Negotiations are not the only things happening in the Rio Plus 20 meetings. There are side events of a wide range- offering experts on panelists discussing global concerns, receptions for high level diplomats, media interviews and of course the corridor chats that allow delegates and civil society to catch up on the latest news-hard news or gossip and make plans for other work beyond Rio.
Sometimes in the sea of people that seem to be everywhere, a person will bob to the surface that you view as important to talk to. If you don’t swim over to him/her at top speed – well then that person will bob away, enveloped in the sea of strangers.
Your chance of finding that individual again is doubtful to say the least.
The cafeteria is a mini UN in its own right. Several football fields long, one can eat comfort food from home (Middle Eastern fare, hot dogs and hamburgers, chocolate chip cookies, coconut this and that) or try some of the foods famous to Brazil – beans and rice, the most exotic fruit juices and tons and tons of that badly needed jolting Brazilian coffee.
Lunchtime is for delegation meetings at that cafeteria or to catch one’s breath or to even peruse the equivalent of a mini supermarket, complete with some Brazilian handicrafts.
ICA has given out a limited supply of 2012 IYC T-shirts. The reaction has been spectacular. I have been hugged by the most unlikely people – thrilled to have one and to remind me of how their country’s co-operatives are doing effective work.
Some day you may see one of those T-shirts jogging down a road in Tuscany, sitting at a café in Mexico, heading to a market in Bangkok or dancing the samba here in Rio.
The complex itself is fascinating. Tents and walkways combined with moats and vistas of concrete walkways that run parallel to the sea off in the distance. There’s a lovely garden in the middle of all this but for most, it is merely for a five-minute break, then back to business. Recycling bins are everywhere. Recycled materials are part of the building itself and even the gifts given to diplomats are recycled products taking on a new life. The buildings are marked with big numbers – with number 5 the one where presidents will gather around to discuss the Rio document.
But Rio is not relegated to this facility at the far reaches of the city alone. Downtown there are also those white tents and planned activities and other venues in Rio also will be engaged. In short, Rio de Janeiro is Rio+ 20.
Finally, something should be said about the Brazilians who are our hosts. Security guards, negotiators, cafeteria workers, guides, hotel staff, co-operators, and on and on it goes – they keep their cool even when the political temperature is rising and are congenial and kind. Whatever Rio+ 20 brings or doesn’t bring to the global stage, the people of Rio are a great export.
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 at the Rio+20 negotiations this week. This is the 3rd in a series of blogs for the ICA.