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Declaration of the Third World and the Human Environment


Written by Oi Committee International
an international committee of young scientists and scholars for a critical and holistic approach to development and the human environment







We participants from 41 nations in the Conference en Problems of the Third World and the Human Environment, sponsored by Oi-Committee International, have come together for an independent and critical analysis of the problems of the human environment, parallel to the efforts of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm June 4-16, 1972. On the basis of prepared papers and discussions in specialized working parties and plenary sessions, we have come to the following understanding.



By using the concept "THIRD WORLD" we focus attention on problems common to peoples who have the shared historical and ongoing experience of being dominated and exploited by other nations. This domination has sharpened the conflict of certain classes ruling over others in our respective societies in the underdeveloped as well as the industrialized regions of the world. The common root of these expressions of domination is in the socio-economic system which allows and favors "development" for one part of society at the expense of another. The price is hunger, disease, environmental deterioration and lack of freedom, lack of access to vital information and of participation.

The HUMAN ENVIRONMENT is the total reality of man's world which includes physical, social, economic, cultural, and political components. We strongly oppose the narrow ecological approach which emphasizes the relations of "nature and man", ignoring the fundamental issues of relations between man, societies and classes. Any approach to the problems of the human environment is meaningless unless the economic, social and political inequalities that exist between, as well as within the countries are considered. Our analysis stresses the crucial importance of understanding and solidarity among all oppressed peoples of the world irrespective of where they are living.


Development of the Environment
Development must necessarily consider the well-being of all the people. It must involve the total conscious participation by the people in all decisions that affect their lives. Equal distribution of resources and the means and control of the means of production combined with decentralization, and reject private material and status incentives and sanctions. Incentives must be for society as a whole.

In each society the social system must be developed based on its own priorities and needs and must integrate all aspects of the human environment. The environmental crisis in both the industria1ised countries and the third world is due to the faulty nature of development technology and the social and economic systems that are organized for private gain and the achievement of military power, and not with regard for human needs.

We strongly reject models of stagnation, proposed by certain alarmist Western ecologist, economists, industrialists and computer-fans [1] and assert that holding economic growth per se responsible for environmental ills amounts to a diversion of attention from the real causes of the problem which lie in the profit-motivation of the systems of production in the capitalist world. Likewise we state that the level of consumption (affluence) per se is not a cause of environmental problems. Therefore the bulk of the so-called "ecology movements" in most industrialized countries that stress personal ethics of recycling and non-consumption are at best diversionary tactics which fall to put the primary emphasis on the destruction of the profit-oriented system of production.


Agricultural Development

Most specific problem areas in the environment follow the analysis above. For example, the programme of agricultural development known as "the Green Revolution", which is lauded as the answer to the world's food problems, rural unemployment and social stratification, is in reality a package solution involving pesticides, fertilizers, "improved" seeds, irrigation and mechanization, which does irreparable harm to the human environment. This approach has caused severe chemical pollution, elimination of irreplaceable genetic plant materials, increased vulnerability of the agricultural production systems, crop failures, famines, threats to human health from new diseases and malnutrition, and dispossession, dislocation and unemployment of large rural masses as a result of mechanization and the monocultural approach. Although some of the individual element in this approach may have validity for increasing food production under certain specific conditions, the entire package has, in effect, caused the reverse of its proclaimed aims of social justice. In fart, the wide-spread introduct of this technique has impeded the essential task of immediate redistribution of resources.

In summary, far from serving the long-term interests of the rural masses, the so-called Green Revolution has resulted in more profits for the agricultural-business complexes (chemical, machinery, etc.) of the expansionist industrial stares.


