Youth on the Road to Rio+20

As part of our MobilizeUS! Campaign, the Human Impacts Institute’s UN Youth Delegate, Mariana Orozco, reports on International Youth Strategy Meeting on Rio+20 from Mollina, Spain, September 19-24th, 2011.


Day 1: Why are we in Mollina?

As the members of the International Youth Strategy Meeting on Rio+20 group, we met in Mollina, Spain, to think about the goals of international youth for Rio+20 and to develop a joint strategy on how to achieve those goals. Our first day together consisted of setting the scene on what has happened on the road to Rio+20 so far.

The discussion covered the evolution of international environmental policy, focusing on Stockholm, the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, and Johannesburg. For Rio+20, we covered the push to have the summit, logistical aspects, the role of different players, and especially the events relevant for youth. We also asked: How can we, as representatives of international youth, develop a focused political document for Rio+20?

Day 2: A Vision for Rio+20

In the second day of our meeting, we discussed how we envision, not only Rio+20, but also our visions for the world in 2052. We discussed four major areas:

  • The Rio+20 Lead-Up: need for mobilization, carefully considering who exactly we are mobilizing, and to what end, making sure it is not aimless and disorganized. What is the message and how can we have influence?

  • The Rio+20 Earth Summit: an interesting issue surfaced of whether world leaders should attend – who do we want to actually attend? What we definitely agree on was strong youth participation that is diverse, and an open environment.

  • Rio+20 Outcomes: the essence of the discussion was a need for a concrete, measurable plan, harmonized with the Millennium Development Goals – a follow-up to the work that is being done, as well as a way to monitor and enforce the concrete goals.

  • Rio+20 Impacts: a broader view of the post Rio+20 world – a new economy, renewed belief in the UN, inspired and active citizens, and a unified sustainable development movement.

In the afternoon, the conversation turned towards the importance of empowerment and what is needed to achieve it. We also discussed the reasons for youth wanting to be involved, mainly, to have an equal say in the decisions that will shape our future and be a part of the process. We also talked about the obstacles that young people face in the U.N. decision-making process, such as:

  • The dismissal by many that youth are inexperienced and

  • A sense by many that youth cannot affect change

We spoke about the main principles of democratic participation that must be applied and the main characteristics of participation, especially a feeling of ownership. In terms of what the youth movement specifically needs for Rio+20, we focused on key issues, such as adequate space for participation, an active voice, and visibility. We also discussed the importance of active participation including helping with implementation and that Rio+20 must be the beginning, not the end.


Day 3: Understanding the Rio+20 Process & the Youth Map

The Process: How will Rio+20 work?

Rio+20 is the final outcome of a series of Preparatory Commissions, Intercessional Meetings and Councils on Sustainable Development, all strategic points for stakeholders to intervene and make sure their input is considered.

Who will be at Rio+20?

  • Major Groups: workers & unions, indigenous peoples, women, NGO’s, science & technology, local authorities, farmers, business and industry, children and youth. Each of these groups will bring their own priorities and views to the table. We dissected theMajor Group of Children and Youth into two parts:

  • Mobilizing: composed of the facilitation team, the task forces, and communication working groups

  • Youth Space: Networks, NGO’s and other initiatives

  • Countries: USA, China, G77, European Union, Group of Latin America and the Caribbean (GRULAC), Small Island Developing States (SIDS), Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), African Union (AU), Alianza Bolivariana (ALBA) & Least Developed Countries (LDC).

In terms of countries, they come with a political agenda and past conflicts that could interfere with the process, as well as their own national interests.

And who is actually leading the Rio+20 conference?We took a close look at the main parts:

  • Mr. Sha, the Rio+20 Secretary General

  • The Rio+20 Bureau, composed of 11 members who represent different regions of the elected, and whose responsibilities are to give guidance and steer on behalf of their country groups and to the secretariat.

  • Executive Coordinators – Two, Mrs. E. Thompson and Mr. B. Lalonde, who are appointed by UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon

  • Office of conference of SG and the Global Sustainability Panel, which work on a more operational levels

What are the core themes of Rio+20?

