A day in the life of a UK official at Rio+20

 In Uncategorized

My alarm goes off at 6.15am. I hit the snooze button and realise I’ve been dreaming about work. I must be nervous. Not surprised really. Today’s going to be busy, despite the fact that the “text” – all 283 paragraphs of it – was agreed by negotiators yesterday. Today is the high level summit – the day that world leaders including Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg arrive.

I shower, dress, and receive a quick call from my husband to wish me happy birthday. First time we’ve spoken in 5 days. I head to breakfast. My colleagues who’ve been negotiating the text into the late hours for the past week stock up. We all check our emails – updates have come in from London overnight. My Director General, Michael Anderson – who has just been appointed the Prime Minister’s special envoy on the post-2015 framework, the successor to the Millennium Development Goals – joins for breakfast.  He arrived late last night, but is fully briefed on the negotiations, so we talk about his plan for the day. We pile into a minibus. The distance between our hotel and the conference centre is only 12 miles but traffic is awful. En route I notice construction for a new bus-rapid-transit system. Good idea, and green. For today, heightened security measures mean a 2 hour journey.

Rio+20 Earth Summit 2012The conference centre is impressive and huge. I’m late and run straight to an event held by the Prince of Wales Charities Trust. They requested a Government official to attend and it’s focused on a topic related to my work at DFID so I’m happy to be there. A few other colleagues head to the main plenary room to monitor what Heads of State and their representatives will say in their national statements. The protocol is that a UK official has to be at the seat all the time, so we’ve prepared a rota. Other colleagues head to the UK office to iron out the diaries for Nick Clegg and the Environment Secretary of State, Caroline Spelman. The logistics are complex. I leave the Prince of Wales event early to meet officials from the World Bank and the Global Canopy programme to go over final details for the UK’s major event at 1 pm today. We’ve met twice and probably exchanged 30 emails over the last 48 hours. The agenda keeps changing.

Ulu Masen forest, Aceh, Indonesia. Around 1.2 billion poor people depend on forests for essentials like food and fuel. Picture: Abbie Trayler-Smith/DFID/Panos

I head back to the UK office which is incredibly busy. Nick Clegg arrives: it’s the first time he’s come to our “nerve centre”. I am called over to brief him about the event along with a Defra colleague. The trick is to impart all the relevant information as quickly and clearly as possible. The brief works – he’s energised by the need for Governments and the private sector to value the natural resources they have – also known as “GDP+”. Yesterday he backed this up with UK announcements – mandatory emissions reporting for FTSE 100 companies and working with the private sector to invest in a ‘knowledge bank’ to protect people living in the poorest forest areas. My Whitehall colleagues have worked hard to make both happen.

We head to the event. It’s packed and security are turning people away. Nick Clegg makes a powerful opening speech and I’m reminded of a few sceptical voices a few months ago that said this was too technical a topic to get purchase. This is one of those moments a civil servant can feel proud.  But there’s no time to enjoy the moment. Work beckons and I’m hungry. I head to the food hall and realise I’m not the only delegate to be having lunch at 3 pm – familiar faces from my previous life working on climate change negotiations are doing so too. I say hello. It’s always useful to maintain these relationships – they help when organising meetings between Ministers and getting past entrenched negotiating positions.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg making a speech at the Global Green Growth Institute signing ceremony.

Over lunch I make phone calls about an event tomorrow and arrange a bilateral with the Ethiopian Government.  Suddenly it’s 4 pm and time to join my Director General for a meeting with an organisation that helps developing countries plan for and implement green growth, called the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI). We’ve been tracking their work for a while and they are keen to demonstrate results and value for money so that the UK can support their work. A couple of hours later the Deputy Prime Minister attends an event confirming that the UK will join GGGI.  We will decide on funding after Rio.  But what’s great to see in all these events is the vision and commitment that many Leaders here have to the major topics of the negotiating text produced yesterday. These events take the text to another level.

With that, it’s almost 9 pm and time to get on the UK delegation bus to go back to the hotel. My colleagues say I look a little tired. But I’m smiling. It’s my birthday and I’ve done my bit to help the UK and others achieve a lot today. It feels good.

An excerpt of this blog post was featured on the Guardian Rio+20 Earth Summit live blog.

Recent Posts

Leave a Comment

Contact Us

We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.

验证码不清楚,请更换一张 captcha txt


Research Analyst

Edmond is a research analyst who is passionate about sustainable development, innovation, and the environment. Passionate about climate financing, he firmly believe there is a more reliable system to promote equality, growth, and welfare in societies without affecting the ecosystem. Through his skills, knowledge and experienced gained over 7 years, he wants to make an impact in the world of development. Edmond holds a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from Korea Development Institute and a BA Degree (Honors) in Business from University of Derby.


