Dispositions at the Rio+20 Intersessional . . .

The 2nd Intersessional for the Rio+20 summit was the first UN intergovernmental conference that I have ever attended. I attended the Intersessional as part of NRDC’s team under the NGO – Major Groups sector. It was interesting to observe the different profiles of country representatives and their dispositions at the Intersessional. Sitting through both days, I observed that the general disposition in the room appeared to be ladened with weariness for rhetorics, there was no clear enthusiasm associated with change or the promise of change, rather there were mixed dispositions amongst country and civil society delegates. The general disposition of country delegates appeared to be a simple ‘tick in the box of attendance’ at the 2nd Intersessional for the Rio+20 summit. Even the brilliant comments, questions and commitments from countries or groups of countries; seemed to me like routine diligence. There were some new ideas and relative consensus on emerging new ideas but even those did not produce enthusiastic deliberations during the Intersessional. Also, although, the room was filled to capacity on both days, some country seats were empty on both days while others were fully present on day 1 and fully absent on day 2 and vice versa. Civil society delegates, who were a clear minority compared to country delegations; were more actively involved in networking and side events. This docile disposition leaves too much to be desired for the Rio+20 summit that holds in less than 6 months!

One disturbing observation during the International Organizations course that I confirmed at the Intersessional; is the fact that it is difficult to predict the successful outcome of an intergovernmental conference prior to the conference, and in spite of preceding preparatory meetings. As with the last 3 Climate Change Conferences; it appears that in a bid to salvage conferences from becoming a total failure; few agreements either on process or content are endorsed at the last minute!

In my view, this ‘last-minute decisions’ trend does not hold much hope for requisite behavioral change that can chart planet earth along a sustainability path. Preparatory meetings for intergovernmental conferences ought to be rallying platforms with clear indications for milestone achievements towards necessary reform. Something should be done to change this trend. If stakeholders have lost faith in the effectiveness of the ‘top down’ intergovernmental structure and process; then alternative mechanisms for negotiating necessary reforms are needed. Perhaps, a ‘bottom up’ approach that pushes change and deliberations from society, to civil society, to private sector; and merges with inter-governmental positions may be more useful.