We get it. The negotiations are “painfully slow”, commitments from most governments are lagging behind (including world leaders’ RSVPs), and many are worried the summit will result in a big nothing. We know. You all want young people to raise up to the challenge, and give a boost of energy and motivation to an otherwise lethargic crowd, getting governments to renew their political commitment, in an increasingly frustrating political process. We understand. When we met with Rio+20 Executive Coordinator Liz Thompson last November, her exhortation was for us to start a Global Spring for our planet, and the EU delegate on the same panel called for young people to “occupy Rio” with their ideas and their actions. It doesn’t get clearer than that.
But how do we make some noise? Where? And for what?
First of all, let’s shame our governments to do more, and ask them to deliver a decisive set of commitments from their attendance of the summit. Our coalition has partnered up with the NRDC and Stakeholder Forum on a platform called Earth Summit Watch to stimulate those kind of conversations, and that kind of public pressure, that would encourage world leaders to walk the talk (and have a more convincing talk, while they're at it).
Then, it’s up to us to communicate the importance and urgency of this historical event to the people outside of our tight, but often insular, community. Based on the awareness-raising success of its Global Day of Action, the Rio+YOU campaign will now be turning into a news platform, with dozens of youth journalists covering the events in Rio. Our coalition partners will be sharing that content, and complementing it with media and communication efforts in the countries where our partners are from (virtually on all continents). We need to establish a direct feedback loop between the events of Rio+20 and the lives of people around the world: what they read in the newspapers when they get up in the morning, what they share on social media, and – why not – what they talk about while shopping (sustainably) at the supermarket! Organizing Rio+YOU or MyCity+20 gatherings in schools, universities, and town halls, during the days of Rio+20 might be the most effective way of ensuring this can truly become a people's summit, and not another acronyms-filled diplomatic fest.
Making noise can make a difference. It can shine the spotlight of the world on the UN summit, and increase pressure on those who will need to take some hard decisions at the conference. It can raise awareness and highlight urgency for doing something concrete after the summit. But most importantly, it’s the least we can do to let governments know we’re not going to be satisfied with their business as usual anymore.
"We cannot let a microscopic examination of text blind us from the big picture," Ban Ki-moon recently said during a UN General Assembly debate on Rio+20. "The current pace of negotiations is sending all the wrong signals." Let’s make some noise, and send out the right ones instead.
Nicolò Wojewoda is the director of Road to Rio+20, a coalition of more than 100 partner organizations weaving together a global youth-led movement to realize the potential of the Earth Summit 2012.