Make your voice heard in 2013!

As we conclude another fruitful year of work advancing citizen action and strengthening civil society, I would like to thank you – CIVICUS’ colleagues, members, supporters and friends – for your participation in various CIVICUS activities and for taking part in our ambitious vision of achieving a worldwide community of informed, inspired, committed citizens engaged in confronting the challenges facing humanity.

Organisationally, CIVICUS was able to inscribe several key milestones in 2012. As our five-year strategy for 2008-2012 was coming to an end, we set out on a broad and in-depth consultation process with members, partners and key stakeholders to agree on a new five-year strategy for 2013-2017. Due to the diversity of our constituents, as well as the fast-moving and often crisis-led global situation affecting civil society, it was a challenge to prioritise and de-prioritise many of the issues that are related to day-to-day struggles of our members and others. In the end, the CIVICUS Board was able to crystallise the focus of the alliance in the next five years into the CIVICUS Strategic Priorities 2013-2017 with the three key themes of 1) influence, 2) connect and 3) enable, as introduced and endorsed at the members’ meeting during the CIVICUS World Assembly in Montreal in September. Continue reading

Unravelling the Significance of Rio+20 and the Multi-Stakeholder Approach

The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) – commonly known as Rio+20 – came to an end this year on the 22 June. Its conception at the United Nations General Assembly in 2009 marked the 20th anniversary of the Earth Summit talks on climate change and sustainable development. Now, four months later, world leaders have much tidying up to do as they decide on how best to tackle the conference’s main outcomes, establishing several inclusive and transparent intergovernmental processes for implementation and follow-up. Among the different processes and bodies created by Rio+20, member states promised to establish by September 2012, a 30-member Open Working Group (OWG) on the Sustainable Development Goals set out by the United Nations General Assembly. In addition, the Organizing Partners of the Major Groups have offered a proposal for a Multi-Stakeholder Advisory Group (MAG), to generate recommendations for further engagement. This is a positive trend for the summit process as the world fast approaches the path beyond 2015.

Tackling the issues around sustainable development is no simple task and yet states are increasingly realising that inputs from civil society organizations are essential to the success of sustainable development implementation. Today 1 billion people are malnourished, 1.1 billion lack adequate sanitation facilities and 844 million lack access to safe drinking water. Runaway climate shifts and changing weather patterns are wreaking havoc in the form of natural disasters such as floods and droughts, and these are just some of the areas where civil society can play a profound role.

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DiaRio! – summary of day 10 of Rio+20, 22 June 2012

The final day, yeeeeeesss!

I wake up super early this morning to make sure that I don’t arrive late to our lst Major Groups meeting! I make it to Rio Centro with 15 minutes to spare. The meeting starts with Jan Gustav Strandanaes, Senior Adviser to Stakeholder Forum, chairing. As it is our very last meeting at Rio+20, Jan Gustav asks for all of the Major Groups Organising Partners to briefly present their three-minute analysis on the negotiations and final document.

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DiaRio! – summary of day 9 of Rio+20, 21 June 2012

So here we are – day two of the summit!

I’ll skip over complaining about the traffic and internet connection problems, as you have already heard enough about that by now, and obviously it hasn’t changed!

But moving forward, the day’s work really does not change much from yesterday, since we are again kept busy with attending to people’ queries about the secondary passes.  Every 15 minutes! Ahhh help!

For the first time ever, the Major Groups hosted UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, where each Group had the chance to weigh in on the issues they have been promoting at Rio+20.  The SG expressed the same disappointment that Major Groups felt with the Outcome Document. As he said:

“Let me be frank: our efforts have not lived up to the measure of the challenge. Nature does not wait. Nature does not negotiate with human beings.”

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DiaRio! – summary of day 8 of Rio+20, 20 June 2012

So the day has finally come – the start of the three day High Level Summit!

On the way to Rio Centro in the shuttle bus I notice even more security officers (city police and military police combined), and parts of the roads blocked. As over 120 Heads of State are expected to enter Rio Centro this morning, there were a number of black cars with tinted windows bearing the VIP sign on the front of their windscreens, carrying these important people to their destination.

Once I arrive at Rio Centro, I quickly go to the main lounge area in Pavilion 1 to witness a demonstration organised by the Children and Youth Major Group. Young people and others form a human ‘red line’ wearing red t-shirts and holding a red plastic line to spread the message to Member State delegates that by adopting this current text they would be crossing the red lines or bottom line demands of civil society. Each person forming this human chain of over 250 people was holding a sign making reference to a specific red line demand, for example, no removal of women’s sexual and reproductive rights. The demonstration was highly effective, with lots of media coverage. The Associated Press, Brazilian national television and Japanese media were a few that requested interviews from youth delegates shortly thereafter.

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DiaRio! – summary of day 7 of Rio+20, 19 June 2012

This morning, as I had predicted yesterday, there is more traffic! And on top of this, the bus driver decided to take a different route to get to Rio Centro, so that he could pick up more people at the other hotels bordering the beach.

