Brazil Defends Decision of Holding the Rio +20 This Year Despite Global Crisis

Protesters at Rio +20 The final preparatory draft of the Rio +20 joint declaration that is to be signed by heads of state and government by June 22 was presented yesterday, June 19.

“Criticism by society must be taken into consideration. This is not considered  a definitive text. It is a base-text. There remains a lot of discussion. Criticism is an important contribution to the debate. There is a lot of water that will pass under this bridge.

“A lot can still happen. Heads of state are not coming here just to sign a piece of paper. There can be changes. What will occur over the next three days is more than a rite of passage,” declared Brazil’s top administrative aide to the president, Gilberto Carvalho.

According to the minister, the decision to hold Rio+20 this year, even in the midst of an unfavorable backdrop of economic crisis, was correct.

“I do not see any failure. You have to look at the event as a whole,” said Carvalho, adding that one outstanding success was the Summit of the Indigenous Peoples that brought together representatives of civil society from all over Brazil and the world.

Some 35,000 people were present at the summit daily, participating in activities and debates, or just visiting the 50 tents where over 1,000 events were scheduled to take place. At least 30 different proposed projects have come out of the summit to be submitted for appreciation by heads of state and government.

Authorities and Traffic

Around 50 heads of state and government with entourages are in Rio for the Rio+20 United Nations Sustainable Development Conference. Cariocas, as the residents of Rio de Janeiro are known, had some problems with the traffic.

Businessman Eli de Freitas, anticipating problems, says he left home in Penha, north area of the city early for a 10:00 am meeting in Barra da Tijuca, west area. But simply gave up, canceled everything by phone and went back home.

“I left the house at 8:00 am because I knew traffic would be bad. I did not know it would be impossible. The Linha Amarela expressway was at a total standstill and the Linha Vermelha expressway, now with an exclusive lane for Rio+20 authorities, is worse.

“I just turned around and went back to north area and did some business there. I have decided to schedule all business outside my neighborhood for after Rio+20. It is just impossible to go anywhere until the event is over,” he said.

Pedro Leitão, a lawyer, said he had to cross the south area of the city to get downtown. Well, that was the idea. Yesterday, Tuesday, June 19, it took him much, much longer than usual.

“The traffic on the roads along the bay was jammed up all over the place. Some lanes were not moving at all. I just hope that the sacrifice that Cariocas are making is worthwhile; I mean, I hope something good comes out of Rio+20. You know, a document with concrete commitments that the heads of state will sign,” he said.

Army soldiers are guarding overpasses on Avenida Brasil and expressways from the airport to the area where Rio+20 is taking place and hotels are located (south area).

Some 450 motorcycle policemen are being used to escort authorities. Some 70,000 people are expected to arrive in the next few days, including over 100 heads of state and government. Rio+20 ends on June 22.

Along with the summit there are literally hundreds of other events taking place – debates and activities – for example, at the Summit of the Indigenous Peoples and the Humanity Space 2012.

Marine Biodiversity

The final draft of the Rio+20 declaration highlights the importance of sustainable use of marine biodiversity in international waters, that is, even in areas beyond national jurisdiction.

This item is being considered a significant advance by negotiators in light of the fact that the United States has consistently opposed high seas regulations considering them possible threats to national security due to having submarines stationed in oceans around the world.

The text goes on to call for the complete implementation of obligations in the Convention of the Law of the Sea. The document recognizes the importance of oceans and seas for sustainable development, citing their role in eradication of poverty, economic development and food security.

The text calls for a commitment to protecting and restoring the “health” of oceans, preserving biodiversity for future generations and reducing the incidence of pollution. It demands an end to illegal and unregulated fishing and recognizes the importance of preserving coral reefs and mangrove areas where maritime trees and shrubs are found.

Rio +20 Can Be Saved

The former minister of Environment and former presidential candidate (who got 19 million votes in the first round against Dilma Rousseff and José Serra in 2010), Marina Silva, speaking at the Summit of Indigenous Peoples at the Rio+20 United Nations Sustainable Development Conference declared that there is still time to salvage the event.

Participating in a public act against the new Land Use Law, Ms Silva said that the fate of the conference is in the hands of world leaders, but that Brazil has an important role to play.

“The economic crisis cannot push the environmental crisis aside. Brazil has the prerogative to make decisions. It is a grand opportunity to reexamine commitments and correct our course. The responsibility is not ours alone, but as the host of Rio+20 we have a greater responsibility,” she declared.

Silva called on Brazil to lead by example. “That is what the country has to do. We did it in Copenhagen. We embarrassed others who wanted to do less by making a commitment to establish goals for carbon reduction.”



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