RIO+20, behind the scenes
Federica Pietracci, Sustainable Development Officer at the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Division for Sustainable Development was part of the Rio+20 Conference Secretariat Team.
We managed to ask several questions immediately after the closure of the Conference. Read directly from Rio:
What does it mean to organize such a Conference as Rio+20? What work “behind the scenes” has been carried out to let this Conference happen?
Like any UN conference held outside the UN Headquarters, the organization of an off site meeting of the magnitude of Rio+20 required the involvement of numerous actors beside the substantive secretariat (DESA). Through the setting up of an interdepartmental task force, a broad range of Secretariat’s departments came together to pave the way for the smooth running of the Conference. OLA, DGACM, DPI, DSS, OITC partnered with DESA on the road to Rio: the preparatory work lasted more than a year… some bumps along the way included the change of the original date of the Conference (2-4 June to 20-22 June) and the final identification of the official venue that differed from the one previously considered by the host country and the UN.
What were the challenges encountered in organizing the Conference?
Replicating UN meetings’ requirements off site and transferring the UN machinery is always challenging. Rio+20 was the largest off site conference I was involved in, in participation and venue terms. One of the most challenging moments I recall relate to the process of scheduling side events in the official venue of the Conference. Last March, when the deadline for application of side events closed, we found ourselves with over 600 applications to review against a set of established criteria. As a member of a dedicated team set up to sift through those applications, it took us almost three full time weeks to review and schedule the majority of those requests. A total of 498 side events took place in Riocentro (the official Rio+20 venue) over the past ten days, at times having up to twelve running in parallel…a real planning challenge with positive outcomes now that it is behind us. Side events are an integral part of UN meetings… often it is where commitments are launched and new partnerships forged.