This guest blog was written by
This guest blog was written by
al.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/youthblast.png” alt=”" width=”548″ height=”377″ />Five young women, seated on the floor, leaned closer to hear. Though we had come to Rio+20 from different continents, our understanding and empathy grew as we realized how similar our issues are. A Moroccan woman spoke of a cooperative founded by village women that distributed unique oil and ensured that the profits remained in the community. The South African woman immediately piped up, sharing a situation in Mozambique that could benefit from a similar design. Business cards were exchanged, and I realized the same communication has been replicated thousands of times during these two days of Youth Blast.
I am one of 500 youth from around the world here at the Youth Blast, opening up Rio+20. I am 17, and am the youngest member of SustainUS, a U.S. youth delegation. However, here, age does not seem to change anything. All ideas are heard and valued, and workshops are lead by youth of all ages. These workshops showcase the incredible things that youth are doing and the impact that we are having. The flurrying exchange of ideas in this conference center is palpable; everywhere one looks, people are excited and sharing their thoughts. Every single person, from the most experienced policy experts to the least has something to share and something to learn. Having a conversation and creating friendships and partnerships is of the utmost importance. Making connections between young people doing powerful things unites youth worldwide over the same relevant issues, and it is this that will make the youth voice strong and heard.
One of my favorite parts of the Youth Blast has been being able to connect some dots. The entire idea of sustainable development is that it uses an interdisciplinary approach to examine many problems together. My history and experience has covered everything from energy conservation to epidemiology to environmental classism, and the workshops so far have really helped me understand the connections between the issues. I began my work in sustainability because of an interest in community health. I caught the public health bug and the chicken pox on the same day, and collected data to track the varicella outbreak in my school. I was able to see exactly how the disease traveled and could see a correlation between many of the cases and one month’s worth of vaccines in the same place, suggesting a faulty batch of vaccines. Health is the most important issue in any society, but with no medical training, it was hard to get involved. I therefore channeled my energy into environmental issues. When one breaks down modern environmentalism, we are simply trying to maintain an environment in which humans can be healthy and prosper.
The International Federation of Medical Students’ Association (http://ifmsa.wordpress.com/category/rio20/) held a workshop Sunday afternoon on the relationship between sustainable development and health. It was a novel concept for me that my work in environmentalism could be directly related to my interest in public health, and the presenters helped me understand that health is really at the crux of the sustainable development issue. Sustainable development can be explained through a triple Venn diagram: the intersections between the environment, the economy, and society. If each of the three sections is cooperating properly, a community is healthy in every regard. Health is essentially the center of the Venn diagram, and should be the goal of every aspect of community. If health is considered in all decisions made, a community will be closer to embracing the principles of sustainable development.
I have been so grateful for the opportunity to develop my passion for environmentalism and health, and so excited to hear and learn about the unique passions of other youth attending the Youth Blast. In the true spirit of sustainable development, we are learning that it will take all of us and our diverse interests to help our countries begin to make change at Rio+20.
Hannah Freedman is a Rio+20 delegate with SustainUS, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization of young people advancing sustainable development and youth empowerment in the United States. Through proactive education and advocacy at the policy-making and grassroots levels, SustainUS is building a future in which all people recognize the inherent equality and interdependence of social, economic, and environmental sustainability. Learn more at www.sustainus.org.
This entry reflects the author’s personal judgments and does not represent the views of the United States Government or the Department of State.
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During the last days of the Youth Blast, we discussed an array of topics ranging from policy strategies for Rio+20 and post-Rio activities. The youth who attended the event sought the opportunity to answer an important question: What will be the future of the youth movement if Rio+20 fails? Only 37 percent of the text has been agreed on so far and young people are starting to worry about the fact that failure might be a reality.
First, what we would do if Rio+20 fails? Despite the negative pessimist nature of the question, Rio+20 will be a success in many ways. We will still be young people the morning after the summit; we will still care about the same issues that drove us to Rio de Janeiro; and if Rio+20 fails, we should use the opportunity to recharge our passions and to understand that the real change lies within civil society.
There is a shared sentiment that the main legacy and outcome of Rio+20 will not be a robust and binding document. The legacy of Rio+20 will be a strong platform for exchanging ideas and the creation of new partnerships that will define the future of Sustainable Development. Many of these partnerships will be developed through newfound alliances between international youth leaders.
Not everybody was as calm when discussing the outcomes of Rio+20. During the closing ceremony of the Youth Blast, Mr Sha Zukang,
the Secretary General of Rio+20, expressed his concerns about the lack of progress in the negotiations. His “call to war” included an invitation to lock down the negotiators in a room until they agree on an outcome document during the last day of the conference. Although I do not agree with his statements, I do understand the frustrations of the Secretary General. However, we as youth also have another responsibility in promoting change beyond the negotiation halls of Riocentro.
Sustainable development should not be dependent of binding treaties or trade agreements. We should all strive to live in a world where we can be safe and healthy in a world where the air we breathe is clean and where the water that we drink is safe.
As civil society, we have come up with innovative ways to promote sustainable development. From using social media to spread knowledge, to the creation of small-scale renewable energy schemes, everyday members of civil society are winning the battle for sustainable development.
We should not need a treaty that reminds/tells/dictates that a change is need in our lives. During the hallway conversations with some delegates, we concurred that one of the main achievements of Rio+20 was the discussion of important issues such as upgrading the UN Environmental Programme, Sustainable Development Goals, and the Ombudsperson for Future Generations. The fact that these kind of innovative proposals are being discussed by Member States is an achievement for the environmental community.
I began writing this post with the intention of giving an overview of the past two days. However, I believe it is important for everyone that is following the event to take a step back and remember the reasons that brought us to Rio+20: an undying will to promote solutions for improving processes and tools in order to forge a better world.
This blog post was written by Olimar Maisonet-Guzman of SustainUS, a youth organization for sustainable development. This entry reflects the author’s personal judgments and does not represent the views of the United States Government or the Department of State.
“” width=”536″ height=”402″ />On June 20-22, the RIO+20 Conference will take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This year’s theme is Green Economy and Institutional Frameworks for Sustainable Development (Governance). RIO+20 is the informal name for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. This year is the 20th anniversary of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, and the 10th anniversary of the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa.
So what is supposed to happen at RIO+20? The official website states that “At the Rio+20 Conference, world leaders, along with thousands of participants from governments, the private sector, NGOs and other groups, will come together to shape how we can reduce poverty…and ensure environmental protection on an ever more crowded planet to get to the future we want.”
One very exciting part of the RIO+20 experience is the Conference of Youth for RIO+20 (also called the YOUTH BLAST) that started June 7 and goes until June 12. June 7-8 was for Brazilian youth only, and June 10-12 is for international youth. The goal of the international section of Youth Blast is “strategizing young people’s engagement with the remaining segments of the preparatory process and the conference itself. It will have capacity building workshops, introductions to policy and consultations on existing lobby points…This is an event organized, run and
held by young people for young people.”
For the next couple of weeks, we will have lots of exciting content for you live from youth at RIO+20! They will blog about what it is like to be there, what is happening during the discussions, how other youth are reacting, and lots of other fun and interesting things. We will also be live streaming some incredible talks with environmental and sustainability experts; you can log in to watch or listen to the session and even write in your questions to ask the experts. If you would like to know something in particular or have a question for any of our youth writers, please let us know in the comments section!