15 APRIL 2012


Rio is naturally ready to welcome the 120 world leaders and tens of thousands arriving in June to participate in a summit on the Environment. It did so successfully 20 years ago at what was known as the Earth Summit. But is the U.N. Secretariat -- or member states -- really ready to deal with still pending issues?

Or, to put it more simply and bluntly, has anyone in the U.N. System -- from UNEP to Habitat to Special Advisors and Development Departments -- prepared a clear vision of what should be the outcome?

While many governments clearly violate previous commitments and contradict agreed resolutions of earlier meetings, there is no U.N. leadership position. Two months before the summit, there is nothing to indicate any determination to get any results.

Clearly, the Secretary General is very busy with a variety of world issues. It is the U.N. senior staff directly concerned who should be preparing practical plans for him. Now that the Kyoto Protocols are almost non-existent, and Copenhagen is no more Hopenhagen as nobody seemed eager to "seal the deal," there is serious concern that the Summit may turn out to be counter-productive. Certainly, each one of the 120 heads of state will make every public relations effort to present a positive image. But in such a case, perception is not reality -- particularly that a "counter-Summit" will be held in Rio by hundreds of Non-Governmental Organizations to challenge the official one. While officials will be meeting on 21-22 June in a government conference site, about 10,000 participants are expected to gather in Rio de Janeiro's Attero de Flamingo Park. While they are expected to come from all continents, an actively effective group of indigenous people from Peru, Bolivia, Columbia, and Ecuador will start to assemble 17 June to mobilize support for their demands. The "people's summit" will conclude on 23 June, after the official one.

While member states will be prepared to cover their own shortcomings, how is the U.N. System prepared to deal with a likely failure?