RIO DE JANEIRO - It was the U.S. government against the world at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), held in Rio from June 3 to June 14. Having earlier scuttled the climate change treaty by insisting that it contain no specific greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, the Bush administration announced it would not sign the biodiversity treaty just as the Earth Summit got underway. And it held a hard line on other contentious issues at the conference, such as technology transfer and financing of the programs on which the UNCED negotiatiors agreed.
The U.S. belligerence was so extreme that it threw all other players at the conference - other Northern countries, the Third World and the massive number of non- governmental organization (NGO) observers - into a loose coalition, opposed to the United States.
Many participants and observers marvelled at the U.S. government's bungling, pointing to the fact that it negotiated itself into isolation and united the rest of the world. Many U.S. NGO and congressional representatives attributed the administration's stance to its desire to solidify its domestic right-wing support in the face of the electoral challenge from Ross Perot. Others, while not disputing this theory, believed the United States was also implementing a more sophisticated strategy.
These observers noted that while the Bush administration's extremism did polarize the debate, its hardline stance shifted the terms of the debate significantly - in the direction of the U.S. position. Because most UNCED participants did not believe there was value in concluding treaties which excluded the United States, the world's largest economy and the sole remaining superpower, they were willing to make repeated compromises to mollify the United States. UNCED Secretary-General Maurice Strong expressed this concern, saying, "The United States cannot be isolated. ... America and the fate of the rest of the world cannot be isolated from each other."
Five major documents emerged from the Earth Summit: a Climate Change Convention, a set of Forest Principles, a Biodiversity Convention, the Rio Declaration and Agenda 21, UNCED's agenda for the next century. With the partial exception of the Forest Principles, the United States was a drag on the negotiations for each of these documents.
On each of the major areas of dispute, the conference players took positions along the same spectrum. The United States resisted bold initiatives, expressing concerns about the ways that measures to protect the environment might interfere with the workings of the free market or slow economic growth. The other industrialized countries - with the European Community (EC) taking a more aggressive role than Japan - were willing to make some modifications to their current ways of doing business and provide some funding to Third World countries to help them implement the proposals agreed on at UNCED. The Third World - negotiating collectively as the G-77, a grouping which originally consisted of 77 countries - emphasized the overconsumption of Northern countries and widespread global poverty as barriers to attaining worldwide sustainable development. Developing countries also called attention to problems exacerbating global inequality, such as payments on the Third World debt and unfair terms of trade for Third World commodities. NGOs' positions - by no means uniform - generally came closest to those of the G-77, though the NGOs called for more dramatic changes in economic and social structures, in the Third World as well as globally and in the North.
NGOs were largely alone in arguing that free markets and free trade are incompatible with, and must be subordinate to, ecological sustainability. For the most part, they were also alone in arguing that UNCED had to devise controls on the dominant world economic actors, multinational corporations, if it hoped to preserve the environment and promote sustainable development. Some Third World countries sought to put these issues on the UNCED agenda, but, with the overwhelming world trend toward eliminating rather than imposing new controls on corporate activity, they did not find a receptive audience at the Earth Summit. U.S. negotiators quickly rebuffed proposals to regulate business, and Third World negotiators quietly capitulated in this crucial area.
The U.S. success in watering down the Earth Summit treaties, UNCED's failure to take even modest steps to control multinationals or challenge the world economic structure and the conference's failure to address a number of specific issues, such as nuclear power, led many NGOs to denounce the Earth Summit as a failure.
"We hold no hope for governments in the short term," said Greenpeace's Tani Adams. Solutions for the major planetary crises will have to come from citizens, if they are to emerge at all, she argued.
Cool reception on global warming
The Climate Change Convention negotiations offer the best example of how the United States succeeded in controlling the Earth Summit's terms of debate.
With the United States sticking to its hardline position in negotiations prior to UNCED and George Bush threatening not to attend the conference, the rest of the world's nations backed down from their plan to establish specific emission reduction targets in the climate change treaty. The final agreement called on countries to make their best effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but did not set a goal of achieving 1990 levels by the year 2000 - a standard around which all countries but the United States had achieved consensus.
