries rose from 26
percent to 45 percent in the last 25 years. In Brazil, this index went from
39 percent in 1993 to 41 percent in 2001 (a transformation similar to what
occurred in Japan over the same time span).
The sectors in which the
female presence is greatest in Brazil continue to be services and community
and social work. Over half the labor force (59 percent) in these areas has
been made up of women for the last eight years. This is not true of areas
like construction, transportation, and telecommunications.
The report cites a babassu
palm project in the Brazilian state of Maranhão as an example of the
participation of women in the extractive industry. Countries in northern Africa
and western Asia did not receive such high acclaim from the UN consultants.
In these locales, only one in every three women is economically active.
Even in economically successful
places, such as Hong Kong, South Korea, and Malaysia, men continue to dominate
nearly 70 percent of the labor market, and they form an absolute majority
in the most lucrative fields.
In all the countries analyzed
by the United Nations, men still receive twice as much as women, who comprise
the majority of the informal labor market. Around 60 percent of the planet’s
550 million poorest workers are female.
"We shall analyze
these problems and try to suggest ways to resolve them," affirmed Rubens
Ricúpero, Secretary-General of the UNCTAD. "Indeed, we believe
that a well-planned trade stimulus can help reduce the inequalities in income
and gender," he said.
The world’s use of wood
extracted from the Amazon forest was another theme debated at the UNCTAD in
a meeting sponsored by the International Tropic Timber Organization (ITTO).
The governor of the Brazilian
state of Acre, Jorge Viana, one of the people invited to discuss their experiences
with forest management and the commercial exploitation of tropical wood for
export, assured that "the lumber trade in Brazil, which did US$ 6 million
worth of business last year, will soon be the chief rival of the agricultural
sector." The governor observed that sustainable management is important,
but one should not forget the local community, which needs to be helped.
"There is a large
and dangerous gap," Viana said, "between those who industrialize
wood and the suppliers of raw material withdrawn from our forests, a gap which
needs to be diminished, because local communities cannot endure receiving
the current paltry sums."
The governor of Acre also
stated, during the UNCTAD debate, that "the best way to conserve our
Amazon forest is by making sustainable use of it, through certified products."
For his part, the Secretary
of Environment and Development from the state of Amazonas, Virgílio
Viana, who also participated in the debate on tropical wood for export, said
that he considers it "a tremendous absurdity for the whole world to say
that our forest has to be preserved, because it is very valuable in natural
terms, without remembering the people who live there, frequently in conditions
of unacceptable poverty."
The Secretary from Amazonas
presented a proposal to reduce tariffs and taxes on certified forest products,
so that they can attain competitive prices on the international market. The
governor of Acre, in support of this proposal, recalled that certification
of forest products already exists but "is still insufficient."
said that great care must be taken "to avoid what is happening in São
Paulo, with the elimination of the Atlantic Rain Forest." He declared
that "tourism that degrades is of no interest to Amazônia"
and, also, that it is necessary to have the wealth obtained by tourism companies
shared with the local population.
First and Third Worlds
When it comes to international
agricultural trade, it is unfair to apply the same rules to developed countries,
where agribusinesses receive government subsidies, and developing countries
which lack adequate production conditions. This was another argument presented
at the Civil Society Forum held parallel to the 11th meeting of the United
Nations Conference on Trade and Development.
Glayson Soares, representing
the Forum for the Organization of Ethical and Solidary Trade (Faces), explained
that "unfair trade is that in which equal rules are used for unequal
parties. When we have customs barriers and an international effort by the
wealthier countries to block the entry of primary goodsthe chief source
of income for developing countriesand, at the same time, more finished
products, the situation is unjust."
Soares took part in the
sessions on Fair Trade. "Fair trade is not the only alternative, but
it has already demonstrated its impact on local economies. It is possible
to have an appropriate value paid to producers, environmental sustainability,
and a fair relationship between consumers and producers," he claims.
His organization, Faces,
has worked with producers who, one way or another, have already adopted the
idea of fair trade, he explains. "In rural areas, relations should be
more egalitarian. There is still an income differential between men and womenand
we espouse rural ethics, men and women earning the same and having the same
power to decide. It is clear that this doesn’t happen overnight, but this
is our goal: a global endeavor with local impact."
"We have serious
criticisms with respect to the procedures of the World Trade Organization
(WTO), which has not advanced in terms of benefiting the poor countries. The
UNCTAD is an alternative for recasting world trade in favor of development,
and governments should strengthen it. In addition, we should have national
policies for the development of local economies," Soares affirmed.
Eduardo Mamcasz works for Agência Brasil (AB), the official press
agency of the Brazilian government. Comments are welcome at email@example.com.
from the Portuguese by David Silberstein.