Skepticism so enshrouded the run-up to this week's UN Conference on Sustainable Development that it's almost surprising negotiators from more than 190 countries -- and 50,000 expected attendees -- showed up at all. The event's goals were unclear. Its proposed topics spanned an area as long as the equator. The annual monotony of UN climate change negotiations has trained people to pay scant attention to any and all UN-sponsored environmental pilgrimages.
Lost in the pessimism are the voices of billions of people whose livelihoods might be improved in the long run by a favorable outcome to the talks. Nine so-called Major Groups represent their interests at the negotiations. Whatever the UN member states agree to in the formal negotiations, it's the nine Major Group representatives who most vividly illustrate the vastness of interests at work in Rio (left), as well as what they each stand to gain: women, children and youth, indigenous people, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), cities and local authorities, workers and unions, business and industry, scientists and technologists and farmers.
A tour of the players follows.
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