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Youth: the Spirit of Cosmopolitanism
an article by Lachie McKenzie

Video: 20 points from World Youth Congress

Youth leaders from around the world have urged governments to put sustainable development at the centre of their education curriculum. Delegates from 120 countries attended the World Youth Congress in Rio de Janeiro ahead of the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development.


photo by Peace Child International

click on photo to enlarge

After a week of discussion and debate, they presented their twenty point “action plan” to government negotiators. The message to governments was clear: “You can work with us or be dragged along by us.” As a historically marginalised group, youth today are demanding more participation in the political process, especially at the global level, in order to gain access to the debate.

The World Youth Congress urged governments to allow them to bring sustainability to the forefront of policies that affect the environment, the economy, and society.

On economics, youth want tax breaks and state-supplied capital for young people starting business. On a larger scale, they urged for a focus on human happiness as the measure of wealth, rather than “insatiable” consumption.

On energy, they called for a shift to renewable resources using non-renewables to make the transition.

On environment, the focus was on ending pollution of water systems and creating institutions to make states and corporations accountable for their emissions.

The youth action plan puts human security ahead of state security. The value of planet and people over individual nations is evident. Youth at Rio don’t represent their respective countries, they represent a global movement and generations yet to be born.

Nicolò Wojewoda of Peace Child International was one of the organisers. He says that when speaking to young people about their affiliations, “national identity is the one that comes last.”

Many of the policies advanced by youth reveal an opposition to blind faith in free-market approaches to economics. They called for greater governance where the free market fails; such as food security, access to clean water, and freedom from a polluted atmosphere. Buoyed by their shared spirit of cosmopolitanism, youth delegates are advocating solutions to more immediate problems as well, such as on-going conflicts and human rights violations.

“Some governments look down on young people as not having the right expertise and therefore not being able to contribute to the decision making process,” explains Wojewoda. “In contrast to countries like the Netherlands and Germany, which have strong youth participation in politics, some governments view youth as people who are vulnerable and who need to be protected, rather than active agents of change.”

(This article is continued in the discussionboard)

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Sustainable Development Summits of States, What are the results?

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Here is a translation of an  analysis of Rio+20 by Candido Gryzbowski, one of the initiators of the World Social Forums.  For the original Portuguese, click here.

Where are we? Where are we going? How should we imagine our common destiny in intimate relationship with nature? How can we construct conditions of living and happiness for all human beings, without distinction, caring and sharing the planet that houses us? What changes do we need in the ways we organize, produce and consume, in the production of social exclusion and inequity which destroy the very basis of life? These are our questions at the end of the Rio +20 Conference, where once again our leaders have shown a lack of determination to start a major reconstruction of a world in crisis.  We have see much official pomp for nothing, creating even more uncertainty about our collective ability to change directions for the sustainability of life, all life forms, and for the integrity of the Earth. Meanwhile ... the crisis deepens and widens and the collective uncertainty increases. Rio +20 has nourished the destructive capacity of the global crisis, rather than seizing the historic moment and making the changes that are urgently needed.

We say loud and clear that the multifaceted crisis (climate and environmental, financial, food, values...), which engulfs the whole world, also has another component: the crisis of governance. This is revealed on the one hand, in the absence of a structure of global legitimate power more than what we have today. . ...more.


This report was posted on June 26, 2012.