Most UNCED participants, while stating that they had wanted the Climate Change Convention to contain specific targets, hailed the agreement as an important first step in addressing what many consider the world's foremost environmental problem. The remarks of Finland's Minister for Foreign Affairs Paavo Vayrynen in an address to UNCED were typical. "The Framework Convention on Climate Change contains commitments and elements which create a good basis for national efforts and enhanced global cooperation to mitigate the consequences of climate change," he said.
Some offered harsher criticisms of the United States. The EC Environment Commissioner refused to attend the Earth Summit because of the U.S. gutting of the Climate Change Convention. In a special UNCED publication, he wrote that the Rio meeting "was intended to take decisions, obtain precise and concrete commitments to counteract tendencies that are endangering life on the planet."
The Bush administration received a diplomatic slap for its stand on global warming-related issues from the European Community, which announced during the Earth Summit that its 12 members had reached an internal agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2000.
The strongest governmental denunciation of the U.S. position on global warming came from Malaysia, which argued that the United States and other industrialized countries had no right to dictate environmental instructions to the Third World without addressing their own ecological culpability. "After all, the North consumes roughly four-fifths of global resources, and it is also responsible for the bulk of greenhouse gas emissions and other forms of contamination of the earth," said Malaysia's Foreign Minister Dato' Abdullah Haji Ahmad Badawi. Until the United States and other industrialized countries change their wasteful production and consumption patterns and help Third World countries develop, he argued, they "do not have the moral authority to tell the rest of the world to save resources and to stop pollution."
NGOs joined in the criticism of the United States. Lester Brown of the U.S.-based Worldwatch Institute, referring to the proposal to mandate greenhouse gas reductions to 1990 levels by 2000, said, "We [the United States] should have been there." Brown argued that signing the treaty would not have entailed any sacrifices for the United States, because market-driven implementation of energy-efficient technolgies will lead U.S. energy use to fall below current levels before 2000.
While most NGOs approved of any concrete steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, they held that even the European Community's commitment fell far short of the steps needed. A non-governmental agreement on climate change, negotiated among NGOs at the Global Forum, a parallel conference to the Earth Summit, called for industrialized countries to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by at least 25 percent from 1990 levels by 2005 - a goal to which Germany has committed itself - and to pursue measures which ultimately reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 60 percent. A recent report from the International Panel on Climate Change, a group of 300 international scientists, says that without a 60 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, global warming may spin out of control.
The biggest bombshell at the conference was the Bush administration's announcement that it would not sign the Biodiversity Convention.
This Convention requires all signatories to develop national plans to identify the biodiversity located within their borders and to establish protected areas to conserve that biodiversity. It closely links the protection of biodiversity with the development of biotechnology, which relies on diverse species as genetic raw material.
The Bush administration objected to mild constraints which the Convention imposes on the biotechnology industry. Bush told the Earth Summit that the treaty "threatens to retard biotechnology and undermine the protection of ideas." He added, "It is never easy to stand alone on principle, but sometimes leadership requires that you do."
The United States complained specifically about provisions of the treaty which call on signatories to ensure that intellectual property rights "are supportive of and do not run counter to [this Convention's] objectives." Strengthening intellectual property protection has been a high priority of the Bush administration, and it was loathe to subordinate that effort to environmental and social criteria. The administration also objected to provisions in the treaty requiring biotechnology transfer to developing countries that provide genetic resources for biotechnology research and to the financing scheme proposed in the Convention.
The U.S. action, coming on top of its gutting of the Climate Change Convention, shocked and angered UNCED participants. Even U.S. allies condemned the U.S. position. "It is disappointing that the United States has so far not indicated they will sign [the Biodiversity Convention]," said Ros Kelly, leader of Australia's UNCED delegation. "I urge them to do so, if not in the interest of the living things of the planet, then in their own self interest. ... We are the dominant species on the planet, but we depend for our continued survival on all the others."
The effect of the U.S. announcement on biodiversity was to spur other countries to rush to sign the treaty. By the end of the conference, more than 100 countries had signed the Convention. By holding out, some observers believe, the United States succeeded in uniting the rest of the world behind a flawed treaty which contains significant advantages for the biotechnology industry.
While NGOs had been instrumental in pushing for a Biodiversity Convention and NGOs in Rio unanimously criticized the U.S. position, many expressed serious doubts about the merits of the final draft of the treaty, particularly with regard to its implications for the development of biotechnology.
