Has global downturn hit the Rio summit?

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Has global downturn hit the Rio summit?

This story originally appeared on NDTV.

Over 130 countries, more than a hundred heads of State, 50,000 participants: the numbers look good on paper.

But has the punch been taken out of the carnival?

Greek elections have thrown a vote in favour of staying in the European Union. Italy, Portugal have seen street protests against austerity measures. And countries across the world, including the United States are battling economic problems, not to mention, President Barack Obama is seeking a re-term this November. That's also presumably the reason the American President is staying away from Rio. UK Prime Minister David Cameron, who attended the G20 in Mexico is sending his deputy, Nick Clegg for the summit, since he doesn't want to stay away from the situation back home (read, economic woes) for such a long period of time on foreign tour.

It is in the backdrop of these global economic and political faultlines that the countries started walking down the 'road to Rio'.

After hectic negotiations in the days leading up to the finale of sorts, the "Future We Want" document is ready. But what many are wondering if it really seeks to achieve and hold accountable its stakeholders in their attempts to work towards the path of sustainable development.

The final draft proposes countries setting up sustainable development goals (SDGs), which unlike the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), will be for both developing and developed countries to try to work towards.

While renewing its pledge to work towards sustainable development, it plans to strengthen the United Nations Environment Program. It also includes setting up of an inter-governmental committee comprising 30 experts nominated by regional groups to implement the process, concluding its report by 2014.

The United Nations believes this is a 'delicately balanced text'.

Nikhil Chandavarkar, Chief of Communications and Outreach Division of Sustainable Development at the United Nations, says, "It's important to look at positive side. SDGs  were not guaranteed at the beginning. It now has a future. These are goals, with a time frame. It will push planning horizons for 2030; this is a major achievement."

He adds,"Getting both developed and developing countries to accept green economy is a major gain."
Bangladesh Climate Change Negotiator, Quamrul Choudhury, says, "Global meltdown and elections in some countries had an impact on outcome document. The text has many terms like 'reaffirming/ taking note/laying stress/ reiterate/ making an effort, etc' which seem more like a preamble than an agreed text. There is also no commitment on finance" but adds, "We couldn't have expected or hoped for a better outcome."
The Brazilian negotiators admit there is some frustration with the final draft, but also feel that reaching a consensus itself is no small achievement, and it has opened paths for implementation.
When the 'zero draft', as the 'future we want' document is called, was first compiled, NGOs say there was already a sense of compromise in it, with no concrete framework and hardly any ambition. Now with the final draft before us, many of these fears, say experts have been confirmed.

What the UN Secretary General Ban-ki-Moon called 'a meet too important to fail', this 'once-in-a-generation' opportunity could well end up being a lost one.

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