Public Health

In the field of public health the same disparity and diversionary approach is evident. For example, the present distribution of malaria corresponds closely with the boundaries of the Third World. Malaria eradication programmes based on massive spraying of DDT and other persistent pesticides, have failed to dislodge the disease from developing countries. In Central America and Mexico the incidence of malaria is just as high or higher now, in spite of well over a decade of intensive spraying with DDT and other pesticides. In other places such as Ceylon, India, Iran and Ethiopia, there has been considerable resurgence of the disease following the apparent initial success. Meanwhile the world's greatest accumulation of pesticides in body-fat and human milk has been reported in countries like India and Guatemala, where the intensive insecticidal campaign against malaria as well as agricultural uses have been proacticed for a long time. We therefore demand the immediate institution of environmentally more positive biological and cultural methods.

We assert that the present disease eradication programmes based on simplistic chemical strategies are a diversion from the more urgent and effective task of social reorganization which would lead to better living and health conditions and facilities and would ultimately free the people of the Third World not only from malaria but also from other diseases.



"We hold that of all things in the world, people are the most precious." [2]

It has often been suggested that the root cause of environmental problems is that the world is "overpopulated"; thus population control is demanded as a solution. We assert, on the contrary, that population growth is neither the most important nor- the most decisive factor affecting the human environment. In fact, when population is considered in relation to the development of the environment, there is a vast, as yet underutilized and wasted human energy which can be used to promote development. The question of population is inevitably linked to the question of access to resources. Most arguments for population control are based on the concept of an optimal population size, ignoring that the world is not under one system.

On a global scale, the population problems of the developing countries have arisen primarily since the colonial expansions of the last two centuries, due to the virtual exclusion of the populations of Asia, Africa and Latin America from full access to their own resources. This process of economic exploitation still continues in spite of the nominal independence of various former colonies and dependencies.

We also reject the thesis that the onus of population control must fall on the industrialized countries. Recognizing that in the latter the mode of production of economic goods is a much larger contributor to the environmental crisis than population growth, it is clear that the emphasis must be on changing the modes of production, which, we believe, implies a fundamental change in the socio-economic systems governing the means of production.
Nevertheless we do not deny that there may be an eventual need to stabilize population growth. This should not be achieved through exerting external pressures of manipulating people to go against their immediate individual interests. Such an approach is intrinsically inhuman and demands a constant technical control over people.

What is needed, in our view, is a process which releases the internal mechanisms by which a population stabilizes itself. The emphasis must be placed on generating a consciousness among people to relate their immediate interests to the broader and long-term interests of the community as a whole. This consciousness, of course, must be preceded by a reorganization of society and the system of production for an equitable distribution of resources.

We therefore strongly condemn the international agencies and aid programs for their involvement in population control policies which are against Third World peoples and which will perpetuate their exploitation.


Rural Development and Urbanization

In many Third World countries expansionist and capitalist technologies such as the "Green Revolution" have replaced human labour by capital-intensive technology. This has forced rural people to migrate to the cities, resulting in high imbalance between urban and rural areas. This in turn has produced gross social, economic, and political injustices.
We denounce the United States' bombing of the countryside in Vietnam which has intentionally forced the people of Vietnam into urban conglomerates where they are easier to pacify and control.

The location of industries designed for high profits in large cities does not consider the development of the human environment. A clear example is that cities in the Third World continue to serve as mere centers for the collection and export of raw materials and the import and distribution of finished goods from the metropolitan countries. We advocate the decentralization of industry into rural-urban communities in order to realize a meaningful development.


Self Determination, National Liberation, War and Weaponry

Modern warfare by the expansionist industrialized states, including the threat of nuclear or bio-chemical war, presents the greatest urgent single threat to human survival. These states, chief among them the United States of America, are today engaged in their most barbaric drive against the people of the Third World, of which the Indochinese people are the most notable victims. Likewise, the United States is involved in an anti-liberation campaign against the people of Zimbabwe, Namibia, South America, Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Palestine, Eritrea and others by providing materials to the colonialist wars of Portugal, Israel, Ethiopia, etc. Such domination is vital to the preservation of the U.S. capitalist economy. The armed forces of the United States and other expansionist states are an extension of their policies through which their imperial hegemony is maintained by maneuvering the Third World countries into dependent economic, political and military relationships.

