June 2012: Child ambassador sets table for Rio+20
By Luyando Katenda, Climate Ambassador
I was recently privileged to attend the Stockholm +40 Forum on Sustainable Development in Sweden. I was the youngest speaker at the forum and the only child delegate. Zambia was officially represented by the Minister of Finance and National Planning, Honourable Alexander Chikwanda, MP. The forum was attended by 700 delegates from 72 countries.
The Stockholm +40 Forum got its name as a result of the 40 years that have passed since the city of Stockholm hosted an environmental summit in 1972. Remarkable changes have occurred as a result of the summit which has over the years been referred to as the Earth Summit.
The world later this month converge in Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro for the Rio+20 summit to again discuss sustainable development. Zambia will be represented at this important gathering. A question that can be asked is: How can the Zambian delegation use issues tabled at the Stokholm+40 forum to its advantage as it heads to the Rio+20 summit?
This question can be answered from different perspectives. During the Stockholm forum, we had panel and roundtable discussions covering different topics. I would like to answer the question above by using at least five of the 25 round table discussions. These are: Child Rights and Sustainable Development; Youth Involvement for a Sustainable World; the Role of the Media for Sustainable Development; Natural Resources – A Curse or Blessing and Whose Responsibility?; and What Would an Inclusive and Green Economy Looks Like?
Child rights and sustainable development
What are child rights to begin with? Child rights are entitlements that a young person receives from his or her community by virtue of being a human being. Child rights exist concurrently with sustainable development as it provides a conducive atmosphere for the flourishing of child rights as evidenced in our societies. The fulfilment of child rights empowers or moulds children in a way that they are able to respect means of sustainable development as they grow, seeing that the early years of a child strongly determines the way a particular child will be in future. As a result, if child rights are not fully met, sustainable development is erased. Further, if children or young people are empowered with rights they can effectively contribute to sustainable development, since they are the largest part of the population.
The Zambian delegation for the Rio+20 forum needs to put this topic on their agenda especially now that Zambia is a developing country trying to meet the core needs of its people, children included.
Youth involvement for a sustainable world
Young people are seldom recognised a resource in decision making processes. Instead, young people are systematically excluded from important decision making process and thus the development processes. As a result, their perspectives are often absent in policy making. According to the United Nations World Youth Report, 724 million young people live on less than US$2 a day. If youths were given more consideration in achieving a sustainable world, which also encompasses poverty reduction strategies, their ability to help themselves escape from poverty would increase, hence achieving a sustainable world. The Zambian delegation to the Rio forum should seek to strengthen youth-related policy that will enable our Zambian youths get employed and realise their full potential.
When UN Secretary-General Mr. Ban Ki-Moon visited Zambia early this year, he said “Zambia can only realise its full potential when its youths realise theirs.” Such statements make clear that there is need for concerted efforts in creating a youth friendly atmosphere seeing their upper hand in our communities.
I salute the Zambian Government for banning the sale of the life threatening alcohol called Tujilijili which youths were falling prey of. I know beyond any shadow of doubt that if you employ youths they will by no means disappoint you because they are the ones to deal with consequences of long-term effects of issues such as the environment. It is therefore in their best interest to ensure environmental sustainability.
The media have a major role to play in the implementation of sustainable means of development. As seen the world over, the media raise awareness on various issues. For example, social media is used to spread information on various topical issues. The media inform and educate the public. Without that, the public cannot fully participate in sustainable development. The media are effective instruments for informing and educating people and inform public opinion. The media can also act as a watchdog. They must act as a jealous guardian of sustainable development. Furthermore, the media promotes public debate and sets the agenda and can influence public debate on sustainable development.
The media are mandated to influence policy by providing a platform for ensuring that people’s views on sustainable development are included. As a result, the media should operate without any interference. I am happy that the draft Constitution includes press freedom. In simple terms, I can say that media act as the eyes and ears of the public. Rio+20 must, therefore, be a platform for influencing media related policies.
Natural resources – a curse or blessing and whose responsibility?
Natural resources are initially meant to be a blessing. Unfortunately, the opposite is the case in our country because of in some cases there is gross mismanagement and selfishness. The Government has the power to put up policies that ensure natural resources benefit the people. We need economic justice. Economic justice can be attained by various means and in the case of natural resources as follows: as producers and sellers of copper and other minerals, we should be able to determine the price and by trading our minerals for technology. Since technology is the Western World’s mineral, corruption will be reduced and technology brought in will create employment for our youth. Zambia’s delegation to Rio must adopt this to ensure that economic justice is met.
What would an inclusive and green economy look like?
An inclusive and green economy recognises economic justice and climate justice. In an inclusive and green economy, the playing field is levelled for all age groups to fully realise their potential be it youths, children, adults, or senior citizens (aged 60 and above). Talking of how such an economy can be attained, I would urge the Zambian delegation to Rio to put the abolishment or reduction of importing used cars which are not road fit, and are a health hazard.
In a nutshell, we must thrive to attain sustainable development life styles and development because it is for our own good and for future generations. The upcoming forum in Rio should talk a lot about implementation. We have the solutions but why do we not fulfil them?
Behind every success there has been a combination of a vision and audacity. Remember to accomplish much, we must all think like youths and a youth is defined as one with more dreams than memories. These must be dreams of a sustainable world, a green economy one of climate justice and many more. I thank you.
The author is a UNICEF Zambia Child Climate Ambassador enrolled in Grade 11 at Kamulanga High School in Lusaka. He attended the Stockholm+40 conference as a guest of the Government of Sweden and was the only child delegate.