by Celine Ramstein
With just over six weeks until the Rio+20 summit, the potential for concrete action at the event is still uncertain.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon called the Rio Earth Summit “one of the most important global meetings on sustainable development in our time.” However, the negotiations text is far from being an actual agreement and does not yet reflect the ambitious results expected at the event.
In order to step up pressure and make the event a success, youth groups are getting increasingly involved in the process.
A few months ago, a group of students in Paris launched a youth initiative aimed at organizing a simulation of Rio+20, called Paris+20. They organized conferences every week with experts from different fields to educate the “delegations” about sustainable development issues. The idea spread rapidly and students from all over the world started organizing their own events.
Since then, the so-called MyCity+20 movement has gathered momentum. In Late April, the New-York+20 was held, bringing together more than 300 committed young people (in person and online) at the Ford Foundation in New York City.
In one day of hard work, the young people came out with a statement that was presented to the official delegation. They managed to agree on a 2-page document on the most critical issues to agree on at Rio+20 and call world leaders to tackle them. These include:
- The creation of the United Nations Environment Organization that will that will serve as the primary coordinating body for environmental issues at the UN and improve efficiency, transparency and equitable participation of all stakeholders.
- A more holistic integration of sustainability into all professions and education systems to enable a transformation to the green economy.
- The establishment of Ombudspersons for Future Generations, at all levels of governance, that have a comprehensive mandate to engage and enlighten the present citizenry about the needs and rights of future generations.
- The adoption of a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that promote and protect the economic, environmental, and social well-being of present and future generations.
This group of youth also committed to action by “engaging their communities and youth globally to advocate for policies that ensure the future they want.” A report on this event can be found here.
The agreement was praised by Rio+20 Executive Coordinator Elizabeth Thompson and France’s Ambassador for the Environment Jean-Pierre Thébault. Thébault promised to share the statement with the EU delegations and reminded the participants that “the youth’s job only starts at Rio, and will continue for the next two to three decades.”
This impressive organization is an extension of the youth outreach efforts at recent UN climate conferences. These negotiations are critical for our future. Young people know they can’t afford to wait another 20 years for action — we need strong political commitments and concrete actions today to build a sustainable tomorrow.
Celine Ramstein is an intern on the energy team at the Center for American Progress.