Over 2,000 young people from 120 countries at the weekend joined hands for a big Youth Blast, to ensure the voices of young people and their concerns are brought as high as possible onto the agenda of Rio +20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.
“The goal of Rio +20 is to listen, hear and recognize the successes of youth,” Mr. Gilberto de Carvalho, Minister of the General Secretary of the Presidency of Brazil, told the conference organized by the Major Group of Children and Youth with the support of the Brazilian Government and UN-Habitat. “Youth are not only the future but they are the present. They are the biggest victim of social exclusion in Brazil today and the world, and suffer the most from unemployment and poor education.”
Ambassador Sha Zu Kang, Secretary General of the Rio+20 Conference, told the youth delegates: “The Future We Want is the name of the final outcome document. This document is for you, and your children,” he said. “This is one of the most important conference in history. Aaccording to Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon this is a once in a generation opportunity. Traditionally, young people have had a faint voice in determining their future. Events such as the Youth Blast can change that.”
UN-Habitat has worked closely with an organization called the Major Group on Children and Youth to assure the success of the RioYouth Blast . On Monday, UN-Habitat was scheduled to co-host the Youth 21 High Level Panel on Youth: Towards Establishing a Permanent Forum on Youth Issues.
Thanks to the support of the Governments of Norway and Sri Lanka, and building on the commitment of the Secretary General to youth through his creation of the Special Advisor on Youth, youth concerns are being heard at the Rio +20 summit.
But more needs to be done, according to Ambassador Sha Zu Kang: “You must banish the belief that the world doesn't care what you, children and youth think,” he told the youth delegates. “But you must also realise that our institutions may not be set up to properly include youth perspectives or hear your voices. This is where you must change your thinking and count on your networks to collect and spread a broad range of ideas from youth around the world, from the Global South, as well as the North.”
Monday’s youth forum will be attended by ministers from the Governments of Brazil, Norway and Sri Lanka, and representatives of youth-led agencies. The goal of the meeting is to finalize an outcome document building on the Nairobi Declaration which outlines steps to better engage young people through the creation of a Permanent Forum on Youth Issues.
Ms. Severn Suzuki, an activist made prominent by her speech at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, renewed her call for an inter-generational compact between young people and adults so as to assure the wellbeing of the planet and its people into the future.
“The Youth Blast was built on the long history of youth engagement in sustainable development issues,” said Mr. Joao Scarpelini, coordinator of the Youth Blast and former UN-Habitat Youth Advisory Board member. “The conference has provided a space for young people to share their sustainable development strategies and practices, learn from one another and invited speakers, and strategize on how to best engage in Rio +20.”
Dignitaries attending the youth forum include: Severine Macedo, National Youth Secretary of Brazil; Gilberto de Carvalho, Minister of the General Secretary of the Presidency of Brazil. (ministro-chefe da Secretaria-Geral da Presidência da República do Brasil); Jorge Chediek, UN Resident Coordinator in Brazil; Ângela Guimarães, President of the Brazilian National Youth Council, CONJUVE; Rebeca Ribas, Vice-President of the Brazilian National Youth Council, CONJUVE; Julio Bitelli, Minister in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Executive Coordinator of the Dialogues for Sustainable Development; Achim Steiner, Executive Director United Nations Environment Programme; and Ambassador Sha Zu Kang, Secretary General of the Rio+20 Conference.