Attending the Youth Strategy Meeting for Rio+20–as a representative of the Human Impacts Institute and our MobilizeUS! Campaign–in Spain in September of 2011 was as big an eye-opener as they come. Just 5 months ago, I had no idea what Rio+20was, let alone imagine myself in the midst of a group of young people who are actively working to make sure Rio+20 has an impact that changes the future of our society.
At first, I thought it odd that Children and Youth would be considered a major group within Civil Society. Youth is such a temporary state and, after all, we are the future farmers, industry workers, scientists, workers, NGO members, and some of us will always be women or indigenous peoples.
But it is precisely because we are everybody that we must speak. It is our future, and we have the most to lose. Something that struck a chord was a sentiment that I heard more than once; “I do want children, but I do not think I should bring anybody into this world.” We are young – we are concerned for our future and that of the generations coming after us, and need to do something about it.
This is who the Major Group of Children and Youth (MGCY) is now, young activists and policy makers who have taken on the responsibility of organizing and mobilizing the youth of the world towards a chance for change.
The MGCY provides the space that young people need to come together and use their voice. If anything is clear, is that there needs to be a unified message that can speak for the youth. The three organizing partners of the group make sure everything is running, but everyone in the world has the right to join and contribute to one of the task forces, which include:
1) Facilitation, which focuses on the themes (Green Economy, Institutional Framework) and Objectives of Rio+20.
As the November 1st deadline for input on the conference draft quickly approaches, the Youth Task Forces, including about 1000 young people from all over the world, are working hard to come up with a collective youth vision.
The Task Force on Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development is focusing on the issue of intergenerational equity – recognizing that we must hold the people of today accountable for what they take from future generations. The importance of implementation strategies is also of key importance; since all the know-how in the world is irrelevant if it is not applied.
The Task Force on Green Economy covers all areas of the economy, with a specific focus on reducing youth unemployment through the creation of green jobs, and the importance of an education that teaches young people about the environment and sustainable development.
Those of us present came out of Spain with a set of ideas that we would like to see implemented into all corners of the world, and a clear set of goals and concrete actions, true to the ‘strategy’ part of the meeting. While we cannot presume to speak for all, we can provide our input and inspire others to do the same.
Young people have the energy and the idealism to hope for something better. They have been ignored for too long, but they have a view of the world that must be brought to the table if any lasting change is to be achieved.
By Mariana Orozco, 2011 Human Impacts Institute Environmental Leadership Intern and UN Youth Delegate