Now on my way to Rio, I try to balance mixed feelings about what to expect from the coming weeks in Brazil as the world’s focus will (hopefully) turn to the state of the planet (that is, if not all eyes are fixed on the Euro-football cup).
I wont hide it, I have been doubting recently whether the energy spent around these UN meetings really is worth what we finally get out of it. Clearly, I have met more inspirational youth and activists than I would ever have dreamed of. At the same time, the climate change talks have come nowhere close to delivering the decisions that would prevent compromising the rights of the most vulnerable populations across the planet (not to mention the frustration resulting from days of disussions focused on procedures rather than solutions).
When it comes to the process leading to the Rio conference, the draft document that will be adopted at the end of the month as the RioPlus20 Declaration has been watered down already many times so one can now reasonably doubt whether we will still remember about it in a few years from now. Over the past weeks, more stories have confirmed this vision in the media, predicting the failure of the Rio Plus 20 Conference.
The most pessimists are taking the opportunity to discard the role of the UN (and sometimes policy all together, why be ), suggesting that it all comes down to economic benefits and incentives. Certainly, at the end the environmental issues that we face wont be solved by a few additional conferences. What will really make a change will be millions of bottom-up actions: people shopping consciously, businesses seeking solutions and local communities inventing a new future. At the same time, it is naive, and perhaps disingenious, to think that only these actions would suffice. Big corporations and other vested interests have now established themselves in such powerful positions that top-down actions are also required to bring about the changes we need to see, challenge the status quo, and redefine the rules of the game.
So despite all the past frustration and the counless sleepless nights ahead, I decided to engage in a renewed quest, and this journey will start in tomorrow in Rio.
During the next three weeks, I will be searching for opportunities and creative thinking to improve how our society works. I might not find too many of these bright solutions in the results of the official conference itself, but luckily, the UN process is only the tip of the iceberg of what will happen for a month in and around Rio.
I am planning look for those in innovative thinking in the discussions engaging hundreds of NGOs involved in parallel events such as the people summit. I will also visit the World Congress organized my the Mayor’s initative for sustainability, listening to local governments working everyday to improve the life of their communities. After that, I will sneek into a conference organized by the UN Environmental Program (UNEP) which will gather lead representatives from the judicial and legal communities: supreme court judges, top scholars and law makers, exploring new approaches to use laws to promotes positive change through all our political systems.
Those are perhaps more subtle and less flamboyant than reforming in depth the UN system, but they are already happening and have a large and unreported potential.
I hope that you will follow me in this journey… so please watch this space during the next weeks.
You can also follow @RioPlus20 and @duycks for short updates, inspiring links or sarcastic comments when venting upcoming frustrations… And dont hesitate to reach out, give me pointers or share some thoughts (sebastien[at]rioplus20s[dot]org).
About the authorSébastien Duyck
Passionate environmental advocate, PhD student (Human Rights and Environmental Governance). Following particularly UNFCCC, UNEP and Rio+20 processes