Brazilian intern campaigns to get PM to Rio+20

Environmental volunteer believes PM's appearance at UN Conference on Sustainable Development is pivotal for Israel.

Activists call on PM to attend Rio+20  370  (photo credit: Courtesy Felipe Burman)
Activists call on PM to attend Rio+20 370
(photo credit: Courtesy Felipe Burman)
In the eyes of 26-year-old Felipe Burman, an appearance by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development next week would be pivotal for Israel’s image.
So instrumental, according to Burman, that the young Brazilian volunteer in Israel created a YouTube video appeal that he hopes will reach the prime minister’s desktop before the summit occurs.
Rio+20, whose preliminary events began on Wednesday, will culminate in a three-day, high-level summit from June 20 through 22, in Rio di Janeiro.
The conference will mark two decades since the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development, also in Rio de Janeiro, as well as the 10th anniversary of the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. About 50,000 people and 130 state heads are expected to attend the event, including a 60-member delegation from Israel led by Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan.
“We believe that because we face a lot of uncertainties in our country, a lot of people don’t understand Israeli actions, and just relate Israel to conflict,” Burman told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday. “We are looking for Netanyahu to attend Rio+20.”
Burman, the owner of Romandel – a green advertising agency in Brazil – has been a volunteer since September in Masa’s Israel Government Fellows program, where he was assigned to work in the international relations division of the Environmental Protection Ministry. The majority of the other young people from all over the world in the two-and-a-half- minute video are also Israel Government Fellows.
To Burman, Netanyahu’s “face shows Israel.”
“If you see Environment Minister Gilad Erdan talking in the round tables about sustainable development, it’s one thing,” Burman said. “But if Bibi Netanyahu attends Rio+20, even before he starts his speech, he will be working for Israel.”
The YouTube video begins with stark white text indicating that the only Israeli head of state to visit Brazil since the 1960s was Shimon Peres, in 2009.
Spliced together contiguously, and all speaking in their own languages with English subtitles, Valentin, from France, Elie, from Spain, and Jonah, from the US, open the video stressing the importance of Netanyahu’s attendance at Rio+20, where so many heads of state will be present at “one of the largest UN events in history.”
“It is the first opportunity for Israel to show how the country is committed to developmental initiatives and how Israel contributes and can find solutions for world issues,” adds Itzik, from Israel.
Yana, from the Ukraine, speaks about Israel’s high level of knowledge in recycling and solar energy fields, as well as the sustainable use of natural resources. Following her, Burman emphasizes how Israel is interested in Brazil’s alternative energy developments, and that both countries can work to solve such issues together in the future.
The end of the film shows a crowd of young people grasping signs that read: “BIBI please attend RIO+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development,” which is followed by text saying, “Children and youth, policy makers and world leaders, Israeli and Diaspora Jews, are looking forward [to] your decision. Bibi please attend Rio+20.”
Hoping that the prime minister will decide to attend last minute, Burman delivered a formal letter and a copy of the video directly to his office on Tuesday, he told the Post.
He is simply doing “everything [he] can do” and using every tool at his disposable to convince the prime minister to fly to Brazil, he said.
“It could really be a good chance not just for bilateral relations between Israel and Brazil, but also in the multilateral relations between a lot of states and Israel,” Burman said, noting that so many states are looking to learn from Israel’s expertise in green technology.
“I’m very happy that Israel has 60 people in its delegation – it’s already good,” he continued.
“The face of Bibi Netanyahu is very famous and relates to Israel, and people think of him as a bad guy... I see a chance to show to the world what I can see here in Israel.