At issue are the seeds stored in international gene banks. (Despite the common U.S. association of the concept of biodiversity with endangered animal species, the number of plant species is far greater than the number of animal species. And it is plants' genetic material, much more so than animals', which is expected to provide the material for the biotechnology revolution.) Two-thirds of all seeds collected in gene banks - most of them donated by Third World countries - are estimated to be stored in gene banks controlled by Northern countries or those of the World Bank-affiliated International Agricultural Research Center (IARC) network. Third World NGOs fear that the Biodiversity Convention will enable Northern multinational corporations to gain exclusive control of these genes.
The ownership of the seeds in gene banks has been unclear, with most of the seeds originating in developing countries but housed in Northern nations. However, at a meeting in Nairobi on May 22, prior to the Earth Summit, the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research decided to promote the patenting of materials stored in the IARCs. Because the final draft of the biodiversity treaty does not address ownership of gene-bank material, Southern NGOs fear the IARCs will enter into arrangements with multinational biotechnology corporations that will enable the companies to gain control of this material and genetically modified versions of it without any requirements that they pay royalties to Southern countries from which genetic raw material comes or that they make the new products available at affordable rates.
Non-IARC gene banks located in industrialized countries are likely to follow in the IARCs' footsteps and patent the seeds they house, the Third World NGOs fear. Although the treaty confers certain rights on the "countries of origin" of genetic materials, based on a careful reading of the "definitions" section of the Biodiversity Convention, a briefing paper prepared by the Malaysia-based Third World Network asserts that "a country hosting gene banks could ... argue that it was a country of origin of the genetic resources, and not only the country from where the resources had naturally evolved."
The combined result of the treaty not addressing the ownership of seeds currently stored in gene banks and its unorthodox definition of country of origin is likely to be that "the South will lose billions of dollars of germplasm," argues Nicolas Perlas, a Philippine expert on biodiversity issues. He charges that the treaty will enable "the United States and developed countries to come out with advantages over the South."
The problems the NGOs cited with the Biodiversity Convention are in large part attributable to the negotiating strategy of the United States. It participated in the treaty negotiations up to the end and succeeded in watering the treaty down, only to reject it. Many NGOs predicted the United States will ultimately sign on to the Convention, but only after convincing the signatories to further modify it. "The United States is playing poker with the world, betting that other countries will throw in all their chips, and then asking for a little more," said David Hattaway of the Brazil Non-Governmental Organization Forum. The question for "Brazil and the other G-77 countries is how long they will keep playing poker, and playing poker like fools."
To counter its isolation at the conference, the Bush administration worked hard to achieve a set of "Forest Principles" - downgraded from an initially hoped-for Forest Convention - and announced a "Forests for the Future Initiative." The initiative proposes to double worldwide international forest conservation assistance to $2.7 billion. As a "down payment" on the initiative, the administration announced that the United States will increase bilateral forestry assistance by $150 million each year.
U.S. NGOs denounced the Bush forest proposals as hypocritical and insufficient. "It's just incredible," said Brock Evans, vice president for national issues of the National Audubon Society, "that at the same time Bush is offering U.S. funds for world forest assistance, he is aggressively pushing legislation to exterminate nearly 70 percent of our own remaining ancient forests and to emasculate our Endangered Species Act." The Forests for the Future Initiative "is such an obviously transparent ploy," said Bill Mankin, head of Sierra Club's Earth Summit delegation. "This initiative is a year late, at least three and a half billion dollars short, and is practically guaranteed to offend developing countries."
The Bush administration's focus on forests did indeed offend may developing countries. In emphasizing forests' function as carbon sinkholes, Bush clearly hoped to divert attention from the U.S. role in sabotaging the climate change treaty. This drew the ire of Third World countries, which demanded that the United States limit its world- leading contribution to the greenhouse effect before calling on poorer countries which are less responsible for global warming to undertake efforts to combat the problem.
Malaysia, which is rapidly destroying its rainforests in the states of Sabah and Sarawak, led the charge against the United States in the negotiating rooms and in the plenary sessions. India and others joined in, asserting that environmental protection measures must not interfere with their right to use their forests and other natural resources to promote development.
The eventually agreed upon Forest Principles reflected the aggressive opposition to what these Third World countries called infringements on their sovereignty. The final draft recognizes states' "sovereign and inalienable right to utilize, manage and develop their forests in accordance with their development needs." It does not contain a strong commitment to preserving natural forests, emphasizing reforestation as much as forest preservation.