    Founder and CEO

Hannah Ryder is the Founder & CEO of Development Reimagined. A former diplomat and economist with 20 years of experience, named one of 100 most influential Africans in 2021, she is also Senior Associate for the Africa Program of the Center for Strategic International Studies (CSIS), sits on the Board of the Environmental Defence Fund, and is a member of UAE's International Advisory Council on the New Economy. Prior to her role at DR, Ms Ryder led the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s work with China to help it scale up and improve its cooperation with other developing countries, including in Africa. She has also played various advisory roles for the UN and OECD and co-authored the seminal Stern Review of the Economics of Climate Change in 2006.


Deputy Director

Leah Lynch is Deputy Director of Development Reimagined (DR), and head of the China office. Leah has over 10 years of experience in development and has lived in China for over 8 years. Leah has also travelled extensively around Asia and Africa for research. Leah supports the strategic direction of the team across China, with a mission to deliver high quality research on sustainable development and poverty reduction. Leah is also Chair of the Sustainability Forum at the British Chamber of Commerce in China, providing direction on sustainability initiatives for British and Chinese business. Leah has also consulted on various evaluations on UK aid (ICAI) and is a specialist on development cooperation from the UK and China. Leah has also consulted on various UN projects, including providing support to the UN China team during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Prior to DR, Leah was at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) China, supporting the UN’s portfolio on communication strategies, China’s South- South Cooperation and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Before UNDP, Leah lived and worked in Kenya developing sustainable water policies for the Kenyan government.


China-Africa Policy Analyst

Yike Fu is a Policy Analyst and has been responsible for leading numerous areas of work, including on debt analysis in Africa and beyond, and China-Africa trade and investment logistics and analysis. She is the co-author of “African Debt Guide”, in which she challenged the narrative that Africa is in the midst of a new debt crisis by analysing data back to the 1970s and adopting new metrics to present the real story behind the data. She also developed a benchmark to compare the financial distribution of development partners such as the UK, US, Japan, France and China in Africa. Prior to her role at DR she worked at the International Finance Corporation and African Union Representational Mission to the US. She holds a Masters in International Affairs from George Washington University.


Research Analyst

Judith is a Research and Policy Analyst, where she specialises in Africa-China relations, international development, and diplomacy. During her time at Development Reimagined, Judith has co-authored several articles published in The Diplomat on debt and China-Barbados relations and was quoted by China Daily in a piece on Women Rights in China. Previously, Judith worked as a research analyst for an Advocate and Commissioner and Oats office in Kenya.


Policy Analyst

Ovigwe specialises in geopolitics with particular reference to Africa in a changing Global Order. He is adept at critically analysing the politics of contemporary development processes and providing insight into the geopolitical interests that influence them. His work includes research, publications, tailored briefings and advising on global and regional trends, and issues at the nexus of geopolitics and development. Ovigwe appears frequently in media around the world such as Al Jazeera, TRT World, SABC, CGTN, BBC Radio, and other platforms.


Policy Analyst

Jing leads China-African health and agriculture cooperation research at Development Reimagined, having managed our FOCAC Policy Analysis and Advocacy project. She is also the co-author of “China-Africa Health Cooperation under FOCAC Umbrella”, in which she analysed China’s commitments around health cooperation since the first FOCAC summit and deepdived into four African countries’ health overview, challenges and cooperation with China as cases studies. Before DR, Jing worked at GIZ Cambodia on M&E of a disability advocacy project. She also worked as a translator with Chinese medical team in Benin.


Trade Policy Analyst

Patrick is an International Trade Policy and Trade Law Expert with over 5 years of experience. His expertise includes trade law, trade policy analysis and regional integration. He is currently engaged with Development Reimagined as a Senior Trade Analyst and was the lead author of Development Reimagined's recent Report on Africa-China Relations titled "From China-Africa to Africa- China: A Blue Print for a Green and Inclusive Continent-Wide Strategy Towards China." and “Reimaging FOCAC Going Forward.” Patrick has previously consulted for the East African Community, UNECA and for the Kenya Ministry of Trade.


Senior Policy Analyst 

Rosemary is our Senior Policy Analyst. She is a skilled policy analyst and has previously worked as a UK civil servant. She is studying Human Rights at Birkbeck, University of London with a research focus on international law in the context of health crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic.


