“Rio Day 1. Arriving in Rio I was struck by the contrast. From bright sun to torrential rain in a…”

“Rio Day 1. Arriving in Rio I was struck by the contrast. From bright sun to torrential rain in a blink of an eye and then back again...

Rio Day 1.

Arriving in Rio I was struck by the contrast. From bright sun to torrential rain in a blink of an eye and then back again to sun. High priced apartment buildings on the edge of favelas (Brazilian slums) and warnings about street crime while at the same time the oceans are now patrolled by the navy, the army is on the streets and the police are everywhere. Welcome to Rio + 20!

The Rio negotiations are housed in a vast complex of tents and buildings – a small city in itself. Security is everywhere – often with men in black suits and sunglasses standing with arms crossed as one goes through the scans, checks and reviews. This is only the beginning – more security no doubt will be put in place when Hillary Clinton, Vladimir Putin, and all the other global leaders show up next week – to sign a document…if that document is completed by then.

In many ways this venue is a tribute to all who care about sustainable development and environmental protection. Faces and languages reflect the globe. And participation in every negotiation and every side event is full to capacity. Delegates and civil society mingle freely.

Negotiations are moving more like a political cha cha and less like the Brazilian samba. One step forward, one step back and three steps in place is the diplomatic dance. Day one dealing with the first paragraph and the title of a section was negotiated for 6.5 hours and no results. We have a very long way to go and at this rate it will be the Brazilian summer (in December) when we get there.

Co-operative language has yet to come up but the good news is we are still in the game. Despite three edits along the way, we have not been edited out. And in the room where green jobs are under consideration and we have a sentence about the importance of co-operatives in social inclusion and poverty reduction we have many supporters among delegates. But like a horse race, we need to make it across the finish line.

Betsy Dribben is Director of Policy at the International Co-operative Alliance – the global apex organisation for co-operatives.  ICA members represent one billion people worldwide.  Contact Betsy at [email protected], she’s in Rio this week. 

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