Rio+20 Youth Voice: Action for the Future

UN Major Group for Children and YouthKiara Worth of South Africa, representing the UN Major Group for Children and Youth, gave this collaboratively-written speech expressing the feelings and aspirations of youth at the end of the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development. Undeterred by the weak governmental agreement coming out of the meeting, the speech emphasizes the need for intergenerational cooperation, vision, and action going forward.

After a standing ovation, the other Major Groups decided unanimously that the speech should be used word-for-word as the official closing statement made by civil society at the conference. Yet this speech, too, was officially silenced and Kiara had to settle for recording this version of the speech.  The full text is below.

Civil society closing statement, Rio+ 20
Addressed to governments.

I want you to imagine a generation that has been damned, imagine children deprived of a world without war, imagine a community where human beings are slaves to fellow beings and where disease and hunger are the order of the day. That is the future we warned you of in ’92 and that future, is today.

If these sheets of paper are our common future, then you have sold our fate and subsidized our common destruction. Where was our voice, the voice of our children and grandchildren in this? How can you listen to them in the future if you did not show the will to create the space now?

We have one planet. Our being, our thinking, and our action should not be constrained by national boundaries but by planetary ones. You failed to liberate yourself from national and corporate self-interest and recognize our need to respect a greater more transcendental set of boundaries.

We came here to celebrate our generation. We have danced, and dreamed, and loved on the streets of Rio and found something to believe in. You have chosen not to celebrate with us.

You were supposed to show leadership. It was not just your job to seek consensus. It was your responsibility to commit, show ambition and to lead. You have failed.

You have worked hard to close a deal. So, if any of you think this document is the ambitious, action-oriented outcome you said you wanted, please stand up.

If you are unable to stand up, then you must be unwilling to move forward. So we will move forward for you.

We know this:

We need intergenerational cooperation.
We need innovation and creativity.
We need to embrace the values of sustainability, equity, justice and respect for human rights.
We need to recognize that material resources are finite, but human potential is not.

And so,

We will create strong global institutions
We will create new paradigms of wealth and prosperity.
We will act as the voice for future generations, one that you so willfully ignored.
We will stand united beyond borders and bridge the national interests that divide us.
We will implement what you have not.

We are moving forward decisively with action. We are not deterred.

View the official Rio+20 outcome document.

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