Once I get to Rio Centro I arrive in time for the NGO Major Group meeting at 10 am, but am informed by Leonardo, fellow OP colleague from ANPED, that it has been postponed until 6pm, due to the last minute scheduling by the Brazilian government of a plenary from 10 am to 1 pm to inform everyone on the state of the outcome document. Unfortunately by the time I arrive at the plenary room, which is still 20 minutes ahead of time, the security officers won’t allow anyone else in as the room has already reached full capacity. And there is no spill over room to watch the proceedings, so I wait in the food court and do some work on my laptop.

Meanwhile, Katsuji and Jeff are both inside Pavilion 3, Room 2, waiting for the plenary session to begin. Some two and a half hours later, the Brazilian Foreign Minister opens the session to announce that the negotiated text will be adopted to be presented at the Rio+20 Conference for adoption. Despite an objection raised by the delegate from Kenya, delegates representing the G77/China, China, Bolivia, African Group, Canada, Alliance of Small Island States, EU, Venezuela, US, Mexico, Arab Group and others all rise to thank Brazil for their outstanding leadership and to accept the negotiated text despite its flaws, much to the disappointment of many CSOs in the room.

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DiaRio! – summary of day 6 of Rio+20, 18 June 2012

Somebody help! Traffic is really bad in Rio… at least all throughout the route where my shuttle bus is passing. I finally arrive to Rio Centro two hours late! Can you imagine that?

And when I arrive at Rio Centro, to my utter dismay, there are huge lines of people queuing to get through the security gates. It seemed to me that as the days progress the situation could only get worse, with more people at Rio Centro to pass through and more traffic-induced delays. While waiting to get past security I was wondering how Brazil would manage to deal with even greater numbers of people for the World Cup and Olympics. I sincerely hope that they take Rio+20 as a valuable learning experience for the preparation of their next big global events!

Finally arriving at Rio Centro, I hear from Jeff that a ‘flash mob’ would be organised in the morning by the youth and children Major Group. It seems that they are the most demonstrative of all the MGs here. So I rush out with my camcorder and camera to record the action. In this particular protest, they make a demand for there to be an end to all fossil fuel subsidies. A large group of people gather around them and join in with their voices as well. But regarding the exclusion of Major Groups at the end of yesterday’s negotiations, Chantal Line Carpentier of UNDESA, at the Major Groups meeting, told us that what really happened was that Brazilian authorities were not aware of the fact that the children and youth Major Group demonstration was authorised, which explains their harsh reaction. Of course what I think is that it is the Brazilian authorities’ fault if they were misinformed, and not at all fair that all Major Groups have to be punished for it.

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DiaRio! – summary of day 5 of Rio+20, 17 June 2012

Here we are at day five bright and early!

Right at the morning Major Group meeting we were notified that Farooq Ullah of Stakeholder Forum had started working on the drafting of a Major Groups Common Statement, with the main objective of reflecting the need for a process to ensure continued and improved multi-stakeholder engagement in the future institutional framework for sustainable development. Given the need to bring together the diverse views of the Major Groups into one concise document, the main policy positions of Major Groups could not be articulated there. Thus Chantal Line reminded us of the upcoming opportunities available for Major Groups to voice their specific demands at the plenaries.

On Wednesday morning, the first day of the high level segment, Major Groups would have the floor to provide a three-minute statement at the opening session. Then on Thursday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon would meet with us at the Major Groups morning briefing where we would have the opportunity to make three statements to the UN Secretary General. In order to do so, the nine Major Groups clustered themselves into groups of three. The NGOs had decided that they would create their statement with the support of the Farmers and Youth Major Groups.

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DiaRio! – summary of day 4 of Rio+20, 16 June 2012

Day 4 in Rio…

This morning upon entering Rio Centro I notice a significantly larger number of people… must be because there is an increased number of press conferences today and media stationed almost everywhere. While walking around the Major Groups pavilion area I observe cameramen recording interviews in any free space they can find. Here is a picture of how the general environment looks like.

This morning at our NGO Major Group meeting we have a reduced number of people in attendance (though one of those attendees today is Shantal Munro from CPDC in Barbados, a CIVICUS member!). Here there is acute apprehension over the fact that the Brazilian government took over the negotiation process when the mandate of the UNCSD Bureau ended on Friday.  So our general feeling in the meeting is that when the Brazilian government is finished with their version of the Outcome Document, it will be in a very empty state, lacking urgent language on important issues on which the Major Groups have fought so hard for greater visibility and strength over the past six months. However there is even greater frustration over the complete lack of progress on completing the negotiations on time by governments. Continue reading

‘DiaRio!’ – day three – summary of day 3 of the 3rd Preparatory Committee Meeting on the Final Outcome Document for Rio+20, 15 June 2012

Prepcom final day is here!

The day started offwith us back at the Major Group morning briefing, which I missed for the most part since I decided to start taking a shuttle to Rio Centro, rather than a taxi, which was beginning to take its toll on my limited budget. Rio over the years has become quite an expensive city to live in! Upon arriving to the meeting room

I was notified by my fellow OP colleagues, however, that there was no new information from UNDESA that day. Though as the day progressed we received a last minute surprise, not particularly the best as far as CSOs were concerned. I will elaborate on them in order of appearance, one by one. Continue reading