From the NGO perspective, no government parties took a positive or admirable position in the forest debate.
NGOs agreed that the United States and other Northern countries have a primary moral obligation to curtail their greenhouse gas emissions and other environmentally degrading activities, and to address global economic inequities in order to relieve the pressure on developing countries to overexploit their resources. And the more critical NGO activists challenged the whole notion of environmental aid as the key element to saving the forests. Vandana Shiva, an Indian author and ecologist, predicted that the U.S. Forests for the Future monies would - as earlier funds from the World Bank for forest conservation have done - subsidize industrial concerns expropriating and planting trees on peasants' land. Corporate tree plantations, she stressed, are not forests - they do not protect the soil (and in fact may harm it, as is the case with eucalyptus trees) or support biologically diverse ecosystems.
But the NGOs also rejected the argument of Malaysia and India that Third World countries have the right to destroy their forests in the name of development. A document circulated by the World Rainforest Movement (WRM) stated, "The conservation of all remaining natural and primary forests worldwide ... is ecologically essential since there is little natural forest left." The rainforest network called for an eventual moratorium on commercial logging and a halt to colonization schemes and processes, such as programs to convert forests to ranges for cattle ranching.
Programs to protect the forest, the WRM statement said, must secure "the basic rights of local peoples, including indigenous and forest peoples and other communities that depend on forests," and must also address the social and economic causes which contribute to deforestation. The WRM statement calls for assurances of land security for small and landless rural farmers, which would reduce pressure on forests, and for financial compensation, through means such as debt relief, to Third World countries that take steps to protect their forests and forego income from forest exploitation.
Agenda 21 was the most comprehensive and elaborate of the documents agreed upon at the Earth Summit. Its goal was to provide "a blueprint for action in all areas relating to sustainable development of the planet from now until the twenty-first century." The more than 800-page document contains sections on poverty, consumption patterns, population growth, desertification, mountain ecosystems, ocean ecology, toxic chemicals and more than a dozen other areas.
Most NGOs found at least parts of Agenda 21 worthy of applause. "Agenda 21 has moved us forward 10 years" on sectoral issues, said Peter Padbury of the Forum of International Non-Governmental Organizations, adding, however, that it failed to adequately deal with most global problems. Undoubtedly, the United States and other countries allowed much of the pro-environment language to remain in Agenda 21 because the document, unlike the Climate Change and Biodiversity Conventions, is not binding on signatories.
There were a number of disputes over Agenda 21 at Rio, but the most heated was over the issue of financing. Secretary-General Strong estimated the overall cost of the programs included in Agenda 21 for developing countries to be $600 billion a year, and he called on Northern countries to provide $125 billion of that, a $70 billion increase on top of the $55 billion already sent from North to South in overseas development aid (ODA).
The Rio meeting confirmed what had long been apparent: industrialized countries have no intention of quickly meeting that goal. The United States early announced its intention to provide $150 million in new monies for forestry products, and the EC pledged $4 billion by the end of the conference. Japan promised to increase its ODA from $3.1 billion over the last three years to above $7 billion over the next five. Altogether, new pledges totaled between $6 and $7 billion a year.
The subject of debate in Rio was how strictly, and by what deadline, Northern countries should be held to the $125 billion target. The language which was eventually agreed upon amounted to something of a victory for Third World countries. It called on Northern countries to reaffirm their commitment to a longstanding UN goal of providing .7 percent of their GNPs to ODA, and to aim to meet that target by the year 2000. That agreement was possible because the United States has never agreed to the .7 percent goal, and so it was not required to "reaffirm" that commitment.
A debate of perhaps even more significance took place over what means, besides bilateral, country-to-country transfers, should be used to transfer aid from North to South. Third World countries called for the creation of a Green Fund which would be democratically run, with equal representation from industrialized and developing countries. Northern countries rebuffed this proposal, instead advocating use of the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), a recently created fund which is administered jointly by the World Bank, the UN Development Program and the UN Environment Program, but primarily controlled by the World Bank.
Southern countries objected to the GEF because it is run in the undemocratic fashion of the World Bank, with voting shares going to its funder (Northern) countries to the exclusion of the recipients of funds (Third World countries). Ultimately, the UNCED negotiators agreed that the GEF would be one of the mechanisms to transfer aid, with others including multilateral banks, United Nations agencies and debt relief. The World Bank also promised that democratic reforms of the GEF were underway.
