Rio Conference Blog

If global leaders fail, let’s focus on local champions

0 Comments 20 Juni 2012

It is a strange feeling when you attend a conference that has just started and is already been claimed to have failed.

UN Member States agreed on the outcome document a few hours before the official beginning of the Rio+20 conference. The final version falls short of what is actually needed for the future of our planet. As expectations before the conference were not really high, the mainly declaratory and non-committing outcome should not be very surprising. Still, the general sentiment is disappointment. What I find most striking is that so many discussions before the conference revolved around an upgrade of the UN’s environmental organisation UNEP and the creation of Sustainable Development Goals. So what was achieved here? Well, at least a timetable on the creation of an “open working group” with the mission to propose a set of SDGs. The role of UNEP is supposed to be strengthened but how exactly will be left open for the General Assembly to decide.

The Executive Director of Greenpeace, Kumi Naidoo, made one of the most powerful statements: “The future we want has gotten a little further away today. Rio+20 has turned into an epic failure. It has failed on equity, failed on ecology and failed on economy … We were promised the ‘future we want’ but are now being present with a ‘common vision’ of a polluter’s charter that will cook the planet, empty the oceans and wreck the rain forests.“ In his tweet Kumi Naidoo refers to the outcome document as “the longest suicide note in history.”

While inside Riocentro the heads of states and delegations gave one speech after another, a public mobilization took place at the favela Vila Autódromo which is just a stone throw away from the conference center. Many people came to make some noise for a variety of causes. The outrage regarding the outcome of Rio+20 was just one of them.


Riocentro and what happens outside the conference are just two different worlds. The distance in-between seems enormous.



“Get out of capitalism”

Another civil society gathering later tonight took place in the city center.

It rained all day and it won’t really stop until the conference is over. It kind of symbolizes the state of the Rio+20 conference.

An event that helped to get over the frustration was UNDP’s “Equator Prize 2012″ award ceremony. Communities that work on the front lines of sustainable development and take local action were honored for their achievements.

The awards were presented by actor Edward Norton who is UN Goodwill Ambassador for Biodiversity. This might sound a bit random but Edward Norton has actually been active in the environmental field for a long time. Other high-level speakers were Christiana Figueres of UNFCCC, Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus and Achim Steiner of UNEP.

What I realized tonight was that if our global leaders fail we need more local leaders who are able to take action!

The enthusiasm and energy at the venue was overwhelming. And it wouldn’t be Brazil if it didn’t end with music and party. Gilberto Gil who is a Brazilian legend and was Minister of Culture from 2003 to 2008 performed.

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My Rio+20 Soundtrack


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