UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s words, “When I say make some noise, I mean raise your voices. Demand real action.” are the guidelines that the young people have been following at Rio+20. The youth seems to be out to prove that they are not just mere presences but effective stakeholders who are trying to influence their country delegations by consistently picking up issues, educating their representatives and lobbying around these points.
To say that the youth have suddenly appeared on the Rio+20 radar without doing their homework would be grossly incorrect. It seems that the youth have been strategically organizing themselves over the past few years through google list-serves and online meetings to prepare themselves for the negotiations.
Closer to Rio+20, MyCity+20 is a colourful example of a campaign, which was organized locally by the young people across the globe in cities like Hidalgo, Kinshasa, Sao Paolo, Dhaka, New York, Mexico City, Kathmandu, Paris etc. to help mobilize and educate the youth on sustainable development issues. These events also helped to encourage the youth living locally to understand and involve themselves in the negotiation processes of Rio+20.
The Dutch youth took their zeal to push their government even further by asking students, adolescents and young professionals to send a cake to their Prime Minister, Mark Rutte with their tweet message “DUS RUTTE NAAR RIO”. They were not able to convince him to promise his presence despite the incessant efforts, which included presenting him with money collected from young people to provide him with airfare to reach Rio. However, their efforts were not wasted. He has promised the official Dutch youth delegates a lunch to get an overview of Rio+20 from their perspective.
Youth Blast in Rio was organized by the brazillian youth with some international voluntary groups prior to the actual negotiation meetings. It helped orient the youth towards the negotiations and resulted in the formulation of an official document that has been submitted for Agenda 21 discussions.
During the preparatory meetings, which will feed in the text for the government heads and representatives to discuss during the actual summit dates, the young people seem to be working in two ways: by urging their delegations to decide on text that would be progressive and by organizing creative events/actions. Examples of the former working method would be interventions made due to their meaningful participation. They have successfully been able to influence some countries to change their positions from “flexible” to “retain” with regard to green jobs as well as get ¨non-formal education¨ included in the text. Though, the countries change their stances faster than the weather changes in Rio these interventions speak of youth interest and desire for change. These meaningful additions are also recognized by countries, who specially raise these concerns at points of disagreements to underline that they encourage public participation of young people and other civil society members.
Rio Fossil is a good example of a direct action where the later method of working is applied. A young person from the country who might have blocked progressive negotiations tends to get the award. This can cause a little concern and quite a lot of change in the text due to creative liberties that the young organizers take in making a country infamous. Other actions like flash mobs and peaceful blocking of the negotiating hall doors such that the leaders cannot leave until something concrete is decided are some of the creative ideas being floated to spice up the slow process.
Nora Mahmoud working with the Earth Charter International says, “Rio+20 doesn’t mean the end. Actions will continue and we will use this as a platform to become stronger. ”
This reflects the tenacity with which the youth has been preparing themselves so much so that there is a Post Rio Dialogue item on their agenda too. This would include the activities that the youth should be involved in after Rio+20. A process of measuring youth participation and its effectiveness is also being worked upon by some of the youth organizations, for future reference, in their efforts to prove their worthiness to be involved in the UN processes.
This post is the first version of the article published by AlertNet which can be accessed through this link: http://www.trust.org/alertnet/news/youth-blast-rio20-deal-as-pathetic/
About the authorRoli Mahajan
Roli is an editor, activist and journalist living in India. She has worked as videographer for the MacArther Foundation; she was an International Year of Youth Journalist at UNFCCC conferences in Cancun and Durban; and she is a Rio+20 Fellow.