A safe and just space…for making decisions?

I have a short amount of time. Mind you, everyone in RioCentro at the moment seems to be short of time. Today, the Preparation Conference for Rio+20 is meant to come to an end. Although the impression of Rio+20 to the outside world is perhaps of one big conference where leaders and the like get together, exchange greetings and share pictures of new (grand)children before sitting down for a photo shoot and knocking out a few bits of international policy. In reality, hard-working negotiators attend hours and hours of meetings for months and months (even years!) before the official Rio+20 bit. So, after all that time you would think something exciting is afoot…

It is easy to be cynical, but despite all the hard worked hours from government representatives it is now 6 hours or so before official discussions of the Rio+20 text comes to an end. Have they finished discussing? In my opinion, they aren’t even close. Although keeping your ahead above everything that is going on is next to impossible. Even if you decide to follow just one area, there are side-discussions, protocol and chats in corridors. Or by Email. Never before have I seen so many people preoccupied with their laptops. (It sometimes makes me wonder if people are really playing Farmville or checking Facebook while giving the appearance to be in deep thought!)

I want the best agreement possible to come from this conference – unexpected things can and do happen sometimes. But my trouble is that I am Rio de Janeiro, one of the most beautiful cities in the world. And I’m not just saying that. The favelas or communades are urban slums (which I visited last week) and despite being an example of the extreme inequality prevalent in Brazil, their random layout looks like an intricate network that weaves and covers the many mountains and hills. As the sun goes down, they start to glow and the sky goes purple. You can often hear many musical styles and lively chatter beginning.

In the conference centre, negotiation rooms have no natural light. Every wall is lined with brown/beige carpet so that every sound and voice is dampened. The richer frequencies of sound are all missing here. It is a bit of a dead soundscape. Except for the eternal whirr of air conditioning keeping us uncomfortably cold (and when broken, the opposite). Like being on a plane, you adjust to the whirr and it becomes a dull soundtrack inside your skull. In the larger food court, you hope for atmosphere. But here it echoes and the enforced background music from Brazil and elsewhere comes out over poor speakers just making a mushy attempt at something vaguely cultural.

I am a Music student, so I am a bit obsessed by the sound stuff. But while Rio is alive outside, a rich symbol of why we even need a Rio+20, the UN have chosen to contain the people with the important job in the equivalent of a carpeted Tupperware box. Is it a surprise then when the outcomes don’t measure up..?

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