Abrasco (the Brazilian Association of Collective Health)
to be held in Rio de Janeiro, 27-30 April 2012
Brazilian strength and stability: International alliances, national continuity
Rio de Janeiro. 'Is it safe?' This is a question asked about Brazil and in particular Rio de Janeiro in the last few months, including by some Association members. The international news media have been showing pictures of police helicopters hovering over the favelas (shanty towns) of Rio, and have been running stories of deaths in the city. The answer is that Rio is practically as safe as is any big city in the South – or, come to that, cities in the North, too. In addition, the inner city, where our congress Rio 2012 will take place, is well policed.
Further, as illustrated by the pictures above, Brazil is flourishing, in partnership with the other very big unaligned 'BRIC' nations of (from the left in the picture above), India, Russia and China. Plus the national elections that took effect last month have replaced the charismatic and universally popular Luis Inácio da Silva, known to everybody in Brazil by his nickname 'Lula', with Dilma Rousseff (right, with Lula in the picture above), now the first woman to be Brazilian president, who is a veteran of Lula's socialist while pragmatic Workers Party. Finally, Rio is now engaged in a massive programme of development in preparation for the 2114 World Cup in Brazil and the 2116 Rio Olympics. 2012 will be a very good time to enjoy Rio.
The Rio 2012 programme
Below is the preliminary Rio 2012 programme. It is in schematic form. The specific topics of sessions will be agreed and published in the next months. Some of the features of Rio 2012 will be familiar to all those who attend international conferences. Yes, there will be an opening ceremony, an opening keynote plenary address, and also an opening reception (Cariocas, meaning people from Rio, are very good at parties). Yes, there will be poster displays, with good facilities for discussion of poster topics. Lunches will be for a full 90 minutes, giving ample time for enjoyment of traditional Brazilian cuisine and for informal mingling, discussion and business. Yes, there will be a gala occasion (Rio is very good at these, also). And there will be a closing ceremony, which will include announcement of our 2016 congress.
Yes, there will be symposiums and round tables. But these will be much more interactive than at typical congresses, when speakers over-run, leaving only notional time for discussion. There will be plenty of time reserved for discussion as well as for questions and answers. Now please look at the outline programme below, starting on 27 April.
One agreed aspect of Rio 2012, within our overall theme of 'knowledge, policy, action', is national, regional and local initiatives. During the five hours time for registration on the first day, the congress area will be full of displays of such work, from within Brazil and also internationally. These will be full of colour and energy. All the dimensions of public health nutrition will be evident. Bring your cameras. There will be plenty of people there working for the congress who speak English, and please don't be shy, Brazilians like to talk, to explain, and to be shown.
Our congress will be interactive in at least two additional ways. First, daily sessions will be reported on the day or the day afterwards, on this website. Second – and details are still being worked out here – participation will not be restricted to people physically present in Rio. The congress will be altogether more open and democratic, by using electronic facilities. These will enable participation and we hope also interaction from everywhere in the world, and in particular from parts of the world where intercontinental travel is not feasible. More later on this.
The first three days
The opening keynote plenary speaker on the first day, and also the other three plenary speakers, on the final day, will amplify the overall theme of the congress. They will also progress a key purpose of the congress, which is to complete its work with an agreed Rio Declaration on the nature, purpose and goals of public health nutrition in this period of history, looking ahead to 2025 and 2050. Our intention is that the keynote speakers will participate in the entire congress, including as members of working groups, action groups and participants in other sessions, learning as well as leading.
The proposed six symposiums on the first day will all be on key topics which, taken together, will set the scene for the whole congress. These will be linked with the topics of the six workshops that begin on the second day and continue until the final day. As mentioned above, these symposiums really will be occasions for people to gather and reason together. There will be as much time for discussion as for presentations, and discussion will be energetically facilitated.
The second and third days take the same form. In the mornings and later afternoons, congress participants have four choices.
As shown on the draft programme, the first choice is to be a member of any one of six workshops. The plan here is that well before the congress, six key themes will be identified, core workshop participants chosen, and draft position statements developed. The six symposia on the first day will focus on these main areas of work. Final membership of each working group will be agreed, and then six working groups of not more than 25 people in each, including facilitators and rapporteurs, will develop the draft position statement into final presentations for final discussion, revision and agreement on the last day. Once you register you will be able to request membership of specific working groups. As is evident from the programme, working groups are a major commitment. They require participants to engage in all sessions on all three days, and also to be willing to join small drafting groups whose work extends into the evenings.
The second choice is to participate in open communications. The topics and presenters will be selected in the usual way, from the congress participants responsible for posters, whose themes will also follow the overall and specific themes of the congress. As already stated, there will be plenty of time for interchange and discussion as well as questions and answers.
Hot topics and action groups are the third and fourth choices in the mornings and later afternoons of the second and third day. By their nature, the subjects of these sessions will be finally determined much later this year, while some can be agreed earlier. It is likely that these sessions will include energetic presentations and discussions of social, economic and environmental drivers of public health nutrition, such as the linked food, financial and fuel crises, increased inequity between and within countries, and the impact of globalisation on the human, living and physical world and the biosphere. Nor do we intend to focus on doom and gloom, in a country whose leaders are champions of equity, food and
In the early afternoons of the second and third day, the four parallel sessions are either round tables, whose facilitators will ensure that most of the time is guided discussion; and any one of three debates. For those of you who participated in the 2010 Porto conference, these debates will have a form similar to the more organised Porto debates. A topic will be chosen, agreed to be important, urgent, and genuinely controversial, in the form of a debate motion whose phrasing is designed to secure as close as possible to an equal vote on both sides. The facilitators of the debates will ensure that all rules are followed. The two speakers will present their case. Participants will make their own points and may challenge the speakers. The two speakers then briefly respond, and a vote is taken. In common with other Rio 2102 sessions, the debates and their results will be reported on this website, on the day.
The evening of the third day is the time for fun. But some dedicated participants will make an early evening of it, and continue to work on the final drafts of the working group statements.
The final day will draw together all the work prepared and done in the first three days of Rio 2012. The final plenary keynote will include a report on what has been progressed and achieved. Then the final drafts of the working group statements, and also of the overall Rio Declaration, will be presented for final final comment, discussion and revision. Then after a break, the revised working group statements and the Rio Declaration will be presented for general agreement by all participants. They will be published in the first available issue of World Nutrition, with accompanying explanatory text.
We will be publishing more information about Rio 2012 next month and every month this year.