Mountain Youth’s Appeal to Rio+20 Delegates
We, the participants of the Mountain Pavilion event on Global Youth Forum on Mountain Issues and Sustainable Actions, considering also key messages received from the 6th World Youth Congress, Rio+20 Dialogues, the Major Group on Children and Youth’s (MGCY) Youth Blast Conference, and regional youth vibrations in the Asia-Pacific, Africa, South, Central, and North America, and Europe, hereby appeal to the Rio+20 stakeholders with the following points:
- We recognize that the benefits derived from mountain regions are essential for sustainable development; that mountain ecosystems play a crucial role in providing water and other ecosystem resources to a large portion of the world’s population; that fragile mountain ecosystems are particularly vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change, deforestation and forest degradation, biodiversity loss, land use and land cover change, and natural disasters; and that mountain glaciers around the world are retreating and getting thinner with increasing impacts on the environment and human wellbeing.
- We further recognize that mountains are often home to communities, including indigenous people and poor communities, who have developed sustainable ways of using mountain resources. They are, however, often marginalized and lack access to education and support services. We therefore stress that continued effort will be required to address poverty, food security and nutrition, social exclusion, and environmental degradation in these areas, and invite States to strengthen cooperative action with effective involvement and sharing of experiences of all relevant stakeholders by establishing new or strengthening existing regional arrangements and canters of competence for sustainable mountain development. We call for greater efforts toward the conservation of mountain ecosystems, including their biodiversity, as a foundation for green economy. We encourage States to adopt a long-term vision and holistic approaches, including through incorporating mountain-specific policies into national sustainable development strategies which could include, inter alia, poverty reduction plans and programmes in mountain areas, particularly in developing countries.
In order to effectively tackle these issues and promote sustainable mountain development, youth populations, who are now facing an uncertain future due to lack of employment, gainful education, healthcare, and other infrastructures, need to be fully mainstreamed in the development process. For this, we appeal to the Rio+20 delegates, parties, and concerned agencies to:
- Properly recognize the critical role played by mountain ecosystems and mountain people in sustaining the world’s environment and economies by providing or sustaining water resources, biodiversity, landscapes, cultures, dialects, etc., that are essential for upstream as well as downstream sustainability;
- Justly compensate and reward mountain communities for their good environmental stewardship in managing environmental goods and services;
- Equitably share benefits among different populations, including children, youth, women, and the elderly, by promoting regional, national, and intergenerational partnerships for sustainable development;
- Rationally develop and improve environmental governance systems ensuring maximum inclusion of these groups and, most importantly, mainstreaming youth in the development processes – from planning to implementation and strategic decision making;
- Efficiently develop and run institutional mechanisms offering opportunities for youth to get basic education as well as higher education relevant to applied fields and existing development practices; to develop their professional capacity; to start enterprises and businesses which create green jobs in a responsible manner in fields like ecotourism, waste management, energy generation, etc.; and to be part of social, economic, and environmental processes;
- Timely develop Youth Councils at the global/UN level (e.g., the UN Conference on Sustainable Development Major Group for Children and Youth (UNCSD-MGCY); the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Youth NGO Constituency (UNFCCC-YOUNGO); and UNEP-TUNZA (the children and youth programme of UNEP) as well as regional levels, and to promote a youth knowledge network and parliament at national/regional levels to significantly improve youth engagement in various processes and activities of sustainable development; and
- Develop provisions for a Green Youth Fund to work on mountain issues, and also ensure existing mechanisms have funding windows for mountain youth at UN, regional, and national levels to promote environmental entrepreneurship promoting green economy for sustainable development and poverty eradication.'
Global Youth Forum on Mountain Issues and Sustainable Actions
15 June 2012, 11-13 hours, Mountain Pavilion (Pavilion I), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)
Over 50 youth representing all regions of the globe participated in the Global Youth Forum on Mountain Issues and Sustainable Actions jointly held by ICIMOD, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and the Mountain Partnership at the Mountain Pavilion on 15 June 2012. The Global Youth Forum opened a busy week of mountain related events to be held at the Mountain Pavilion, a global initiative led by the government of Peru involving mountain countries from around the world.
A video showing why mountains matter kicked off a series of presentations on the importance of involving and mainstreaming the youth in the negotiation process on the future we want.
Tek Jung Mahat (ICIMOD), Coordinator of the Asia Pacific Youth Task Force on Rio+20, introduced the initiative starting back in 2009 – affirming that over the years, it grew to host some of the largest youth meetings on climate change and youth actions in the Asia Pacific. The Forum would be a space to listen to the views of youth engaged in movements representing Africa, South America, North and Central America and the Middle East, too. At the end of the meeting, a Mountain Youth’s Appeal to Rio+20 would be handed over to negotiators involved in the upcoming negotiating round.
Ivana Savic from UNCSD – one of the organizers of the Major group on children and youth – presented her work in advancing youth participation in sustainable development issues. “Young people need to be involved as they care about the environment,” she said. Ivana went on to say that “20 years from now, young people will ensure that changes are made.” However, ensuring their participation requires energy, time, knowledge and resources. “Investment is needed” Ivana concluded, “so they can have an active role in sustainable development”.
Youth will face the consequences of the decisions taken by decision-makers today and Sameera Zaib from Pakistan stressed the importance of capacity building at the local, national and regional level. “Governments need to involve the youth and include them in policy negotiations”, Sameera remarked. As mountain youths face similar challenges, they need to work together to find solutions.
