Rio+20 Summit: Civil Society Organisations stranded in the middle of nowhere
20 Jun 20120 comments
Tahmina Rahman, director of ARTICLE 19 south Asia is at Rio+20 as a member of the Bangladeshi delegation. She gives a firsthand account about what role (if any) the NGOs are playing at the summit.
Around the world in 30 hours
After finally managing to find my way to the event and registering I did have somewhat of a productive day. I hooked up the Bangladesh Delegation and spent some time with the foreign secretary, whom I know from before but had met again after a long time. He also volunteered to take me to the government den (den's for government delegations restricted for everyone else) but alas,the printer was not working even there! I then had lunch in the open food court that seemed to have vegetarian mostly so ate an Asian Fusion Lunch. After which I settled down with my laptop, the one good thing was that the whole place had WIFI. And you can be proud of me that I managed to work that out on my own while others sitting near me were struggling and asked for my assistance, .Working out a schedule was not easy from among many events and quite a few choices, I chose one on “ Vulnerability of Urban Migrants: Challenges and Opportunities”. I will write about this in a separate blog.
Where in the world are Civil Society Organisations?
I have been to many UN Conferences and Prepp Comms such as the one on International Conference on Population and Development, Follow-Up meetings to Beijing Platform of Action and also for the UNCAC i.e. the United Nations Convention against Corruption and Climate Change Conventions.
But never before I have witnessed such debacle in the name of consultation and participation for civil society organisations, as you may know only 83 from around the world has been provided with formal access to the actual event, i.e. who can have some access to the plenary meetings, the rest have to be satisfied with being in side events, or getting news of the proceedings through their government delegates, those working with high level advocacy and others had to be satisfied with watching the proceedings through mega TV Monitors in the Food court , Bless the Food court!!! Where you can feel some sense of participation, albeit passive!!
If you want to know my real feelings then I would say based on my one day experience the whole event has be carefully designed to make it as hard and difficult as possible for NGOs and civil society organisations so that they are unable to particiapte or involve themselves effectively.
Food courts are the new NGO haven
If you look at the Rio Centre and its location, it takes from any direction about couple of hours to be there and there is no form public transportation other than the shuttles organised by the organisers. And the Convention Centre is quite literally located “in the middle of no where”.
The venues for the “People’s Summit” across the city downtown, so unless you are very, very tenacious and lucky to have found some form transportation, there is no way one can make to a people summit event and then to a let’s say a plenary discussion or to a side event in Rio Centre, so you are practically using a quarter of your working day toward the actual event, the reason you have travelled several hours across continents!!!!
But let me say this is not only, my view, I have met several other NGO participants who fully agree with me and are of the same view, now we can somehow by a stretch may be accept this kind of approach to WTO meetings BUT for discussions on creating better world we have certainly left it to our leaders....and listening through the monitors in the FOOD COURT , to them as they parade one after the other with their written speeches I would say we are in trouble!!
Women lost in the agenda?
Let us take for example what women have been saying, the general feeling is the document has seriously regressed on women’s right, the text does not include anything on reproductive and sexual rights, there are no measurable indicators on how to improve women’s leadership.
The demand for a high commissioner for youth and girls has been completely disregarded and it does not mention anything on the dangers of nuclear power..
A Green Peace article in the Le Monde terms the discussions as a, ‘complete failure”. But then again some women’s organisation do not see it as completely dark and doomed. Their view: we have to take the document as is, as it reaffirms many previous commitments on women’s rights, the right to water and sanitation has been reaffirmed which will now become binding, indigenous people’s right to territories have been protected, so for some not all is lost......
In summary, at worse, the discussions are a complete failure and at best we have achieved “status quo”. But then is this what we wish for the next decade...a status quo?