The veil of mist hiding the Macico da Tijuca, the mountains that guard the Brazilian city of Rio, lifted as the Rio+20 summit concluded on Friday with the adoption of the outcome report on sustainable development. The report had been finalised by the heads of states and thousands of delegates after prolonged deliberation and intense sparring.

The helicopters hovering over the mountainous city, the military boats patrolling the emerald waters of the Atlantic and the U.N. military personnel who manned the streets are far less visible now, as most world leaders and senior officers of the U.N. as well as member countries have flown out. Some of them may still stay on for consultations.

Now the city can breathe easy and go back to its easy, amiable, hospitable ways — and perhaps look forward for another anniversary a decade later. The cultural show will go on till the first week of July. Rio has a rich fare of theatre, art, music, films, literature and fashion to cater for locals and the outsiders.

Protest groups, some in catchy headgear and colourful costumes, who had spread their wares at Flamengo Park and Athlete’s Park, a few km from Riocentro, the venue of main events — and tried every trick including media conferences and demonstrations to highlight their viewpoints — have also folded up and gone.

Child protesters

Many of them used vividly dressed children to communicate their angst over the “destruction” of the earth. Brazilian authorities appeared to be liberal in allowing the child protesters to go as far as the media pavilion of the conference venue. Many of the NGOs present at the Rio+20 complained of not being consulted on the official document.

Some of them, like Waek Hamidan from Climate Action Network Europe and Barbara Stocking of Oxfam, felt that the reference to “civil society” in the document text as part of its drafting process should be deleted as they were consulted on the official document only at the last minute.

Observers here say that Rio+20 may pass into history as “emblematic of the vast gulf between the cries in the streets and the uninspired language of the conferences’ final outcome.”

Dismissing the outcome as “complete failure” Kumi Naidoo, executive director of Greenpeace said: “There is a lot of spin and theatre to show that the outcome here has been a success. Are there specific benchmarks, are there specific resources [committed].”

History was not re-created in Rio. If the going had never been good in the past two decades after the Earth Summit held in Rio in 1992, in terms of realisation of goals and the commitment from the 172 governments that took part in it, this time around it was bound to get worse with the nations wriggling out — rather easily, at that — of their commitments both financially as well in reduction of emissions in a time-bound manner.

“No concrete outcome”

“The summit has gone the Copenhagen way, with lot of fuss and no concrete outcome. This place was virtually invaded by the representatives of the corporate world — the drivers of today’s unsustainable human consumption,” noted Soumya Dutta, environmental activist from India.