On 10-24 June 2012, I traveled to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for two weeks at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), as part of the delegation of the International Environment Forum and the European Baha'i Business Forum, and collaborating closely with the Baha'i International Community. See also the report of the conference on the IEF web site at for more substantive detail and photos of the events.

Rio de Janeiro has a beautiful setting with steep rounded mountains, bays and lagoons, and long white sandy beaches like Copacabana and Ipanema. Some of the modern architecture is remarkable. Unfortunately the extremes of wealth and poverty are only too evident in the favelas (dense slums) and luxurious neighbourhoods side by side. There are spectacular views from the mountain tops, particularly Corcovado with its enormous statue of Christ the Redeemer.

beach at Flamego Park . beach at Flamengo Park . yacht harbour at Flamengo Park
The beach and yacht harbour at Flamengo Park

War memorial The War Memorial at Flamengo Park

View of Rio . View of Rio . View of Rio
The mountains were reforested with Asian species in the late 19th century, producing a dense tropical jungle making up the Tijuca National Park, at 3,300 hectares the largest urban park in the world

View of Rio . View of Rio . View of Rio
There are splended views of the city from different viewpoints in the park.

View of Rio . View of Rio . View of Rio

View of Rio . View of Rio . View of Rio at night

Statue of Christ the Redeemer
Mountain with statue . sunset
The statue of Christ the Redeemer is on top of Corcovado, a spectacular mountain which we visited at sunset

Statue of Christ . souvenir shop . Statue of Christ at night
The 38 meter high art deco statue was erected in 1926-1931; replicas in all sizes and materials in a souvenir shop; illumination at night


The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) was held at RioCentro, a large conference centre some way out of the city, with a 1-2 hour travel time depending on the traffic. There were 188 delegations and 100 heads of state and government, 12,000 delegates, 10,000 civil society representatives and 4,000 media people. IEF had 12 members accredited to the conference.
RioCentro . RioCentro . RioCentro
RioCentro from a distance; entrance pavilion

RioCentro . RioCentro . RioCentro
Additional meeting space in giant tents: programme signs; the central courtyard was a good place to meet

RioCentro . RioCentro
Rio Centro

Dialogue in plenary hall . plenary hall
Sustainable Development dialogue in the plenary hall

Ban KiMoon . Heads of agencies
Meeting of heads of UN agencies: Juan Somavia (ILO), Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, Alicia Barcena (ECLAC), Helen Clark (UNDP), Sha Zukang (Secretary-General of UNCSD)

At one side event on inter-regional collaboration between small island developing states, the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), which I organized thirty years ago, signed memoranda of understanding for cooperation with the Indian Ocean Commission and the Caribbean Center for Cooperation on Climate Change, fulfilling my dream of inter-island cooperation first in the Pacific, and then globally when I drafted the islands section of Agenda 21 twenty years ago.
SIDS agreement Signing an agreement of cooperation among SIDS regional organizations

The Baha'i International Community organized a side event, and I spoke at another side event on faith approaches to education for sustainable development organized by Earth Charter International and UNESCO.
BIC side event . audience
Baha'i International Community side event on elimination of extremes of wealth and poverty

The Baha'i delegations to Rio+20 included 13 from the Baha'i International Community, about 15 from Brazil, 12 International Environment Forum members, and 3 from EBBF (with some overlap). Most of the Brazilians manned a booth at the Peoples' Summit in Flamengo Park, and put on various events there.

Baha'i delegations . Baha'i delegations
Delegations from Baha'i International Community, International Environment Forum and European Baha'i Business Forum to the official conference

Baha'i delegations . Duncan and Miles Hanks . May Akale
Part of the Baha'i delegations; Duncan and Miles Hanks (Canada); May Akale (Cameroon), co-head of the Baha'i International Community delegation

Erasmus Vinkhuyzen (5 1/2 months old), the son of Sylvia and Onno Vinkhuyzen, was included in the IEF delegation so that he could enter RioCentro with his parents, and hit the headlines as the youngest registered participant in UNCSD, representing future generations. He had full-page coverage in the leading newspaper and a vidio on their web site.
Erasmus in the news
First page of the second section of O Globbo, the leading newspaper in Rio


