Rio+20: Nine Ways Young People Can Get Involved

By Brendan Schoenman, 2012 Human Impacts Institute Environmental Leadership Intern, and Tara DePorte, Founder and Executive Director, Human Impacts Institute

As United Nations’ Rio+20 conference on sustainable development approaches, youth around the world have the opportunity to speak with a unified and influential voice on the issues that will be discussed in June. The United Nations has set up a campaign to invite public input called The Future We Want. Beyond submitting ideas there, here are ways that young activists can take part before, during and after the conference, courtesy of the Human Impacts Institute.

Before Rio

  • iMatter Earth Day March: On Earth Day, which is Sunday, April 22, iMatter will march for the Future We Want in Washington, DC.  Can’t make it to D.C.? iMatter is welcoming people from all over the world to march for climate awareness. 45 countries and 200 cities were represented last year, and this year the need to mobilize is only becoming more important.
  •  Rio Mas Vos Project (Rio+You): This global youth organization invites the young and young-at-heart to take collective action this Earth Day for Rio+20.  With events all over the world, you can join one or easily create your own march, concert, party, festival, or whatever to bring Rio and sustainability to your community.
  • Win a Date With History: Inspired by Severn Suzuki’s speech at 1992s Summit,  this global competition is using the power of the youth’s voice to inspire today’s leaders in order to ensure that the necessary steps are being taken towards global sustainable development. Until April 30, anyone who is between the ages of 13 and 30 can submit a 2-to-3-minute video describing the “Future I Want.” Videos will be shown in Rio throughout the conference, and one winner will receive a trip to the conference in June and the opportunity to share their vision as a speaker at Rio+20.

Before Rio and Beyond

  • Throw Your Own House Party: Use the Human Impacts Institute’s guide for putting on a Rio+20 house party. The guide has ideas for how to start a conversation on healthy communities and environments with friends, neighbors and colleagues. Your party might include petition-writing, creating videos and PSAs for national campaigns, or simply discussing the state of today’s sustainability movement.
  • Join Mobilize US!: MobilizeUS! is a national coalition founded and coordinated by the Human Impacts Institute to engage Americans in supporting healthy communities, good governance, strong economies, and the environment  through grassroots action, advocacy, and coalition building. The 2012 Rio+20 Earth Summit is an opportunity for us to redefine our relationship to development and the environment. Individuals can join MobilizeUS! by joining the MobilizeUS! discussion group and participating in  MobilizeUS! actions for Rio+20.
  • Road to Rio+20 Coalition: This coalition is aggregating, amplifying, giving visibility and support to the initiatives that various youth and youth-led communities, groups and organizations are taking on issues of sustainable development, with a link to Rio+20. Check out their website for ways to participate.
  • MyCity+20: This initiative invites high school and university students to fully immerse themselves in the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development negotiation process by creating their own simulation of the upcoming conference. Simulations may seem dry to some people, but there are few other ways to truly understand the work that goes into the production of such conferences, as well as the work that it has/does/will take to create binding sustainable policy. You’ll find more information about simulations in cities around the world, including how to participate, at this website. The New York+20 event, for example, takes place April 27.

Before, During and After Rio

  • Major Groups of Children and Youth (MGCY): MGCY works to ensure that the interests of children and youth are taken into account in the planning and decision making processes, and that youth in particular participate meaningfully in the UNCSD-processes. Joining the MGCY allows for youth all over the world the ability to access resources, collaborate with similarly minded young people, and to help develop policy for Rio+20 and other Commission on Sustainable Development meetings.   While the MGCY is a great resource, it’s also a resource for those mostly interested in high-level policy development and networking with youth from around the world. In order to remain accessible for as many young people as possible, they have also created a series of  Rio+20 webinars that are great resources when first exploring the world of global sustainable development, as well as a Part 1 and Part 2 “how to” guide for youth action for sustainable development.
  • Youth in Rio for Rio+20: Youth Blast: From June 7-12, 2012, in Rio de Janeiro, the Major Groups of Children and Youth is hosting the Youth Blast Conference of Youth for Rio +20, the official Rio+20 event of the Major Group for Children and Youth Major Group. With so many youth mobilizing around the world, the MGCY saw the need for a space in which youth, who have been working together from across the planet, can assemble and create a unified youth vision for the future of sustainable development and inclusive policy.

This post was adapted from the Human Impacts Institute Blog with permission.