Hello and welcome to the opening of the Rio+20 Earth Summit in Rio de Janiero. Today is the first official day of what they call the ‘prep com’ or preparatory communications prior to the actual summit. In lemans terms this is code for ‘there is a lot of things we still need to talk about if we are going to get anything done by June 20’.
The conference center is a beast of place. With a mother of an air-conditioning system. Most of the official delegates I have spoken too are still trying to find their way around; all pretending they are not as lost as the rest of us. Take your time to bump into someone ‘important’, and you soon realize that they’re just as confused as you. In fact, Mr. Sha Zukang, Secretary-General of Rio+20 even mentioned this morning that he is still trying to find his way around this colossal after a week of orientation.
The opening address was a mess, as expected. Rooms were changed and vacant seats in the opening plenary (the introductory speeches) highlighted the fact that many governmental delegations are still trying to find their way here.
I spoke with one lovely delegate this morning from an Guinea-Bissau who allowed me to sit in her delegation’s seat and she told me that the rest of her delegation was still on their way, but should be here in the next few days.
But there is still a fair crowd ambling about the place, cramming into the knooks and crannies, passage ways and every spare space they can find inside the negotiation rooms. It’s quite a sight to see an official UN negotiation framed by a coral reef of crossed legged onlookers peeking over the table where the world’s decisions are being made.
There are laptops and gadgets everywhere. They are most prominently displayed by negotiators ‘above the table’ who proudly display their apple notebooks and government sanctioned Ipads – but if you take a closer look, you’ll be able to catch the odd negotiator browsing the morning news, writing emails with emoticons, or keeping their facebook updated. Funnier still for any gen y; I have seen a few negotiators pause from their single finger Ipad typing to ask a friend how to ‘do this?’
And in the end, it still has the feel of a meeting of old friends. In the opening plenary, there were waves between old allies, hugs and kisses across negotiating blocks, and the smiles around the room that remind me again, that negotiators make friends too.
And that’s what I hope to do.
Already I have met 2 of the Australian negotiators, and any Aussie readers will be happy to hear that they haven’t lost any of the good old Ocker touch. I also met up with a big group of the Malaysian delegation, and we had a great laugh together about whether or not this whole conference could happen over Gmail chat or not.
p.s. I will co-write an article soon about my new Malaysian friends, as I don’t want you to miss out on their Gmail thoughts, and they had some great ideas about the Green economy too.
But that’s a rap for now.
Up next, I’ll take you inside the discussions on Sustainable Development Goals, and highlight some of the most inspiring young Indigenous activists I have ever met trying to make change here in Rio and beyond.
photo credit: @madameghosh
About the authorChris Wright
Climate researcher, political ecologist, activist and an award-winning slam poet from Australia.