Historic Youth Agenda Advanced at Rio +20

By | 4 July 2012

Nairobi – While the city of Rio was in high gear hosting the Rio+ 20 summit, on 18 June, the Government of Brazil in cooperation with the Governments of Norway and Sri Lanka held a High Level panel meeting, to discuss the setting up of a United Nations Permanent Forum on Youth Issues to enhance youth engagement in the United Nations system.The High Level meeting was moderated by Joao Scarpelini, former UN-Habitat Youth Advisory Board member and coordinator of the Unition Nations Conference on Sustainable Development Major Group for Children and Youth. The opening speaker was Mr. Gilberto Carvalho, Minister of the Presidency of Brazil, Government of Brazil. Also in attendance were Mr. Heikki Holmås, Minister for International Development in Norway, H.E. Duminda Dissanayake, Deputy Minister of Youth Affairs and Skills Development in Sri Lanka and Ms. Aisa Kirabo Kacyira the Deputy Executive Director of UN-Habitat. In his remarks, H.E. Dissanayake expressed his commitment to the idea of establishing a Permanent Forum for youth in the United Nations. Mr. Holmås left a great inspirational impression among the audience and spoke about his time as a youth activist. Mr. Holmås concluded his speech by encouraging young people to demand the impossible, because then it would be possible. Click here for the Full speech.

Ms. Aisa Kirabo Kacyira in her remarks thanked the governments for carrying forward the Youth agenda in the United Nations. “We need to ensure that the youth population is represented in decision-making at all levels. We at UN-Habitat believe that the setting up of a mechanism, such as a Permanent Forum, is critical to the engagement of youth globally.” Stated Ms. Kacyira.

Others in the panel included Ms Cilia Holmes Indahl, a representative of the Norwegian Children and Youth (LNU) Council, Mr. Alejo Ramirez, General Secretary, Ibero-American Youth Organization (IYO), Mr. Ricardo Araujo, Director, Portuguese Institute of Sport and Youth, Government of Portugal, Mr. Oswaldo Petesburgo, President of the Youth Council of Mozambique, Mr. Luis Felipe San Martín Porter, National Director, National Youth Institute, Minister of Social Development, Government of Chile.

The panel presentations were made by youth representatives as well as Ministers and representatives from the United Nations. The session also focused on discussing the youth challenges in the global community and the role youth play in society. Ms. Severn Suzuki opened the panel. Suzuki is a young activist who spoke at the first “Earth Summit” held in Rio in 1992 and who is the focus of the youtube video The Girl Who Silenced the World for 5 minutes which has received over 22 million hits,

“The Permanent Forum on Youth has the potential of being one of the main legacies of Rio +20,” stated Severn Suzuki, “Everybody is looking to what is going to come out of this Summit; what can we point to as real action that happened. Establishing a Permanent Forum on Youth, there we have it; it gives a platform for this most important voice for the future. I think it is fantastic.”

Mr. Ravi Karkara from UN-Habitat made a presentation on how a forum for the Youth in the United Nations would function and how it can be set up. Other participants included representatives from the Major Group for Children and Youth, UN-Habitat and UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs and youth delegates from Sri Lanka and Norway.

The meeting ended with an outcome document “Towards establishing a Permanent Forum for Youth” read by H.E. Severine Macedo, National Secretary for Youth Affairs of Brazil and the Incoming Chair Special Meeting on Youth, MERCOSUR . The Outcome document was supported by the Governments of Brazil, Norway and Sri Lanka as well as endorsed by the governments present on the panel.

 A Higher Level Panel

The High Level Panel on Youth represented but one of the many ways in which youth engaged in the Rio +20 process. Another example of youth’s engagement was the Accelerating Progress on the MDGs through Youth Innovations Panel held on 21 June 2012. Here the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon convened a panel of youth activists and eminent speakers such as Jeffrey Sachs, UN Secretary-General’s Special Advisor on the MDGs; Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Founder of the Grameen Bank; Ted Turner, Chairman of the United Nations Foundation and Marina Silva, Environmentalist and Politician.

At the event, was Mr. Edinilson Ferreira dos Santos, representing the Young Urban Environmental Leader’s project funded by the UN-Habitat Urban Youth Fund. “This project has engaged young people in the community social life, motivating them to participate in discussions of public policy. Youth are now aware that they should take care of their spaces, using it in a sustainable way. We know our role and that we should not wait to see major changes in our community. We must engage ourselves to transform our reality for the better.” stated dos Santos, The focus of the project undertaken by the youth has been to rehabilitate an abandoned area and build a public square in the Santo Andreas community just outside of Sao Paulo, using materials such as construction debris, tyres and wood that had been dumped in the community landfill to develop gardens, benches, tables and toys and improve the area using paintings depicting the lives of the residents. The end goal demonstrated practical actions in the community that contributed directly to the Millennium Development Goals: quality of life and respect for the environment, and global partnership for development.

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