Rio day 4: The big bang

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Dave Banisar

17 Jun 2012

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Welcome to the first day of the Brazilian leadership. Perhaps this is a taste of what will happen in the future with the BRICs take over the world. I had time to go out to dinner last night with a friend and tried some of the famous dried beef. They serve it on plates that would shame American restaurants in their size. I don't think i'll need food today. 

The shoe drops

Well it happened. For most of the day, no negotiations took place. We huddled and strategized and went to side events.  I went to a very good one organised by Bioregional. They have developed 10 principles on "One Planet Living" that are really quite well thought out and presented (Read more). Plus they gave us lunch!  

We were told that there was going to be a plenary at 1, then pushed to 3, then 3:30 (also perhaps an indicator of our BRIC-run future ;-) for a big announcement on Brazil's plan.  I used the time to have a long huddle with a different group - a new human rights cluster about some joint advocacy.

Finally at 3:30 we all crammed into the plenary room where there were so many people, the UN cops (mostly former NYPD and still carting their guns and knightsticks) kept trying to kick us out but we collectively ignored them and stayed. No way we were going to miss this. 

We heard the not surprising news that Brazil were providing their own text that would be available shortly, which means they must have been doing it for days since you don't just come up with 80 pages in a night. For the next few hours, we spent the time asking each other every five minutes if it was available yet.

While we were waiting, we went to the  Fossil Awards, given by the Climate Action Network (yet another group we are a member of) to the worst countries acting like fossils. They gave an award to G-77 for their opposition to public participation language. The had a bunch of youth with taped mouths and even bound and gagged a tiny kid there (2-3) who shouted out a slogan. Very amusing.

Then the text came out around 6 - and wow! We went over the text like it was a lost chapter of the Old Testament found in a cave in Eritrea and we couldn't believe it. Its miles better than before! who would think it!  

Most of the scraps of language we have been advocating actually made it in. It calls for regional and national frameworks on RTI (like Aarhus), puts pretty strong requirements for CSO participation in the new UN bodies and UNEP.  It also  has a paragraph on corruption and includes a call for countries to adopt UNCAC.

After we finished reading this, we ran around like giddy school girls with front row tickets to a Justin Bieber Concert (Here it is) Ok perhaps was a bit much. My friend Sol accused us of having Stockholm Syndrome, reading too far into it.  Its not like it makes a strong commitment to begin negotiations on a global convention. And frankly the document its pretty unambitious. Its got almost no real commitments, UNEP is mostly unchanged, SDGs are vague  and punts the difficult issue of CSD reform to the General Assembly. Also, the Ombudsman/High Commissioners/Representative for Future Generations was dropped. Aid and mining transparency both got weakened.  Women's rights is better but still needs work, as does water. 

But this is after several dark days of seeing every little bit copy edited over and over into nothingness, Brazil came through mostly.  Oh yes Brazil also announced new rules. No on screen editing, just broad areas and very limited discussion only on serious areas. So no more pointless editing sessions going nowhere. If only we had done that from the beginning.

Sessions were cancelled for the night so people could read it and we all really wanted to go out and have a celebration beer but since we are in the middle of nowhere and it takes 90 minutes to get back into town, we promised ourselves that another night and headed for the buses with smiles on our faces at least.

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