Friday night June 15, 2012. The last preparatory conference of the Third Preparatory Committee Meeting ended without any agreement on the final document for the upcoming Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development. As a consequence, the Brazilian government took on a leadership role in order to facilitate continued negotiations. The exact nature of the process under Brazil’s direction was still unclear as of Friday night. When asked for comment, delegates from negotiating member nations expressed concern over the uncertainty of the process. An agreement is considered by many as the crucial element to perceived success of the Rio+20 conference.
Sunday morning June 17, 2012. E-mail correspondence from civil society representatives outlining the nature of Brazil’s role as chief facilitator of negations as well as a revised version of the zero-draft document is circulated on e-mail listservs. Several points relevant to civil society were significantly weakened by the Brazilian government in an apparent attempt to create a document agreeable to all negotiating countries. Reactions from civil society representatives varied from disappointment to subdued resignation. One youth representative noted that the changes made unilaterally by the Brazilian team are, “making us very unhappy indeed!“ A member of the NGO group commented on the document with a simple frowning emoticon.
Who’s afraid of the toothless lion?
After Brazil took over as chief moderator of the Zero-Draft negotiation process, civil society representatives were locked out of the conference area hosting the debate proceedings. Civil society leaders are skeptical as negotiations continue. In addition to developments last week that significantly weakened the document, there are major differences between the document produced by UN-moderated multilateral talks and the current adjusted version. The Major Group for Children and Youth was hopeful that the text would include a provision for a high-level representative to advocate for future generations. However the latest version released by the Brazilian government stripped the article entirely. Members from the group were stunned and disappointed.
Many civil society representatives expressed fears before the conference that negotiations would lead to a meaningless document, short on specific commitments and long on rhetoric. On Monday morning, several leaders from major groups appeared resigned that their worst fears have been realized. This development did not come as a surprise, given the slow pace of negotiations and the entrenchment of divisions between northern and southern negotiating countries. Nevertheless civil society representatives expressed bitterness that no mention of many of their favored causes remained in the new document.
With two days remaining before the close of negotiations, leaders from the Major Group for Children and Youth have launched a last ditch lobbying campaign to bring back a clause creating a representative to speak on behalf of future generations. Twenty to 30 members from the group are silently protesting with tape over their mouths inside the RioCentro pavilion where zero-draft negotiations are being held.
Michael McCullough contributed to this article.