Yesterday UN negotiators congratulated each other as they pushed through a ‘memorable’ and ‘multilateral’ agreement meant to guide the global sustainable development for years to come. But as the gavel crashed against the table and the applause began, so too did the boos. Young people and NGO’s made their opinions clear as a haunting bass drone drenched the main plenary hall in disappointment.
“All that has happened is that the economy has been pushed forward while the environment has been left behind.” Senel Wanniarachchi, a youth activist here at Rio explained to me today.
“there is nothing we can take back to our own countries. There are holes all over the place as things have been deleted in reference to the role of youth, the green economy, sexual reproductive rights, oceans and our ability to implement any of it.”
As such, it seems to many young people here that this whole Earth Summit has done nothing but surrender their future unto the past that too many governments want to hold onto.
In response, last night NGO’s and young people united to award the “biggest ever fossil of the day award” to “all the leaders of the world for agreeing to set fire to our future”.
This morning, the youth have responded again, as more than 100 young people united in a red line at the entrance to the main conference centre as world leaders made their way to the first day of the high level segment of the UN Earth Summit.
The youth are demanding that leaders take an active role as they arrive here in Rio+20, asking that they remember that government are given their mandates from the citizens, and they “must act in their best interests”.
In a statement released entitled The future we don’t want, young people and NGO’s have demanded that “all Member States to stop negotiating their short-term national agendas and to urgently agree now on transitional actions for global sustainable progress.”
This is an urgent plea, and one that thousands of Brazilian people will repeat today in the march of the people “la marcha de los pueblos” through the streets of Rio.
As the world’s leaders decend on Rio+20, they will receive glowing reports from their negotiators, but they will also feel the widespread discontent of young people from all around the world, demanding they reopen negotiations and forge a future we all want.
About the authorChris Wright
Climate researcher, political ecologist, activist and an award-winning slam poet from Australia.