Cupula dos povos

By Jaimini Parekh and Jessica Gordon

The Peoples’ Summit, Copula dos Povos, welcomed both conference attendees and the public. Unlike Rio Centro, where the negotiations took place, tents with hand painted signs and activist videos welcomed us. Organizations presented pamphlets on their work.
The scene was far more festive than the official negotiations. No one was rushing any where, and the largest line was for the photo booth. Live music greeted participants, both on the official stage and on sidewalks. Vendors lined their jewels and tools on sheets and blankets. A big tented enclosure was the most official congregating area, with plastic deck chairs as seating. Two screens projected a man giving a speech in Spanish. The street lamps glowed off the bay in Praia de Flamengo as twightlight descended.

Perhaps it was it was the randomness of time with which we had arrived, but the Peoples’ Summit felt like a street faire. Hare Krishna’s had set up three separate locations for singing and dancing. Indigenous vendors dressed in full regalia, sold handicrafts made from seeds and feathers, as passerbys snapped photo after photo to capture this authentic guise.

The Peoples’ Summit lacked the bravado of the official negotiations, with its high security and business suits. Despite the purposeful vision of the Outcome Document produced by the Rio+20 negotiations, no means of implementation where identified except voluntary commitments individual country governments. Its as if the world’s leaders can see the enormous problems we the collective humanity face, and have come together to dream what it would be like to be at the top.

I had hoped that the more down to earth approach of the summit would be a nexus point for  moving past dreaming, and bringing together global civil society in collective dialogue, strategic planning and advocacy to resolve the global social and environmental crisis we currently face. But this type of organization did not appear to be present. I consider this perhaps the greatest tragedy of an opportunity missed by civil society.

Perhaps the most hopeful and inspiring event in these past few action-packed days has been the presentation of the Equator Prizes. These awards recognize outstanding achievement of indigenous NGOs, and showcase the work of these incredible leaders protecting their communities and livelihoods.