For NGOs, the issue of the GEF was of critical importance. The aid under discussion was far too little to address the environmental and developmental needs of the South, and it pales in comparison to the $200 billion transferred annually from South to North in the form of debt repayments, royalty payments and unfair international terms of trade, said Martin Khor, director of the Third World Network. "In this situation," he explained, "aid becomes a symbol rather than a solution." And the symbolic importance of UNCED's reliance on the GEF instead of a Green Fund was that it signified the power being appropriated by the industralized country-controlled Bretton Woods institutions - the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade - at the expense of UN-affiliated bodies, which are more open to influence from Third World countries and which are run more democratically.
Many NGOs also objected strongly to the notion of placing responsibility for environmental protection with the World Bank, a major funder of dams, roads and agricultural and forestry programs that have had horrific environmental impacts. The World Bank is "an inappropriate institution for a new era of environmental development," wrote Vandana Shiva, because it "is a primary agent of environmental destruction [and] it has no experience on environmental recovery and ecological planning."
The Rio Declaration
The document originally envisioned as an Earth Charter, laying out basic principles of ecological stewardship of the planet, was watered down to a Rio Declaration on Environment and Development in the negotiations leading up to the Earth Summit. The final Declaration sacrificed the Earth Charter's hoped-for eloquence and inspirational language, but it incorporated key concerns of the South, including Third World countries' "right to development."
Negotiators finalized the Rio Declaration before the Rio Conference, so it was not a focus of attention during the conference. However, during UNCED, the United States threatened to reopen negotiations on the Declaration. That threat increased U.S. negotiating leverage on other issues, again shifting the Earth Summit debate in the direction of U.S. interests.
Unsaid at UNCED
Even more important than how the United States shifted the debate at UNCED was what was kept off the UNCED agenda all together. In some instances, the United States alone was responsible for ensuring that key topics were kept out of the debate; in other cases, the United States was joined by other industrialized countries and the Third World in what amounted to a government conspiracy against the world's people and enviroment.
An April 1992 "NGO Declaration: 10 Point Plan to Save the Earth Summit," sponsored by Greenpeace, the Forum of Brazilian NGOs (representing 1,200 groups), Friends of the Earth and the Third World Network and endorsed by dozens of other groups, laid out a list of steps the Earth Summit would have to take in order "to address the huge environment and development problems the world faces." These steps included: imposing binding reduction targets for greenhouse gas emissions; changing the North's consumption patterns and technologies; commiting to economic reform to reverse the South-North outflow of resources; removing the GEF from World Bank control; regulating the activities of multinational corporations; banning the export of hazardous wastes and technologies; saving existing forests (as opposed to merely planting new trees); halting nuclear weapons testing and rapidly phasing out nuclear power; devising strict safety standards to control biotechnology research and application; and reconciling trade practices with environmental protection and social, political and economic concerns.
To no one's surprise, UNCED negotiators did not revise their work to incorporate the issues raised by the NGO Declaration. Nor did they deal with critical issues involving the military - such as how military spending diverts resources from social needs or the environmental effects of military operations and war - or class divisions within nations that generate unsustainable economic and social policies, in both the North and South.
A common refrain in Rio was: "At least the Earth Summit will raise the world's environmental consciousness." With thousands of journalists reporting on UNCED, that hope will undoubtedly be realized in part. But the educational value of UNCED may be limited, and the broad historical memory of it short.
The conference largely ignored the most important structural economic issues - debt, trade and foreign investment - underlying the environmental and development crises. And it failed to identify or take any steps to rein in the major despoilers of the environment - multinational corporations and military forces. Without a coherent analysis of the world's environmental and development crises, animated by a focus on the responsible culprits, most of the work and debate that took place at the conference on specific environmental issues is likely to be quickly forgotten.
The gathering of so many world leaders in Rio was an historic opportunity to change the suicidal course of the planet. That opportunity was lost, and it is not likely to repeat itself soon.
Workers at the State Foundation of Environmental Engineering (FEEMA) in Rio de Janeiro (the city is located in a state of the same name) went on strike on May 25. Members of the FEEMA Workers Association (ASFEEMA) say they have not received wage adjustments since 1990, despite Brazil's runaway inflation; inflation rose approximately 1,000 percent in 1991 alone.
