Twenty years after climate change first hit the headlines at the Earth Summit of 1992, world leaders gathered again in Rio de Janeiro to talk sustainable development. The resulting “agreement” was a big fat letdown, but there were some bright spots.
From the beginning, the Rio+20 agenda focused far too little on women’s rights and voices, and especially around reproductive rights. So scrappy campaigners from around the world decided to do something about that. Even if they couldn’t get on the official agenda, they’d go to Rio and make noise about the linkages between women’s rights, population growth, and sustainable development. Resource Media set out to amplify the reproductive rights side conversation, using Rio+20 as a springboard to elevate the issue with an eye toward future opportunities like the London Family Planning Summit .
We organized a blogger briefing in the leadup to the event, inviting green “mommy” bloggers and international development writers alike to tee up the woman angle. We also built a Storify page to aggregate all the great social media content that we knew would be generated. We worked drive adoption and awareness of the #womenrio hashtag on Twitter, allowing advocates to stay tuned to each other’s work, engage more voices, and reach new audiences. Amplifying all the great work that took place on the ground in Rio created a ripple effect that became a small wave when Secretary of State Clinton came out swinging in favor of the inclusion of reproductive rights in the final agreement. That effort ultimately failed, but the connection between family planning and sustainable development (and public health, quality of life, and economic prosperity) is gaining ground.
The takeaway? Focusing on big events like Rio+20 can be a smart investment even if you don’t expect to win, and sometimes because you don’t expect to win. Elevating the conversation can be just as important a victory for a longer-term campaign.