In any discussion concerning the development of the environment, a high priority must be given to the fact that whole cultures and peoples are being decimated, displaced, dispossessed, and in some cases, threatened with imminent extinction.

Many groups who have and wish to maintain their cultural, racial, religious and national identities are victims of "double oppression" [3]. In addition to being oppressed in the same way as other exploited peoples, they are persecuted because of their particular ethnic, racial, cultural character. these blatant injustices, particularly against the Indians of North and South America, must be exposed and condemned. We affirm our unequivocal solidarity with their struggles to retain their cultural identity and to defend their right to exist.

We advocate and support the inalienable rights of the peoples of each nation to determine their own socio-economic and political systems. We also believe that when a government is unjust and perpetuates oppression, the oppressed have the right to resort to armed struggles for their liberation movement. We therefore affirm our unconditional support to the liberation movement in Indochina, Africa, and Latin America. We condemn the imperialist and neo-colonialist countries for their naked aggression in these areas.


Humanizing Technology

The carelessness of technology is the product of market-oriented economy where the maximization of profits and price-free social costs are the governing factors. In this manner multi-national corporations and national elites are enriched at the cost of environmental deterioration and human degradation. Ecologically faulty technologies such as the production of synthetics (pesticides, inorganic fertilizers, detergents, plastics, synthetic rubber. etc.) can only be justified by market-directed corporations for distorted economic reasons. Processes of this kind have stifled the production of finished natural goods in the Third World, created unparallelled industrial pollution, destroyed socio-economic structures and forced the dependency of the Third World on the expansionist industrialized world.

Technology must be reoriented towards more egalitarian goals to account for the social welfare of peoples and their liberation from oppression by privileged and powerful classes with vested economic interests. Furthermore, the concept of the "transfer of technology" which is supposedly designed for the adaptation of technology to Third World environments is a myth and purely paternalistic in outlook. It fails to consider the social and economic context in which decisions are made regarding the adoption of technologies.

A humane technology for the Third World must necessarily come out of the incentives of the people themselves. This can only happen after a far-reaching social revolution has achieved the goal of total participation by the masses. The new technology must also reinforce many already existing ones such as traditional farming and medical techniques; it must direct innovation in accordance with human needs and environmental imperatives.


Science and Social Responsibility

The new technology must be based on a new concept of science intended only for the social well-being of all peoples. This requirement dictates that for science to benefit the people it must develop out of the struggle for the liberation of mankind. Scientists and other workers alike have the responsibility to participate in the economic and social development of all peopled and in the struggle for the liberation of mankind as a whole.

We reject the concept of "neutrality of science and education". They can be used to enslave man or to liberate him. Man is a social and historical being and as such has the capacity to change his world of today, which is one of oppression, to the world of tomorrow, which will be one of liberation.

We denounce the exploitative values forted or children through competitive education based on individual achievement. We condemn the attitude of the superiority of "intellectual" over manual labour. Education must enhance self-awareness and social concern and lead to a new consciousness for greater participation of the people at all levels of decision-making.

Finally, we do not believe that the United Nations organization will be able to find solutions to the problems of mankind so long as it is directed and controlled by the very powerful expansionist industrial and military states which oppress the peoples of the exploited world. It is absurd to expect the oppressors to initiate and implement the process of liberation of the oppressed. We assert that the problems of this world can only be solved by the people. Therefore we call on all the people of the world to intensify their struggle against the fortes that oppress us.


[1] See, for example, D.H. Meadows et al, The Limits to Growth, A Report of the Club of Rome's Project on the Predicament of Mankind. New York, Universe Books, 1972; and Blueprint for Survival, Ecologist, January 1972.

[2] Speech by the Chairman of the delegation of the People's Republic of China to the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, Stockholm, June 1972

[3] Declaration of Barbados. Symposium on Inter-Ethnic Conflict in South America. January, 1971.



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