The workers charge that the state government is systematically gutting their agency in order to promote the interests of developers and polluting industries. An "Open Letter to the Population" from ASFEEMA asserts, "There are many contrary interests that want to see the ęDEATH' of FEEMA."
During the Earth Summit, one ASFEEMA representative told Multinational Monitor that the state government had not responded constructively to the ASFEEMA strike, apparently preferring to ignore it as long as possible.
The workers' response was to turn to the public, as well as the attendees of the Earth Summit. ASFEEMA's "Open Letter" - distributed at the non-governmental Global Forum which accompanied the Earth Summit - asked the public to "join our fight, for on it depends the air you breathe, the water you drink and the food you eat. Remember: Your life depends on it!"
"Defending the Earth: Abuses of Human Rights and the Environment," a report issued jointly by Human Rights Watch and the U.S.-based Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) at the Earth Summit, makes clear that the murder of Mendes was not an isolated incident. In "countries around the world, human rights abuses continue to shield environmental abuses - and block meaningful and effective efforts to deal with them," the report states. Human Rights Watch and NRDC claim their report is the first to demonstrate the worldwide abuses of the human rights of environmental activists, in both industrialized and developing countries.
Threats, harassment, physical intimidation and occasionally even assassination attempts are generally directed at activists, governmental officials and journalists who not only draw attention to environmental degradation but seek to identify and hold accountable the despoilers of the environment.
"Eventually [environmentalists] have to ask the questions: who made the mess that I am cleaning up, and why?" says Professor Wangari Muta Maathai of Kenya. "It is in trying to answer those questions that you get in trouble. [Because] those messing up the environment are powerful," she says. Maathai is a leader of the country's opposition forces and the founder and director of the grassroots Green Belt Movement, which has organized tens of thousands of women to plant and maintain more than 10 million trees in order to combat soil erosion, provide fuelwood for rural people and build women's self- esteem.
Maathai has been harassed, tear-gassed, beaten and arrested for her environmental work. The Kenyan special police have labeled Maathai and the Green Belt Movement "subversive," according to "Defending the Earth," and the government has reacted particularly sharply to her efforts opposing the construction of a 62-story building in downtown Nairobi's largest green space.
The report details numerous other human rights abuses of environmental activists who challenge powerful public and private interests, including:
A striking commonality in many of the cases detailed in "Defending the Earth" is governments' resort to claims of protecting "national security" as a means to cover up environmental degradation and silence environmental activists. In the United States, the Department of Energy has used the cloak of national security to justify withholding information on environmental and safety problems at nuclear weapons facilities. In India, the government has invoked the Official Secrets Act - which allows the central or state governments to "prohibit" certain areas if they determine that "information with respect thereto or the destruction or obstruction thereof or interference therewith would be useful to an enemy" - to stifle protests against the massive Narmada dam project. The government has used the Official Secrets Act to ban activists from 33 villages in areas which will be submerged by the dam and to arrest opponents of the dam. In Malaysia, the government has labeled indigenous people and environmental activists trying to protect the forests of the states of Sabah and Sarawak the country's "Number 1 traitors" and "communist stooge[s]."
Members of both Human Rights Watch and NRDC hope that, by focusing attention on human rights abuses of environmental activists, "Defending the Earth" and future collaborative efforts between human rights and environmental organizations will help protect the political space environmental advocates need to be critical of their governments and business interests in their society.
Anderson Mutang Urud, founder of the Sarawak Indigenous People's Alliance in Malaysia, knows first-hand the positive effect of international attention on human rights abusers. The Malaysian government arrested Mutang Urud in February 1992 under the authority of its Emergency Ordinance. Held in solitary confinement, interrogated for hours on end and denied medical care, Mutang Urud was released after one month. He attributes his release to international attention and support.
Defending activists like Mutang Urud is important not only to enable them to advocate for their local and national causes, "Defending the Earth" argues, but also to make it possible for them to hold national governments accountable for the commitments they make in international forums like the Earth Summit - where the focus on international issues diverted attention away from the national records of the countries involved in the treaty negotiations. "The ability of the international community to address global environmental problems, such as climate change and biological impoverishment," the report states, "will depend ultimately upon the empowerment of concerned citizens in every country to assure that national governments fulfill their international commitments."