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'You have failed'

Krishneil Narayan
Saturday, June 30, 2012

It is 8:05pm on 22nd June 2012. I am sitting in the Riocentro Convention Center, the place where the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development has been taking place and is now minutes away from concluding.

The 130 heads of state and representatives of the 193 member states of the United Nations have just adopted the 283 paragraph agreement on sustainable development called 'The Future We Want'. The representatives of the various countries, including USA, European Union, Venezuela and the Holy See (the Vatican) are taking the floor to praise their success in coming to this agreement and how they have moved forward in ensuring a sustainable world for all of us.

No matter how much they praise their agreement in their speeches, the truth is far from what they are having us believe.

The outcome of this Rio+20 meeting is really weak; it fails to address the urgency needed to find solutions to important development issues; there is no timeline, no legal commitments; it lacks the ambition needed to save the planet and the poor. This minimal outcome signals a lack of political courage, leadership and commitment from the countries involved.

As I sit here waiting for the UN to declare this meeting officially closed, it is hard to find a happy soul at the end of this summit.

The civil society present here, including the non-governmental organizations (NGO's) and the youth, have come out strongly to reject this agreement, saying "We were promised the 'future we want' but are now being presented with a 'common vision' of a polluter's charter that will cook the planet, empty the oceans and wreck the rain forests.

This is not the future we want."

I am sure you may be wondering what exactly was in this text and why has this major summit turned into another colossal disaster? I will answer these questions at length in the next edition.

Today however, I want to share with you how more than 3000 young people who are present at Rio+20 and millions more outside the conference feel about what transpired here.

I had been given this incredible opportunity to participate at this meeting as a youth representative in the Major Group of Children & Youth - the body through which young people under the age of 30 are able to participate at in the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) and the Rio+20 Earth Summits.

A few minutes ago, before the world leaders & member states adopted the Future We Want Agreement, the youth were supposed to read a short statement on behalf of the civil society to the delegates but they were told that there was no time. This essentially meant that civil society has no voice here at the conference.

Here is the message that they were taking to those leaders.

Closing Statement from the Major Group of Children & Youth at Rio+20

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 1992 and that future, is today.

If these sheets of paper (the Rio+20 Future We Want Agreement) are our common future, then you have sold our fate and subsidised our common destruction. We came here to create change and protect our future. We have been supportive of this process for two years and contributed concretely whenever we were allowed.

Where is 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 called for strong institutions for our planet and our future, but you have agreed on a weak set of considerations and taken no action. We called for a strong set of Sustainable Development Goals, but you have agreed on a parody of the MDGs with no clear process of how the two come together.

In spite of our contributions you have chosen to support the status quo. This contempt has not been passive. You have actively removed reproductive rights, civil society participation and gender from the text, and you only "consider" taking into account the needs of future generations.

You agreed on the lowest common denominator, trying to sell it as a quick compromise but in reality this is a victory for those who block action.

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

We came here to celebrate our generation. 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 cannot gather the courage, display the leadership, and act responsibly to stand up and do what is needed, then it is time for you to step aside, and let us do what you keep failing to accomplish: take action. We do not have the time to wait for your inaction to continue any longer. 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 recognise 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 wilfully 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.

The United Nations General Secretary Mr. Ban Ki-Moon is now declaring the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development officially closed.

As Rio+20 concludes here tonight amongst many people's disappointment, the question is how we can move forward from this.

There is no one answer to this but we leave here with more work to be done back in our respective countries in achieving a truly sustainable future for us.

I still maintain that real action will come from us children and youth as it has been proven time and again by the lack of action from those in power.

nKrishneil Narayan is the Director of Project Survival Pacific - a youth environmental organization that works to safeguard the survival of the Pacific island people from the impacts of climate change and to promote sustainable development within the Pacific.

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