RIO DI JANEIRO (BRAZIL), June 23: When Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai was moderating what Nepal described as a special side event at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development -- popularly known as the Rio+20 -- on Thursday, half of the seats meant for the delegates of the 48 Least Developed Countries (LDCs) were unoccupied.
Midway through the event, the room-1 of the Pavilion-3 in Rio Centro, where Nepal was organizing the event, became almost empty.
It seemed that no one was listening to anyone and the discussions completely lacked passion and enthusiasm.
In his opening remarks, PM Bhattarai, who was also the chair of the three-hour-long event, outlined the three major challenges facing the LDCs: poverty, climate change and unsustainable patterns of consumption. However, there was no debate on the issues at all. Neither anyone agreed nor anyone disagreed.
"Is it your first time?" snubbed a government official, when asked about the outcome of the Rio+20 for Nepal. "The UN conference is always like this."
Perhaps, having realized the absurdity of the conference, which was perceptible in the LDC event as well, some of international civil society organizations described the Rio+20 as a collective failure of leadership well before the end of the mega event, which was expected to create a future roadmap for the next 20 years.
Although the plenary sessions were tedious, outside activities were colorful and full of energies. A man in a Superman outfit -- known as the Captain Planet -- attracted the young participants. The cool Captain Planet was glad to welcome any one who wanted his or her picture to be clicked with him.
At the entrance of the Rio Centro, some Japanese volunteers were offering free vegan food to the participants. The African delegates -- clad in their colorful traditional attires -- were also the centre of attraction.
In the Athlete Park of Rio Centro, groups of Chinese martial art players were demonstrating their skills. Anti-war demonstrations also added some color to the event.
However, irrespective of how colorful outside activities were, the actual events inside the venue were hollow.
The 1992 Earth Summit was attended by global celebrity figures like the Dalai Lama and Pele, among others, but Rio+20 has no big celebrities. The fact that the US President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel skipped the conference ostensibly for attending a G-20 meet in Mexico also robbed the Rio+20 of its substance. With developed countries not fulfilling their commitments expressed exactly 20 years ago, a vital question arises: who is going to pay for executing the future plans?
Since it began 20 years ago, the developed countries have been trying to run away from their responsibilities under the pretext of the recent economic meltdown. However, celebrated environmental activists like Kumi Naidoo are not ready to buy this argument. Talking to a small group of journalists at Rio Centro, the Greenpeace chief said, "They (developed countries) were absolutely not living up to their commitments even when their economies were very vibrant in the 1990."
At the outset, Nepal, as the chair of the LDCs block in the UN and the host of the recently-held International Conference of Mountain Countries, was expected to leave a visible imprint in the Rio+20. However, Nepal itself reduced its role to holding just a couple of events with hardly any impact.
Nepal was planning to present a detailed work plan of the Kathmandu Call for Action passed by the International Conference of Mountain Countries on Climage Change, held in Kathmandu in April this year. But Nepal could not present the work plan.
"We tried to draft the work plan until the last moment," Krishna Gyawali, secretary at the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology, told Republica. "But we could not finalize the content of the work plan."
The only concrete achievement for Nepal from this conference will be a few lines written about the LDCs and mountain countries in the final document of the Rio+20, which ultimately turned into yet another futile exercise.
The Elders, an independent group of global leaders, release a press statement on Thursday here, saying that the Rio+20 failed to be a response needed to safeguard the people and the planet.
Hundreds of civil society members even walked out of the conference on Thursday, rejecting the possible outcome of the Rio+20. Before walking out, they shouted: "The future we want is not found here."