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1,400 Young People Demand Results at Earth Summit: Will Governments Listen?

Michael Davidson

Posted October 6, 2011

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Over 1,400 young people descended on Indonesia last week in the biggest youth gathering on the Race to Rio yet. Coming from 118 different countries, it was also the most global gathering. With the Rio+20 Earth Summit just nine months away, young people at this year’s TUNZA International Children and Youth Conference hosted by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) made clear that Rio+20 must be a significant milestone for global efforts to stop environmental destruction and promote sustainable development.

Young people have the most to lose at next year’s Earth Summit and it’s no wonder that sense of urgency was reflected in the outcome document of the conference, the Bandung Declaration:

Yet, our planet’s future – our future – is in peril. Our generation has seen the warning signs in Rio 1992 become the realities that face Rio+20: poverty, climate change, harmful pollution and depleting natural resources are all symptoms of our unsustainable development patterns. We feel, understand and know that we cannot wait another generation, until a Rio+40, before we act.

The tenor quickly shifted, however, to creating solutions and making concrete demands of governments and businesses toward sustainability. Throughout the week, the participants learned about how to identify the green economy in their communities, how to find green jobs, and how to mobilize themselves and the 3 billion other young people around the globe for a transformative Rio+20.

What four things will these young people and their communities do when they get home?

  1. Lobby their governments to make Rio+20 Earth Summit a top priority.
  2. Educate themselves and their communities using new tools (read about why I think social media is an integral part of achieving success at the Earth Summit).
  3. Work for a green economy, by supporting young entrepreneurs.
  4. Push for tangible actions at Rio+20 at the local, national, regional and global levels.

This conference is just one of many youth conferences that have already been happening regionally, and each has produced a document of powerful conclusions (for example, here, here, here, here...). These all have a clarity I have not seen reflected anywhere else – be they from NGOs, governments or industry.

Young people around the world are getting fired up. They came out in force at the huge civil society gathering, the UN DPI NGO conference in early September. They will increasingly put pressure on governments and industry to recognize that Rio+20 must be an Earth Summit, bringing the leadership of the planet together. This is but one manifestation of demonstrations around the world (including a host of polarizing environmental issues) challenging governments to respond to the needs of the next generation, such as creating good jobs and protecting our shared natural resources.

The question is...Will governments come together in Rio and create a sustainable future for all of us?


Full declaration (pdf): Bandung_Declaration_2011

Image credit: UNEP TUNZA Facebook page

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