Rio +20

Post-Rio+20 Youth Actions and Perspectives

Notwithstanding the short period of time which has passed since the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, actions have been taken by and for youth as a result of Rio+20. These six months were time for calming down for those emotionally excited, then analyzing, rethinking the process and the outcomes of the conference. Some of these processes concerning youth and sustainable development are addressed by the present article.

In the pursuit of any fungible, tangible, qualitative, discursive results and actions after the Rio+20 this article will explore three sources of information: blogs and video reports and commentaries of the participants and media – for information concerning the more immediate reactions and feelings of those who took part in the conference; websites of major youth representing organizations to understand which are their new strategies with regard to Rio+20, and of course the UN sustainable development knowledge platform and the outcome document of Rio+ 20 “The Future We Want” – to find out the main directions of action and vision of better future for the youth provided by these official documents.

Either due to the fact that the expectations of the youth organizations leaders were disproportionately high, or because of objective reasons, most of the recalls and comments on Rio+20 were negative. “Crushingly disappointing, yet filled with hope” – that is how one of the participants of the conference, Hilary Miller, representative of Canada World Youth, described it.

As Kiara Worth, the organizing partner of Major Group for Children and Youth, pointed out, one of their main objectives for the youth side events of Rio+20 was to recreate the sense of highly inspirational UN Conference of 1992, yet this objective failed to be realized. Obviously, the 1992 conference was retrospectively recreated in minds of many as something more than it actually was and was, thus, thought of as an exemplary event to unite actors from all over the world and produce action.

For many 2012 UN Summit was as Vandana Shiva coined it “Rio minus twenty”: Rio’s focus on the green economy interpreted sustainability to mean sustained growth, which is the opposite of sustainability; major participants of RIO+20 (mainly governments representatives) are reconfirming the goals and strategies set 20 years ago, so little or no practical action has been taken after 1992 ; even though the youth represents 30% of the population on the Earth and it the leaders of the Major Group for Children and Youth have not been given a permission to speak up even for two minutes, although the majority of speeches took far too much time, the final document is not at all satisfactory outcome of the conference  (“Paper counts for naught, as youth activists at the Rio+20 Conference demonstrated by ripping up the final Rio+20 text in an act of disappointment and defiance.”   ; “We were promised leaps and bounds but this agreement barely moves us forward by inches,” shouted Cam Fenton, a Canadian in the Major Group of Children and Youth, as protesters ripped up a giant mock text that they called “The Future We Bought”)

So the youth leaders as well as many adherents of sustainable development left the conference deeply disappointed, in comparison to the feelings of inspiration and motivation left by Rio in 1992 – at least as far as most of them remember or feel it –  the emotions aroused by this event were far more prosaic.

The official sites of youth organizations, among which are AEGEE, Road to Rio+20, UNFPA, Major Group for Children & Youth (UN CSD ), Global Shapers – World Economic Forum, Green Young Economy, show the zeal of organizations to further cope with the problems faced by youth and work on the postulates set by “The Future We Want” : “Considering the document’s weakness, this only means we must start working with implementation directly and with even greater vigour.”

While Asia Pacific Youth Forum works on further disseminating the knowledge, perspectives and visions of Rio+20 in its multiple forums organized in Bhutan, Bangladesh and India in December 2012, Major Group for Children and Youth tries to formulate the main directions of its further work and calls for the youth to contribute by organizing a survey on its website, Green Young Economy, whose efforts are underpinned by the help of all the youth participants of Rio+20, are now developing the Global Online Dialogue to bring together new ideas on how the world can be changed by and for the youth. The date of the start of the Dialogue is yet to be announced, but the plan of actions is already developed.

The conversation will start with identifying the top priorities which should be addressed by global youth movement for sustainable development. Successively, after the forms of cooperation are discussed, separate sessions will focus on different areas and issues. The facilitation team will identify the categories of ideas that emerge out of the online dialogue. Successively, the conversations will develop on the emerging categories identified. As for now, three basic dimensions of conversations are envisaged:

– making the green economy happen through youth-led entrepreneurial efforts;

– developing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and integrating youth in the post-MDGs agenda;

– focusing on education (formal, informal, non-formal) and peer-to-peer communication.

Those basically stand in line with the provisions concerning youth of the main document produced at Rio+20  “The Future We Want”.


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