The congress is over and 350 young people are now heading home to all corners of the world. After ten hectic days there is a lot we need time to digest –
What am I actually bringing with me when I’m going back to Denmark?
Specifically, I bringing back a document made jointly by the 350 participants as the congress with 20 suggestions on how we can create a more sustainable future. We will present it up to the Rio +20 summit this week.
The process of making them was long and many nights were eaten by the daylight while we were absorbed by heated discussions. But it was definitely also inspiring. All had interesting solutions to the sustainability problems we face.
If the world leaders could match our visions, the world would be a far better and fairer place.
A woman from Mali dreamed that one of the outcomes from Rio+20 is that women's right to education is given a higher priority. She was frustrated that many women in her country do not have the opportunity to shape their own lives. In the midst of the conversation a woman from Nigeria joined in with the wish that her government would actually try to push for an ambitious agreement to the Rio +20 summit and not just spend tax money on expensive hotel stays and empty talk.
The forgotten favela
In addition to the many discussions we also visited one of Rio's notorious favelas. Here, around 2.5 million people live on top of each other in the middle of Rio's most polluted air.
In the middle of the area was a large mountain, which could have been a green oasis. Unfortunately it is now covered with dry grass that can easily ignite. When we visited, a huge area completely was charred after a fire. A huge open pit like area further divided the mountain in two. It was a cement pit owned by a French company.
One of the locals from the organization we were visiting, told us that there had once been a fresh lake in the middle of the mountain, where many locals liked to come and bathe. It had been drained by the company, because the swimming and bathing interrupted the work in the cement pit. The large hole was now in place as a symbol of how little the outside world cares for favela residents.
After the visit to the favela, we returned to the conference to continue our roundtable discussions.
Civil society shows the way
One of the most interesting conversations I participated in was discussing what result we wanted as the output of the Rio +20 Summit. After a few of the participants had expressed that there ‘certainly won’t come neither am ambitious, fair or binding agreement of the summit’, the moderator stopped us and pointed out that:
We should talk about what we want, not what we think will happen.
It turned out to be a very difficult exercise, but one thing we all could agree on was that we hope that civil society is able to create so much attention at the Rio +20 Summit that our governments cannot ignore that they need take our future seriously.
That is what I take with me from Rio.