Rio+20: A Waiting Game

One thing that I have gotten used to rather quickly in Rio de Janeiro is all of the waiting. 

I’ve already spent considerable amounts of time waiting in the security lines to get into the Conference Center and waiting for my meal in the cafeteria at lunch time.  And I’m sure that anyone attending Rio+20 (including myself!) will give you their opinion on the one and a half hour bus rides each way to get from the city to the Conference Center.

Waiting is just part of the game here at Rio+20. And unfortunately, this also applies to any progress on a favorable outcome from negotiators.

With only a few days left before the High-Level Discussion begins on June 20th, ministerial-level negotiators are taking their sweet time preparing the final text for “The Future We Want,” the all-encompassing draft text that heads of state will work to agree on.  Negotiations have been slow, with different topics being broken up by outcome documents that are negotiated in different rooms at the conference center.  No one here seems absolutely sure what is being discussed, where or with whom. 

I sat in on one discussion yesterday where negotiators debated for half an hour on the inclusion of the word “fundamental” only to find that it had already been included in previous texts written by other delegates. 

With this constant sense of confusion, it’s hard to figure out exactly what is holding up all of these discussions. But the general consensus is that negotiators are currently arguing over “Means of Implementation”in coordination with the “Green Economy” (which basically means, “How are we going to pay for all of this?”). Developing Nations will need funds to plan and execute these sustainable development initiatives. And with the economies of the U.S. and Europe in such disarray, they need to look elsewhere.  Developing Nations are simply not ready to commit to sustainable development plans without the promise of funds. So basically, it all boils down to a “no money, no trade-off” situation. 

The final Preparatory Meetings were scheduled to end on June 15th, but it’s looking more likely that negotiations will continue right up to the start of High-Level Conference next Wednesday.  Hopefully, negotiators can come to some type of agreement before heads of state start to arrive. But then, once the big dogs get to Rio, the fate of whatever the negotiators have worked out – and the future of the planet – will be in their hands. 

As a final warning, Rio+20 Secretary General Mr. Sha Zukang put out a request to world leaders to “come to Rio ready to commit.” Let’s hope they do.