The International Council for Science organized a five-day Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for Sustainable Development on 11-15 June at the Catholic University in the middle of the city. IEF belongs to the Scientific and Technological Community Major Group, and participated in the Forum, with IEF board member Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen speaking in a session on sustainable consumption and production.
Science Forum

The Global Research Forum on Sustainable Production and Consumption was held on 13-15 June at an educational facility in the city. IEF is a partner in the Forum, and I gave a paper there along with IEF members Sylvia and Onno Vinkhuyzen and Victoria Thoresen.
GRF poster . GRF with Sylvia and Onno
GRF poster; panel with Sylvia and Onno VInkhuyzen


For the organizations of civil society, a Peoples' Summit was held at Flamengo Park on the Rio waterfront, with tents and other meeting spaces for the 500 events contributing to the summit. Everything was organized at the last minute, and we only learned after our arrival in Rio that an EBBF event and one of two IEF events had been accepted for the summit. The audience was almost entirely Portuguese speaking, as most international events were held at RioCentro, except for business events in a luxury hotel and scientific events at universities in the city. I spoke at both the EBBF and IEF events.

Peoples' Summit . Peoples' Summit . Peoples' Summit

Peoples' Summit . Peoples' Summit . Peoples' Summit

Peoples' Summit . Peoples' Summit . Peoples' Summit

Peoples' Summit . Peoples' Summit . Peoples' Summit

Peoples' Summit . Peoples' Summit . Peoples' Summit

The Baha'i community of Brazil organized a booth that was always crowded, with about 500 conversations on the Faith per day. They had to hold additional events at the Peoples' Summit to respond to the demand.
Baha'i stand Peoples Forum . Baha'i stand Peoples Forum . Baha'i stand Peoples Forum
Baha'i community stand at the Peoples' Forum

The European Baha'i Business Forum held an event at the Peoples' Summit, but there was no way to publicize events and my talk was only in English. Between passing demonstrations which made conversation impossible, we had an excellent discussion with a small audience.
Peoples' Summit EBBF . Peoples' Summit EBBF
Location of the EBBF event on values in business

The International Environment Forum event on "Changing mentalities and motivations: values for the sustainability transition" was in the lovely Viva Rio conference room near Flamengo Park, with air conditioning, projection facilities, and refreshments provided by the sponsors. We organized translation into Portuguese. I was one of three speakers, and there was a lively discussion afterwards.
IEF event Peoples Summit . IEF event Peoples Summit . IEF event Peoples Summit
The IEF event; Charles Howard translating and Wendi Momen chairing; Arthur Dahl speaking

IEF event Peoples Summit . IEF event Peoples Summit . IEF event Peoples Summit
Informal discussions among the participants


With heavy traffic, inadequate shuttle bus service, and widely scattered locations around the city, logistics were a problem. Fortunately the Baha'is had organized a big house with bed and breakfast within a short walk of RioCentro. It was only when we had to go into the city for scientific forums or the Peoples' Summit in Flamengo Park on the beach that we had expensive taxi rides until the Baha'is organized two shuttle vans.

Pousada Mansao RioCentro . Baha'is at the pousada . Charles and Peter
Our bed and breakfast; some of the Baha'i delegates; Charles Howard and Peter Adriance in the garden

After the conference, we had lunch together before going to visit Corcovado
Baha'is at lunch . Baha'is at lunch

Baha'is at lunch . Baha'is at lunch


As is our custom for such UN conferences, the 16th International Environment Forum Annual Conference consisted of our events and other participation in UNCSD. On 18 June we held our annual General Assembly, and since a majority of our Governing Board was present in Rio, we had a rare face-to-face board meeting.
IEF Governing Board
IEF Governing Board members Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen, Peter Adriance, Arthur Dahl, Victoria Thoresen and Duncan Hanks (Emily Firth and Dimity Podger were not in Rio)

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Last updated 27 June 2012
Photographs copyright © Arthur Lyon Dahl 2012