Two days into the initial week of work it’s hard to encapsulate any commentary. On the logistical end, the Brazilians are making strenuous efforts to see that things go smoothly. At the moment there seem to be more helpers and guides than conference participants, beginning at the airport and carrying through to the conference venue at Rio Centro [which is not in central Rio but far to the west]. So far no lines of any note, and it took no more than fifteen minutes Wednesday afternoon to negotiate security and get credentials. The bad news is that it took two and a half hours by conference bus to get from downtown Rio to Rio Centro. Some of that may have been due to the driver getting lost twice. But the return was also two hours, in rush hour traffic which puts LA to shame. Transportation will continue to be a problem as more delegates and others arrive, and try to make their way between the civil society events downtown and the conference site.
As for substance, the reaction of participants to the last two days is definitely mixed. PrepCom negotiations have continued in two major sections under the guidance of Ambassadors Ashe and Kim, with negotiators breaking down into “splinter,” now referred to as “cluster,” groups. Some seem to be making progress, while others remain seriously divided. In the Oceans cluster, chaired by Australia, country representatives worked in a relatively collaborative fashion, with only occasional flashes of exasperation. The language on several issues, including subsidies and illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing remained contentious and further consideration was either postponed or referred to smaller working groups with the hope of reaching agreement. While not achieving a consensus on all items, there seemed to be a general feeling that progress was being made. By contrast some of the other splinter groups, notably the one on the green economy, had serious difficulties, and it was noted that the Brazilian officials seemed to be taking a larger role in pressuring for agreement to ensure the success of the conference. At the end of the day there were many weary delegates climbing back on buses to return to the downtown.