Speaking for North and Central America, Nora Mahmoud reported on her experience living in Costa Rica, a country known for its large biodiversity and mountainous regions. With such rich biodiversity and high tourism levels, “Costa Rica provides a unique example to prompt the youth to speak up as global citizens – they need to embrace the opportunity to have a voice in the Rio+20 process.” Nora stressed the importance of face-to-face workshops to help youth work towards community building and building awareness.
Juan Carlos Soriano presented his reflections as a South American youth who grew up in Lima listening to his parents’ stories on the beauty of the Peruvian highlands. Beautiful scenery, trees, orchards and different fruits would often populate his grandmother’s stories. But when the time finally came for Juan Carlos to take a walk with his dad, they found that where there was snow, there were rocks and the land was barren. “In 25 years, the landscape had changed. I did not immediately make the connection,” candidly recognized Juan Carlos. “It wasn’t until later, when I studied several issues around climate change, that I saw the light.” He added that when we talk about water security, that means making sure that “our farmers are able to produce enough food to not only feed their families but also make a living.” As UNCSD Major Group on Children and Youth delegate, Juan Carlos worked on a campaign to try to get governments to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies. One trillion dollars is going to oil companies that extract natural gas, putting CO2 in the atmosphere and causing a lot of the problems that we have to deal with. “If they diverted this sum to sustainable development,” he went on to add, “just think of how much could be done!”
It was noted that that kind of phenomenon is at the root of one of the problems currently being discussed in Rio. Not all places are like Rio de Janeiro, where the mountains are close to the sea and a large city, so that many diverse perspectives are possible. Many participants noted that youth engagement in these Rio+20 negotiations would be quite crucial. As mountains are not just an issue of mountaineers, the youth movement realized they would have to have one person from the Asia Pacific region in the major groups as well, for the mountain agenda to be addressed. As Kabita Gautam from Nepal added, “It was felt that there should be more and more space for media people so that the messages would resonate at the local level.”
The youngest youth participating in the event was TUNZA Ambassador Basu Kehkashan from Dubai, who had just been awarded a prize for their work on land degradation by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertifation UNCCD. “Yesterday I attended a debate in a favela, “she said, “and it was extremely inspiring to see how much children of the slums were interested in sustainable development.” Basu spoke to them about how they could make a difference. “Spreading awareness on children and youth is key for the future we want,” Basu added, saying that “this way their children will not have the same problems we are facing now.”
Jaya Jung Mahat – UN Youth Mobilizer for the UNDP sustainable development dialogues – had been collecting voices from mountain youth, especially from South Asia and Asia and the Pacific. As a result, he reported that “ten different thematic topics were formulated, such as SD for poverty reduction, energy, water, forests, oceans, etc.”. The main objective of the UNDP SD dialogues was to make the process as inclusive as possible and incorporate the issues on mountains and youth from the South Asia and Asia and the Pacific region.
“There is a strong link between mountains and agriculture in Africa”, said Jean Paul Brice Affana, working with the African Youth Initiative on Climate Change (AYICC). Jean Paul explained how mountains in Africa are resources for farmers; they are breadbaskets. Several efforts were made such as raising awareness on why mountains matter at COP 16, two years ago. “If the ice caps on top of the Kilimanjaro melted completely,” Jean Paul explained, “the farmers who live there and their fields would have no water in the dry season.” As most of the women practice agriculture, they had been involved in the work of AYICC. Without selling their products, they could not send their children to school. That explains the social dimension of sustainable development, on which there is a growing need to generate awareness.
Shreejana from Nepal, reminded participants that mountains are a global issue: “It’s not just about the highlands” she said, “but also the lowlands. Let’s join our hands together and work for the mountains.”
A draft “Mountain Youth’s Appeal to Rio+20 delegates” was then projected on the screen and shared with participants in the Youth Forum for their views and suggestions. Based on key messages resulting from the major youth workshops and meetings held in the past years, among its main deliverables were: recognition of the importance of mountain goods and services; compensation and reward mountain communities for their stewardship in managing mountain goods and services; equitably share benefits; ensure maximum involvement of groups such as youth, children, women and elderly population; develop and run mechanisms offering education opportunities to youth; develop Youth Council at Global/UN as well as regional levels, promote youth knowledge network and parliament to significantly improve youth engagement; develop provision of Green Youth Fund at UN, regional and national level to promote environmental entrepreneurship promoting green economy for SD and poverty eradication.
Suggestions included asking for incentives for green jobs, youth-led entrepreneurial activities, especially as related to eco-tourism and organic agriculture; engaging youth in mountain conservation training and jobs; use specific key words that would attract the negotiators’ attention prompting them to act.
In his concluding remarks, Mountain Partnership Secretariat Coordinator Olman Serrano thanked the youth for their overview and engagement. “Unlike my generation,” he observed, “you have powerful communication tools such as social media – not only to get your message across but also to share it with a larger, global youth community.” Youth are the future, Mr Serrano concluded, “hence your involvement is key for the future we want.”
Daniel Maselli from the Swiss Agency of Development and Cooperation (SDC) acknowledge the youth’s efforts and said it was important to invest in youth as “youth are our asset”. Mr Maselli went on to encourage them: “Keep your sharp thinking. Do not let yourselves be blurred. Do not abandon your direction. Only thus will you achieve the future you want.”
Finally, ICIMOD Deputy Director General Madhav Karki noted how economic development has moved from North to South, so the youth form the South have much to contribute. “Youth have lots of hope in the future we all want,” Mr Karki stressed. “There are challenges, however. In 1992, global leaders committed to sustainable development. But when they returned home, they did not practice what they had preached. Now, 20 years on, the world has become much more unsustainable. We have biodiversity loss and increasing natural disasters. Youth as future leaders need to take the opportunities and take on the responsibilities.”