American Foreign Environmental Policy and the Power of the State

By Stephen Hopgood | Go to book overview

5
The Rio Conference, its Aftermath, and the First Clinton Administration

The Earth Summit was an extraordinary gathering by any standards. As many as 178 countries were represented in some way and more than 100 heads of state and government made the trip to Rio. The number of press representatives topped 8,000 and there were thousands of official delegates. The number of non-governmental entities represented was nearly 7,500 with NGO delegates numbering more than 17,000. The Brazilian authorities poured thousands of troops onto the streets, closing roads and re-routeing traffic to facilitate the easy transfer of delegates between the NGO's Global Forum, based in the city itself, and the Riocentro -- where governments met -- which was purpose-built a considerable distance outside Rio.

The Forum played host to a huge variety of interest groups and celebrities from all over the world. NGO delegates, meanwhile, spent much of the two weeks arguing with official delegations (when they could reach them an hour out of Rio), passing their own treaties on numerous subjects, and generally campaigning vigorously for a higher profile for environmental issues.1 Their anger was usually aimed at the traditional targets. The World Bank, for example, had its stand at the Forum attacked, its leaflets burned, and its signs changed to read: 'The People's Bank'. Meanwhile, as one author, argues:

Expressing strong opposition to the intransigent American position on most of the environmental issues at UNCED was one of the few consistent activities during the Earth Summit.2

As with Stockholm, however, the Forum ran into financial trouble and fell $2 million short of the amount required to settle all its

____________________
1
Security checks were tight at Riocentro which served to prevent any but the best accredited NGOs from getting near to delegates.
2
Adam Rogers, The Earth Summit: A Planetary Reckoning ( Los Angeles: Global View Press, 1993), 74.

-185-

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