The 6th World Youth Congress just ended last Wednesday, June 13th in the framework of the preparatory talks for the UN’s Rio+20 summit on Sustainable Development, where world government leaders will meet soon to debate about political and economic instruments towards a “green economy” twenty years after their first meeting in 1992. In this context, Peace Child International, main organizer of the event, brought 300 young leaders from all over the world to a beautiful camping site in the natural rainforest area in Vargem Grande to discuss “What is the most effective role that youth can play in development?”
My time in the WYC was enjoyable, I met some great nice people from all over the world and I would like to make some comments on this experience and a couple of thoughts of things that called my attention.
The WYC is definitely the type of event that is not by any means an uptight academia-based congress that many of us are used to assist. The WYC brings youth leaders from all over the planet (300 out of 4000 applicants in this series) with different backgrounds and puts them in charge -in a very participatory scheme- of the whole operational process in a very laid-back pace and environment.
Based on youth-led activities such as workshops and debates/roundtables as well as plenary sessions where distinguished and some of them inspiring speakers were invited to talk about sustainability-related issues and projects were the core of the WYC. With much experience and not so much in some cases, workshops (led by participants) created a space for conversation, peer to peer training and for the battle of ideas. These spaces were there for participants to take advantage of them.
MORE OF THE SAME?
Moreover, the objective of the WYC was centered in finding what is the most effective role that youth can play in development? and based on that, the participants elaborated as an outcome a group of 20 solutions they agreed should be the framework for the Rio+20 talks, said in other way, the future we -the youth- want. However, I was very surprised (and worried at some point) to read the document, as I attended the long discussions of each and every point of the solutions already worked on days before my involvement. Most of it seemed just as another abstract UN document on sustainable matters. As you can read here none of these solutions include the powerful and modern principles and concepts of property rights, freedom of choice, free markets and liberty. On the other hand, they all require the government as the main actor to drive the world to the “sustainable development” stage.
Two comments here: First, hasn´t the government demonstrated that it has been inefficient for so long so that youth are supposed to take leadership and show political peers what works so that then they –political leaders- will follow? This believe that the government can do it all certainly demonstrates either ignorance or over trust in an institution that is relatively less efficient than other bodies. From another point of view it could also mean a positive perspective of what the government should be for aspiring young people.
In this sense, I believe the youth should bring real change by adopting or betting for unexplored policy territories instead of insisting in the out of fashion dependence on the government. These ideas have good intentions definitely but if we look back they are just more of the same socialist/green movements have been asking since the 80’s. Let’s take that energy and knowledge to make a real change supporting our bases with intergenerational partnerships!
I have to admit that I did hear very scientific and concrete-based ideas to be implemented towards the transition for a more efficient and green economy but hopefully we all get to understand that economy does provide well-being as a main end, but as their means look for profit, people benefit with more cost-effective options brought by competition, with jobs, salaries, therefore a higher quality of life. Once we understand that, we will be able to recognize that economy is driven by profit (end) and its (means) provide well-being to everyone around it.
The WYC’s objective was clearly to create consciousness of one point of view on the topic of sustainable development to achieve greater inspiration, advocacy an action rather than to think of economic instruments to create incentives, discuss about the concepts of efficiency, until what point subsidies are cost efficient or why should water be a human right or else; probably on that end –the inspirational one-, the objective was achieved.
POTENTIAL TO BE EXPLOITED
Points aside, the congress proved that there’s lot for young people doing great things in their fields back home, I feel really inspired with so many energetic and people full of ideas, from scientists identifying new ways to introduce encapsulated fish oil for nutrition matters in Cameroon to analytic enthusiastic young politicians in Uruguay. I would have to add that considering the many young minds on the process of being molded, the presence of mentors with different points of view on the topics could have been more constructive to build our own idea of the real issues instead of just following the same current of thought.
Peace Child has definitely achieved a major goal by making the great effort to connect hundreds of young leaders, creating valuable networks and strengthening knowledge chains. The institution has also given the opportunity to give accreditation to WYC delegates as part of the Rio+20 Major Groups delegates in order to participate in the talks, conferences and negotiations at the high level summit. That aim to integrate young people in the Rio+20 talks not only gives participants the opportunity to evidence policy making events on the make but also to introduce fresh ideas to what seems to be the start of a new tendency in the world serious concerns about a cleaner and more efficient economy.
Once thing that stays in mind is, as the congress urged its delegates to disconnect from the internet and modern conviniences and connect with the nature in the middle of a fabulous rainforest, is if that objective was really achieved. Were participants comfortable with it? Some second thoughts must come for the next congress to see if it’s really feasible to get the youth disconnected from their tech-led lifestyle.
See you in Qatar 2014.