How young people can get engaged in Rio+20 - Article Published in Youth Action and Policy Association's (YAPA) Magazine 'Unleash" by Julie Melrose
Twenty years ago, at the time when the first 1992 Rio “Earth Summit” was held which kicked off the global modern environmental movement, I was five years old – and unaware of the enormous challenge of dangerous climate change that the world was facing. When the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) takes place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from June 20 to 22 this year, I will be almost 25 years old. I have the historic opportunity to help define pathways to a safer, more equitable, cleaner, greener and more prosperous world for us all – and so do you. You can get involved in a number of ways – through engaging with the UNCSD Major Group of Children and Youth –the constituency of young people engaging in Rio+20, attending the conference with a possible ANU Student Delegation, or at least spreading the word about the ideas and vision that the conference promotes.
At Rio, world leaders will be called on to sign up for 10 new sustainable development goals for the planet and promise to build green economies. They will also be asked to negotiate a new agreement to protect oceans, approve an annual state of the planet report, set up a major world agency for the environment, and appoint a global 'ombudsperson', or high commissioner, for future generations.
It’s time for young people to reclaim our future and advocate for the rights of future generations to enjoy a healthy planet. You are never too young to stand up and make your voice heard in matters that impact your future. The beauty of being young and idealistic is that anything is possible, and you haven’t got anything to lose by dreaming big. Here’s some tips on how to engage meaningfully in public policy debate around environmental issues in the lead up to Rio+20 this year:
1. Be informed and start questioning
There is so much talk and overuse of words like “sustainability” and “sustainable development” that it is easy to be fooled to believe that a lot is being done or has been achieved in combating dangerous climate change and biodiversity loss. The truth is, there is a huge amount left to be done and achieving the political will at a national and global level for strong action is an enormous task. As Albert Einstein famously said – “the most important thing is not to stop questioning”. Stay informed by joining the mailing lists of organisations involved in Rio+20 and follow environmental issues at a national and global level. Ask your lecturers what they think about Rio+20, its challenges and opportunities. More info about Rio+20 can be found here: http://www.uncsd2012.org/rio20/
2. Have purpose and direction
Being young, we are often interested in many things and passionate about many issues. It really does help to focus your efforts and have a purpose in mind when attempting to engage in debate on complex issues. For example, if you want to attend an international conference for the first time, find an issue that you really care about, like deforestation, and make it your mission to become an expert on it. You will be far more effective and valuable as an individual by knowing one area back to front than by knowing bits and pieces about everything. Rio+20 will focus on two themes: (a) a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication; and (b) the institutional framework for sustainable development. If you are interested in these areas, start researching and writing about them, and think about submitting your ideas to the Rio+20 Global Stakeholder Forum http://www.earthsummit2012.org/ .
3. Don’t go it alone
One thing I have learnt from attending several UN Climate Change negotiations overseas is that it is important to have a team that shares your vision and purpose. It is very difficult to achieve what you want to achieve all on your own. Without a strong team with a shared vision and purpose, you literally get lost and confused in a large international conference like Rio+20 will be. If you are interested in attending Rio+20 with a possible ANU student delegation, stay informed by joining the Facebook Group: ANU Student Delegation to RIO+20.
2012 is a crucial year for our environment. Choose to care, be involved, and take part in this historic opportunity to held re-shape the way we approach sustainable development into the future.