Project Manager and Africa-China Communication Assistant

Jade is a Project Manager for Development Reimagined’s flagship project Africa Unconstrained, which focuses on financing needs and debt vulnerabilities of African countries. Her research focuses on China-Africa development finance alongside debt vulnerabilities, infrastructure needs and South-South cooperation. She has worked with a breadth of stakeholders from China, Africa and the wider international community, including governments, private sector, NGOs and civil society. Her writing has appeared in a number of publications, including The Africa Report, The China-Africa Project, The Diplomat and more. Jade holds a Master’s in China and Globalisation studies from King’s College London.


Programme Manager

Rosie is the Project Manager of Africa Reimagined (AR) at Development Reimagined (DR) where she supports high-end African brands with entering the Chinese market by operating services such as trademark protection, Chinese market research, Chinese partnership building, and Africa to China logistical support and import/export services. Rosie has worked with DR for over two years now with proven success in helping high-end African brands navigate the Chinese market. She is extremely passionate about her work because more African brands selling in the Chinese marketplace means African countries can export MORE value-added goods, create MORE jobs and foster MORE innovation in African countries.

Rosie is also alumni of the School of International Studies at Peking University in Beijing where she is also an editor at the Peking Africa Think Tank. PATT is led by a diverse group of scholars who specialise in African Studies within the context of Sino-Africa relations.



Lauren has lived in six countries from the Americas to Europe and Asia and speaks both French and Spanish proficiently. At Development Reimagined, Lauren’s research focuses on climate action both in the Asia-Pacific and in Africa, and how countries are using tools such as SDGs and Covid-19 action to build a more climate-resilient future. She holds a Masters in International Relations from Leiden University.



Etsehiwot holds a Masters’s degree in Development Studies from the London School of Economics. She has diverse experience in humanitarian and development issues by working in both multilateral organizations and international non-governmental organizations. Etsehiwot is currently a consultant focusing on the SDGs and development finance.


Economist Consultant

Dibekulu is an economist by training. He holds an MSc in International Development Studies from Palacky University Olomouc, an MSc in Development Economics from the University of Clermont Auvergne, and an MSc in Economics, Finance, and International Integration from the University of Pavia. At Development Reimagined, he works as an Economist consultant. He has strong data analysis skills, with research interests centring around development finance, impact assessment, food security, and agricultural insurance.


Project Manager

Osaru is a health professional with an MSc in Health Systems Policy and an interest in women’s health and population management. At Development Reimagined, she applies her health sector experience to global health research and collating locally applicable development insights from China.


Research Analyst

Ferdinando’s research at Development Reimagined is centred on South-South Cooperation dynamics, specifically on the analysis of Chinese investment and debt flows in Africa and their linkages to African industrialisation. He is currently a Yenching Scholar at Peking University, after having graduated from the University of Cambridge with an MPhil in Development Studies.


Research Analyst

David is a Research and data analyst at Development Reimagined. His scholarly focus is mostly on interdisciplinary research in demographic economics and development with interests in migration, economic development and policy, education, health and subjective well-being. He is currently a PhD scholar at Nelson Mandela University from which he also holds B.com Economics and Statistics and M.com respectively.


Research Analyst Kenya

Ivory is a Kenyan lawyer with experience in policy research and analysis. She also supports the communications team at DR. Ivory speaks English, Swahili and French.


Research And Data Analyst China 

Joy Ene is a Research and Data Analyst at DR. Joy is passionate about African/global development, poverty eradication and trade policies between underdeveloped and developing countries. She is also a fourth-year student of International Economics and Trade at the  Liaoning University, Shenyang, China. She serves as the President of the Student Union, Liaoning University, International Students chapter.


Research Analyst 

Chensi Li is a research analyst. She has previously worked for local NGOs in Nigeria and Cameroon and think-tanks in China.  Her research areas include Sino-African relations, African foreign affairs, public diplomacy, state-building and national governance.

Yixin Yu

Research Analyst 

Yixin is a Junior Research Analyst and her focus areas is on public-private partnership and entrepreneurship. She has over three years of working experience in both private and public sectors in Ethiopia. She was the China Liaison Officer for project ‘Partnership for Investment and Growth in Africa’ at International Trade Centre, where she accumulated rich experience in investment and trade promotion


Founder and CEO

Hannah Ryder is the Founder & CEO of Development Reimagined. A former diplomat and economist with 20 years of experience, named one of 100 most influential Africans in 2021, she is also Senior Associate for the Africa Program of the Center for Strategic International Studies (CSIS), sits on the Board of the Environmental Defence Fund, and is a member of UAE's International Advisory Council on the New Economy. Prior to her role at DR, Ms Ryder led the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s work with China to help it scale up and improve its cooperation with other developing countries, including in Africa. She has also played various advisory roles for the UN and OECD and co-authored the seminal Stern Review of the Economics of Climate Change in 2006.