  • Green economy, as seen from various aspects: green growth vs. de-growth, global and just transition, the Blue Economy, Energy Access Initiative, and financial aspects such as the Stern Report and Beyond GDP.

  • Governance (Institutional Framework): Conventions, Financial Reform, National Governance (ombudsperson, Sustainable Development Commission), and other forms of enforcement and accountability.

Mapping the Youth Movement

Livia, a representative of Generation+20, shared with us the incredible mobilization movement that is taking over Brazil. As part of Rejuma, a group of Brazilian Youth for Environment, she walked us through the variety of groups that are involved in Brazil, from the official process to the mobilization and unification of people, from perspectives of state, the favelas and youth.

The People’s Summit, which will happen parallel to Rio+20, is an active movement that is demonstrating the possibilities of a green economy, and emphasizing the need for change, regardless of Rio+20 outcomes. Their Road Map consists of connecting the Durban COP19, World Social Forum, Rio+20, and the G20.

This Brazilian “Generation+20” seems to be ready to take on the challenge of putting Rio in the spotlight in Brazil. Their plan is to create a cultural movement, which covers events from Rock in Rio and New Years in Copacabana, to social media and celebrity involvement, and give an image to Rio that will make sure everyone is involved, just as the Human Impacts Institute’s MobilizeUS! Campaign is aiming to reach a similar level of mobilization and involvement in the U.S.

After a lively, interactive session in which we spoke about which our individual organizations are and what we hope to achieve, we wrote down all the barriers we think we will encounter on the road to Rio+20, which included practical issues such as language, resources, time zones, visas and access to information, to deeper issues like cultural differences, a lack of focus, too much expectation, diversity of tactics and experience, stereotypes, varied ways of working, and our own egos.


Days 4-6: A Youth Strategy

The final three days of the meeting really formed the core of what we set out to achieve. We split up into groups and finalized a concrete vision for each part of Rio+20 – the Lead Up, the Summit, the Outcomes, and the Impacts. While we fully acknowledged that these visions cannot represent all the youth across the world, they are a clear starting point for us, and our organizations, of what we want and how we are going to achieve them:

  • The Rio+20 Lead-Up: To ensure that our youth space is inclusive, equitable, diverse, democratic and facilitates meaningful, impartial, impactful, peaceful participation in Rio+20 that inspires engagement within and beyond;

  • Rio+20 Earth Summit: Children and young people, regardless of location and role, are influencing decision-making in all forms during the summit. Our interests are taken into account in the outcome. We will work in a positive and constructive, creative and inclusive spirit.

  • Rio+20 Outcomes: Transform the global SD governance which must guarantees the rights of young and future generations: this includes coherent, smart outcomes linked to the Millennium Development Goals and their follow up, with strong and coherent ways to enforce and implement them at all levels.

  • Rio+20 Impacts: For Rio+20 is to be the birthplace of trust and universal participation and a level playing field to create an open atmosphere for building an equitable and sustainable global society towards a good and just world for all.

We broke down each vision into a series of objectives. From here, we developed a series of concrete action points, from setting up meeting and calls, appointing volunteers to take care of certain issues, building e-participation and translation teams, and setting deadlines to make sure no issue goes ignored.

These action points are ways to get us moving and collaborate with each other in terms of not only the shape of the Major Group of Children in Youth, but also of a wider mobilization campaign. As we move forward, we hope we can make progress on all these actions, and connect all of our organizations towards a coordinated campaign that makes Rio+20 a success.

Reflections on Mollina

In terms of the group, I can only say that consensus was almost effortless. Our initiatives and input weaved together to form a clear strategy, and the week created bonds that will ensure cooperation and hopefully activate change. This week reminded all of us of why we are involved in Rio+20 in the first place. In my own view, I would say these other young people who work hard to improve the world we live in are my main source of inspiration. I hope other people like us are coming together all over the world and planting the seeds that are necessary to create the momentum that Rio+20 needs to become a truly global movement.

By Mariana Orozco, 2011 Human Impacts Institute Environmental Leadership Intern and UN Youth Delegate

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