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Noise and colour as thousands come to demand global change at Rio


The park in Flamingo Bay, in the shadow of Rio’s Sugarloaf mountain, has been taken over by the alternative to the suited-and-booted global event across town. It’s the Rio+20 People’s Summit and I’ve managed to escape the conference halls and see what it’s all about – and get a bit of sun at the same time.

I’m not sure the joggers and cyclists out for their daily exercise are thrilled by the crowds blocking their paths – up to 15,000 people a day according to organisers – but this offers the opportunity for groups from all over the world to make their voices heard on a range of subjects at Rio+20.

It’s a mish-mash of colour, noise and canvas tents with groups as diverse as the Asian Rural Women’s Coalition and protesters against the Belo Monte dam demanding a change to the global system.

People from all over the world have come down here to see what’s happening and to find out more about what needs to change and how they can get involved in making their voices heard, which is really encouraging.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) interns Gaia and Josique from Italy and Spain have travelled from Brasilia to learn more about the alternative ideas to the current political system at the many debates and events taking place over the course of the next week.

When the high-level talks kick off on Wednesday an estimated 50,000 people are set to march from the park to make sure the politicians, including Hillary Clinton and Nick Clegg, know what they want to come out of the talks.

It’s like being at a One Direction concert (I’d imagine) when former Brazilian environment minister and presidential candidate Marina Silva takes to the stage at an event on the amended Brazilian forest code. To shouts of ‘Marina Presidente’, she whips the crowd of over 1,000 into even more of a frenzy when she explains how the new law should have been vetoed by Brazilian president DIlma, as it will lead to an increase in rates of deforestation.

If the noise and crowds become too much, it’s a bonus that the park is next to the beach, so people can take time out to sit on the sand and have a beer, buy a bow and arrow from one of the 20 indigenous groups here or even get a free hug from an elderly gentleman wearing a placard!

Rio+20 - Indigenous people protesting with music  © WWF / Franko PetriRio+20 - Indigenous people protesting with music © WWF / Franko Petri

Of course, it wouldn’t be Brazil without a samba band, but the one here from northern Brazil, where major droughts have destroyed crops over the past three years, has a simple message – ‘Greed is bad’.

On the other side of town the debate on the text for consideration when world leaders, minus Obama and Cameron, roll in on Wednesday. Our CEO David Nussbaum has now arrived as part of the UK government delegation and is getting to grips with the finer points of the discussions.

I’ve just spoken to a UK journalist about which nations are dragging their heels in the negotiations. We both agree it’s going to be a long haul from now till the bitter end on Friday, but there’s still everything to play for, so fingers crossed.

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