Rio+20, the reprise of the first United Nations “Earth Summit” on global sustainable development held in the Brazilian city in 1992, brought together some 50,000 people in one of the biggest international conference ever staged.
A group of 12 journalists from Asia, Africa and Latin America, invited by COMplus and with a Thomson Reuters Foundation trainer, were there to observe and cover the story for their media.
Before the main event, the group attended the Globe International World Summit of Legislators, held in the ornate PalacioTiradentes, home of the Rio de Janeiro state assembly in downtown Rio. Over three days, the legislators debated and approved a protocol aimed at giving parliaments more power to produce and pass legislation that would compel governments to carry through the environmental promises they make.
While covering the meeting, the group received a series of briefings from Globe, World Bank and Global Environment Facility (GEF) experts, with central themes of endangered biodiversity and the importance of including a country’s natural capital in its financial accounting.
Covering Rio+20 meant a move to the massive RioCentro Convention Centre, some 35 km outside the city. Logistics were tough. A shuttle bus service from hotels took anything up to 90 minutes or even two hours to get to RioCentro, the media centre was packed to bursting with hundreds of journalists competing for seats and internet access, and Brazilian mobile phones proved quirky.
But the group took it all in their stride, hunting down national delegates and experts, attending some of the hundreds of side events --including the colourful, NGO-organised “People’s Summit” in Flamengo Park --and producing a crop of excellent hard news stories, features, blogs and radio and tv clips.
As a world event, Rio+20 overall was a disappointment for many. While ministers and UN officials emphasised the hundreds of individual environmental pledges made, critics lamented the lack of international political will go beyond previous general statements of intent and endorse sweeping new measures to “save the planet”.