Monday, November 28, 2011

The Road to Rio: The 64th Annual United Nations DPI/NGO Conference

The 64th Annual United Nations DPI/NGO Conference was held in Bonn, Germany September 3-5. This year’s theme was “Sustainable Societies; Responsive Citizens” and revolved around citizen and Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) involvement in creating and maintaining various aspects of sustainable societies for the benefit of mankind and the planet. The Conference served as a major NGO preparatory meeting for the Rio+20 Conference.

The Rio+20 Conference (June 4-6, 2012) is an event that marks the 20th anniversary of the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), in Rio de Janeiro, and the 10th anniversary of the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg.1 Objectives of the Rio+20 Conference are to focus on “a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, and the institutional framework for sustainable development.”2 Rio+20 is of particular importance due to the presence of Heads of State and Government that will ultimately lead to the construction of a formal political document.

The 2011 UN Conference resulted in the valuable construction of the Declaration of the 64th Conference. The Final Declaration was a collaboration between NGOs and the UN that aims to provide pertinent information to the preparatory process of Rio+20.

While the Conference addressed important issues related to environmental sustainability, green manufacturing and commerce, transparent governance, grassroots activism, and limiting personal carbon footprints, there was also a major focus on youth participation in recognition of the United Nations International Year of Youth (August 2010 – August 2011).

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated, “Youth should be given a chance to take an active part in the decision-making of local, national and global levels.”  This is exactly what happened at the Conference. Regarded as “moral stakeholders” of sustainable development, youths were primary contributors at the 64th Annual UN Conference.

In addition to attending and participating in the roundtable discussions, workshops, and interactive dialogues, there were various youth activities such as excursions, youth led breakfast sessions, youth centered workshops, networking opportunities, and even a pub crawl. While the commentary from youth was an integral part of the Conference, their role in influencing the Conference Declaration was even more important. The Youth Sub-Committee, compromised of representatives aged 18-24, collaborated tirelessly throughout the three days to ensure that the Declaration empowered youth and provided a useful platform for youth in the Rio+20 agenda.

There is also a TakingItGlobal European Youth Forum where youth, educators, and NGOs in the UK, Italy, France, Norway, and the Netherlands are meeting to form recommendations for the Rio+20 Conference. The forum began on October 4th in Oslo, Norway and continued through October 21st in London, Paris, Milan, and Amsterdam. Youth participation, media, and contributions at the 64th Annual UN Conference can be found here.

In addition to the Conference and Forum, there are numerous preparatory events occurring each month across the globe leading up to Rio+20. Youths have the opportunity to participate, whether through attending events, volunteering, media participation, or submission of their ideas regardless of their affiliation with the United Nations or NGOs.  More information on getting involved with the Rio+20 Conference can be found here. 

Alexandra Lively attended the 64th Annual United Nations DPI/NGO Conference in Bonn, Germany as a UN Delegate. She is a first-year MA student in European Union Studies and an EU Center FLAS fellow. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Advertising at UIUC, with a double minor in Business and Communications. She graduated with High Honors and as an Edmund J. James Scholar. Her research interests include telecommunications, consumerism and trade within the EU.


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