Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Role of Youth in Advocacy and Governance of Natural Resources in the context of a Green Economy-From Victims to Actors

My last post was about the news that followed after my trip to Bukavu, in the east of theDemocratic Republic of Congo. The main mission of my trip was to participate in an international conference on governance of collective natural resources. I presented a paper entitled, 'The Role of Youth in Advocacy and Governance of Natural Resources in the context of a Green Economy-From Victims to Actors'. In this blog post, i share with you the abstract and introduction of my paper.

In June 1992, world leaders met in Rio de Janeiro at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. Also known as the ‘Earth Summit’ the conference resulted in the Agenda 21, as a comprehensive plan of actions to be taken globally, nationally and locally by organizations of the United Nations System, Governments, and Major Groups in every area in which human impacts on the environment.
Principle 21 of the document states that, ‘The creativity, ideals and courage of the youth of the world should
 be mobilized to forge a global partnership in order to achieve sustainable development and ensure a better
 future for all.’ while Principle 23 states that ‘The environment and natural resources of people under
 oppression, domination and occupation shall be protected.’ (1)
There is a clear connection between youth as actors in environmental governance that ensures natural
 resources in post conflict zones are protected. However, youth have often been victims of 
unsustainable natural resource exploitation in post conflict zones in the Great Lakes region. 
The next United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development or Rio+20[1], proposes the shift
 from brown economies to green economies, as well as a new institutional framework for sustainable
 development. This offers a renewed opportunity for youth to be key actors in advocacy and
 governance of the natural resources, as leaders in their communities, towards a green economy.
Presenting the paper to an attentive audience

Documented advocacy for the good governance of natural resources can be traced back to the origins and beginnings of the environmental movement in the United States of America. One of the most well known personalities associated with this movement is writer, scientist and ecologist, Rachel Louise Carson, and who I was introduced to early in my Environmental Planning and Management study program. Growing up simply in the rural river town of Springdale, Pennsylvania, her mother bequeathed to her a life-long love of nature and the living world that Rachel expressed first as a writer and later as a student of marine biology. At a very youthful age of 25 and 29 years, Rachel earned an MA in Zoology and became the editor-in-chief of all publications for the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Yet it is her book, ‘Silent Spring’, which she published while dying from cancer in 1962, and at the height of industrial and chemical pollution and destruction of nature, that won her international critical acclaim and galvanized the environmental movement, shaping the management of natural resources at various levels.
The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), held in the Swedish capital, Stockholm, in 1972, was one of the key milestones of this movement. Among the key outcomes of this conference was the setting up of the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya.
In 1987, the famous Brundtland[2] Commission report on Sustainable Development was published. The report coined the concept ‘sustainable development’ and defined it as “ …development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” (2) In 1992, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), popularly known as the Earth Summit was held in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro. The Earth Summit is widely remembered for having enshrined the Agenda 21 principles into the global sustainable development agenda. Principle 21 of the document recognized the importance of mobilizing youth globally, recognizing them as actors in a partnership that transcends geographical boundaries, in the pursuit of sustainable development, which includes the management of natural resources. Principle 23, explicitly expressed the need to protect natural resources of populations under oppression, domination and occupation. While post-conflict zones may or may not necessarily be described as being ‘under oppression, domination and occupation’, it is accurate to state that the conditions of living in post-conflict zones generally match those described in Principle 23 of Agenda 21. However, post-conflict zones may also exhibit characteristics of great potential in terms of socio-economic growth and a ‘re-birth’ of society, coupled with a greater sense of ownership and responsibility towards the management of natural resources, as a component that fuels and drives this ‘re-birth’. This paper seeks to examine the role of youth as key actors, especially in advocacy and governance of natural resource management in post-conflict zones, and especially in the context of a green-economy, which is one of the major themes for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20, to be held, again, in Rio de Janeiro, in 2012.
The first part will look at the concept of youth and what defines them. The second part will attempt to dissect the various interpretations of advocacy and governance, looking at how youth have been involved at various levels, and how it has been reflected in the management of natural resources. The third and final part will look at what is being proposed as the green economy and the opportunities it may offer for youth to be more effectively engaged in the management of natural resources in post-conflict zones.

[1] The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) is being organized in pursuance of General Assembly Resolution 64/236 (A/RES/64/236). The Conference will take place in Brazil on 20-22 June 2012 to mark the 20th anniversary of the 1992 United Nations 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. It is envisaged as a Conference at the highest possible level, including Heads of State and Government or other representatives. The Conference will result in a focused political document. The Conference will focus on two themes: (a) a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication; and (b) the institutional framework for sustainable development.
[2] Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland was born in Oslo, Norway, on 20 April 1939. A medical doctor and Master of Public Health (MPH), Gro Harlem Brundtland spent 10 years as a physician and scientist in the Norwegian public health system. For more than 20 years she was in public office, 10 of them as Prime Minister. In the 1980s she chaired the World Commission of Environment and Development (also known as the Brundtland Commission).

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