It's been an exciting eight days here in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil working at the U.S. Center, at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, also known as Rio+20. Since the center opened its doors on Friday, June 15, the space has been buzzing with activity with visits from high level delegates, academics, scientists, youth and more and served as a dynamic, interactive place where people around the world, both in-house and online, could gather and exchange ideas. The center's 40 programs attracted over 68,000 people virtually and many of the events were standing room only.
Let's take a moment to review three of the most notable programs:
Have you ever tried speed geeking? Well I did for the first time at one of our Demo Alley event, which featured 14 application developers, who were each stationed at their own table. They each had three minutes to provide an overview of their products to a small group of enthusiastic participants, followed by two minutes of questions and answers, before participants would move on to the next station. As I circulated around the room, I spoke with a representative from NASA who discussed how satellite technology is being used to collect data about the planet; two Brazilian students who developed a waste management game to educate people about problems in their city; and a representative from Ushahidi, an open source project which allows users to crowd source crisis information sent in via mobile phone. This incredible program is just one example of how connection technology is being used in support of sustainable development.
One of the core messages at Rio+20 has been social inclusion -- giving key stakeholders the opportunity to participate in the negotiation process and have a say in the future they want. The White House Council on the Environment (CEQ) hosted an amazing event that brought together youth around the world. Participants were split into small break out groups and had a productive and dynamic discussion about ways youth can think globally and act locally to overcome major sustainability challenges.
I also witnessed history in the making when EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson and Brazilian Secretary for the Ministry of Urban Affairs for the Environment, Pedro Wilson announced the launch of the U.S.-Brazil Joint Initiative on Urban Sustainability (JIUS). This innovative partnership will help identify and overcome key barriers to investment and deployment of clean energy infrastructure. Lisa Jackson noted that, "This partnership provides the potential to do great things for our environment, our economy and our community."
The core lessons that we can take away from the line-up of programs that took place at Rio+20 include:
- Sustainable development is the responsibility of governments, civil society and the private sector and can be achieved through collaborative partnerships;
- It is important to incorporate stakeholder groups, such as women and youth in the innovating, negotiating and implementation processes;
- And as Secretary Clinton boldly stated, "The only viable future is a sustainable future."
Are you curious about other Rio+20 events? Check out daily recap videos!
A special thanks to those who read and commented on my previous blog posting. If you had the opportunity to attend an event like Rio+20, what issue would you be interested in educating others about?
Lynette Evans serves as a Program Officer in the Bureau of International Information Programs.