Rio day 8: The circus comes to town

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Dave Banisar

21 Jun 2012


Raining this morning for first time since I got here. Earth crying? Nah, too obvious. And if responding, she would be puking up a volcano or force 10 typhoon with the lack of commitment to do something.

Ended up at a house party last night invited by my friend Greg who lives here. Lots of expats and journos. Talked quantum cryptography with a surfing physics professor and tech politics with a journalist who went to summer camp with an old boss in DC. Small world. Amazing nearly 360 degree views of Rio from a high floor. Nice to see it from another place than a bus window.

Got up hellishly early to get a taxi here in time expecting a real mess to get in but was so early that no lines or security problems.  But the coffee stand was not open either! Been working towards this for 2 years now. Hoping it won't be an anti-climax.

The place is heaving now. Something like 50,000 people are supposed to be coming but I suspect thats to Rio overall rather than here. Taking the taxi to our event yesterday, the Copa beach was full of Rio+20 related sandcastles and signs. The formerly calm NGO blogging room is now more like a refugee camp. Am squatting in the media area to write this pretending to be press (well we do believe that bloggers are media!). And we defend them enough, I should be able to use a computer for an hour or two. I liked it better when it was just us working on the document.

Lots of people have been to the People´s Summit downtown. They say that it is chaotic but energetic. 

We start with our usual major groups briefing hearing. Lots of concern on weakness of document. We hear phrases about the vindication of process and the need to take the long view and focus on the positive things in the document. Not sure people are really convinced.

Pros and cons

The text was fully approved yesterday. Our TAI partner Lalaneth has done a good summary of what we got in the outcome document. Link: Short list of progress for us: call for regional and national implementation, more transparency and participation in international process, and more power to UNEP to perhaps do an international convention in the future. Also recogntion of (some human rights) and anti-corruption. Also some transparency in SDGs (my next crusade I guess), in aid and in mining amoung other things.

On the negative side, it doesn´t really commit nations to do much. As my friend Halina said ´´it does just enough to ensure that we have another summit on this in the future´´. Rio + 40! Yahoo!!

Very positively, Chile announced yesterday at our event that they wanted to start work on a regional convention on Principle 10, one of the calls in the document and something that we support, although we would rather see a global convention.

Now that the discussions on the Outcome Document are over, the talk has shifted to whether there will be a high level declaration to make it sound like they actually did something tangible to save the world. The guess is that will focus on SDGs. We'll be trying to get something in it about it being based on open, transparent and participatory and human rights. But its´even more opaque than the negotiations on the Outcome Document. 

Toxic glass half full

Went over in the afternoon to Athletes´ Park for a reception and chat with UK Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg in the UK Pavillion. Very uninspring. Cliches about glasses half full and half empty. No mention of toxicity or ph level of water in glass. He came from a speech where he got heckled by a protester in a Clegg mask. Was supposed to be very funny. It should be on YouTube. At least someone cares about the LibDems (the junior UK government party) enough to heckle. 

While I was over there, I went around the Park. Most of the pavilions are really uninteresting, pr exercies. You can not believe how boring they are and wonder why they would spend money on them. The UNEP one is pretty nice and got to hear the Achim Steiner, the head of UNEP speak. He´s one of the good guys who really believes in our stuff as part of environment protection. With its´new powers and money, UNEP has the chance to really step up and push the UN to be more useful on this and move countries too. The Italian pavilion has free expressos, which is very welcome. It´s probably the most flash one.  Must have been paid already by the previous government.Haven´t noticed if there is a Greece one. Behind the food stands? I just missed Jeffrey Sachs unfortunately. But there are so many events going on that its almost impossible to keep track so its very hit or miss. Apparently at another one, the Swedish Development Minister Gunilla Carlson was very good on development and the environment.

We hear that Edward Norton is speaking at some side event. I'll try not to ask about Fight Club.

Astronauts and pizza delivery

All of the excitement is in Pavilion 5 which is surrounded by guys with machine guns both in and out of uniform. The guys in the suits with ear pieces are definitely scarier. Not getting very close. 

They are doing country statements. NGOs got 3 minutes to slag off the Outcome Document including a brief mention on Principle 10. It's webcast and shown in a couple of rooms. We are mostly watching it between huddles and side events. One of the screens is in the food pavilion so we could drink while we watch. But it seems to me, we should find a beach bar with broadband and strong caprihanas to watch it instead. But us good worker bees who have lasted this long in the process will still be coming in here though Friday I suspect. And it's raining anyway.

The statements by the delegates range from pointless to ridicilious. Mugabe had one of the first slots and spoke for 15 minutes instead of his alloted 3. I missed it, alas. But at least it should be on the web somewhere for future enjoyment. I did catch Ahmadinejad. He talked a lot of justice and friendship. I wonder how thats working out for the Green Revolution folks in Iran? Am praying that N. Korea´s Kim will also be speaking. The Holy Trinity of lunatics. The NGOs that won the lottery to get the few slots in there (18 per day!) are hoping to catch one of those, since the rest are so dire. Some astronauts from the space station are on now. Can´t tell what they are saying. Probably something about making sure that there is something for them to land on. And asking for a pizza delivery.      

I´m off now. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon is coming to our major groups meeting tomorrow but at 8.30am, it so hard to get there in time with the buses. Might also meet with a couple of EU Commissioners. And still hoping Edward Norton will show up and beat up some delgates.



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