My View

Global Youth Movement for Rio +20 and the Mountain Agenda

Next year, the world community will be convening once more in Rio de Janeiro. It is 20 years since Agenda 21 and time to discuss the environmental issues and processes affecting the earth and to develop clear roadmaps for the decades ahead. Popularised as ‘Rio+20’, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) will critically assess progress made over the last two decades. The objective of the conference is to secure renewed political commitment for sustainable development, assess progress to date, and identify gaps in the implementation of the outcomes of the major summits on sustainable development. The conference will address new and emerging challenges, focussing on the green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, and the institutional framework for sustainable development. These are being promoted as strategies and mechanisms for marrying ecology and the economy, resulting in social benefits that are equitably shared. However, these ideas, especially the ‘green economy’ lack clarity and specificity from the perspective of developing, least developed and mountain countries. The general view is that it is vital to discuss outcomes in terms of poverty reduction. Currently, the UNCSD preparatory committee is collecting input from stakeholders, including the major groups that will form the basis for discussion at the Rio+20 Conference. Nine working groups (as defined by UNCSD) in different countries are providing input through consultation. These groups are: ‘business and industry', ‘indigenous peoples’, ‘scientific and technical community’, ‘children and youth’, ‘local authorities’, ‘women’, ‘farmers’, ‘NGOs’ and ‘workers & trade unions’. However, there is too much duplication between what these different groups are doing as well as obscurity in the documents they have prepared. Most of the documents prepared by ‘youth’ do lack a specific youth focus. Furthermore, we have to make sure our efforts go to the right place to get included in the Rio+20 outcome document.

The Asia Pacific Youth Forum on Climate Actions and Mountain Issues, held a meeting at ICIMOD in August where they developed the ‘Asia Pacific Youth’s Position Paper on Rio+20’ and a ‘Declaration on Climate Change and Sustainable Development’, both considering the situations in mountainous regions and LDCs. Some of these recommendations are given below.
  • Capacity building events are needed, that are rich in concepts, as well as the facts and figures related to Rio+20 focus areas. Youths need to advocate with solid facts and figures in hand and a logical argument: “Why we are important in this process?” 
  • A list of ‘youth expectations from Rio+20’, and the ‘expected role of youth in Rio+20 process’, should be made, and passed to the respective government focal points and UNCSD Secretariat/ UNEP/ UNDESA/ UNGA respectively.
  • There should be a call for national meetings of government representatives and development communities to debate the role and realistic expectations of youth as a result of Rio+20; they should be asked how youth engagement can be improved.
  • Virtual groups and subgroups would be useful to enhance understanding, communication and collaboration among the youth and promoting institutions. 
  • Youth should demand a shift from ‘assistant’ to ‘managerial’ role in the process as we have the comparative advantage of knowing the latest technologies and emerging issues and have the calibre to manage changed situations. International mechanisms like UNEP should be asked to start Green Youth Leadership programmes.
  • The provision of a ‘Green Youth Fund’ at the national level will enable many youth to start green businesses/ engage in entrepreneurship and to contribute to the green economy.
  • This is a good time to demand a separate youth division as part of the proposed World Environmental Organisation.
- Tek Jung Mahat <>