Rio+20 was hailed as the long-overdue opportunity to restore intergenerational justice globally; it was meant to commit current generations to finally live within planetary boundaries. Its outcome has been called the greatest failure of collective leadership since the First World War. But what about youth? For future generations and young people specifically,the outcomeis nothing but a slap in the face.
The 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, widely known as Rio+20 in reminiscence of the 1992 Earth Summit, was hailed as the long-overdue opportunity to restore intergenerational justice globally. It was meant to commit current generations to finally live within planetary boundaries and to re-think how we use, waste, destroy and rebuild these planetary resources across generations.
To call the outcome a disappointment would be the understatement of the decade - George Monbiot went as far to call the back-paddling 53-page outcome document with 283 fluffy paragraphs “the greatest failure of collective leadership since the first world war” in his weekly column for the Guardian with the poignant title
“After Rio, we know. Governments have given up on the planet.”
For future generations and young people specifically, the outcome is nothing but a slap in the face. This is not the first United Nations conference announced to be an earth-shattering moment specifically for young people - just think back a few weeks to the Youth Blast which failed to ignite and turned out to be more of a youth breeze, or a few months to the Youth21 meeting in Nairobi, which turned out to be little else but various agencies jockeying for influence over the appointment of the Special Advisor for Youth.
None of this can conceal, or cushion, the pathetic confession of the final text of Rio+20—grandiloquently and impudently called “The Future We Want”—illustrating an embarrassingly non-committal lowest common denominator.
Would you disagree with the NGO Major Group completely rejecting the text? Because they did.
Would you condemn the youth activists abandoning the conference chanting “the future we want is not found here?” Because they did.
Would you argue with the Major Group for Children and Youth when they say “if these sheets of paper are our common future, then you have sold our fate and subsidised our common destruction?” Because they did.
Read through the paragraphs mentioning youth below, and you will likely realise:
You wouldn’t. You couldn’t. The UN has failed youth, again.
Youth is mentioned 15 times on the fluffy 53 pages of the outcome document of Rio+20:
Hardly the future we want.