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A child stands in pouring rain in the slum of Susan's Bay in Sierra Leone's capital Freetown, August 22, 2012. Sierra Leone's government has described the current cholera outbreak in the West African state as a "national emergency." At the height of the wet season, over-populated areas with poor water and sanitation are exacerbating the spread of the disease. Some 170 deaths are reported since the start of the year. Picture taken August 22, 2012.Credit: REUTERS

Youth Perspective: it is OUR world

By Saket Mani (Maharashtra, India) | 22 April 2013

There is no dispute today that Planet Earth is reaching a point where it can no longer sustain our intake levels. If we care about our planet, about ourselves, our children and other living things then we need to learn how to turn things around and bring about lasting transformation.

Most environmental problems are global in nature, meaning, they have global ramifications.  Let me explain by saying that many ecosystems that are managed by countries have vast global benefits and their destruction or degradation can lead to negative impacts in regions far and wide. Our current lifestyles and consumption patterns are already resulting in negative change to the planet be it Famine in India or Typhoon in USA.  Climate change, world debt & peak fossil fuels are not separate issues with separate solutions: we have to solve them together – and by finding those solutions will generate enough jobs. Famine and starvation are on the rise again driven by the cost of oil, climate change and water shortages. 2.8 billion people now live in water stressed areas and there’s already a buzz on water wars. Climate change is not only about rising sea levels but also about famines, desertification, the loss of eco-systems, changing and more severe weather patterns as well as temperature rises. Yet most people don’t think Climate Change is a big problem. There is no point in changing the climate as it is hardly possible. So change the system.

Sustainable development has different meanings for different people, but broadly refers to long-term development that takes into account governmental, social and ecological factors. For countries, this means investing in economic sectors that create jobs, building better infrastructure to provide key services and empowering political institutions that allow civil society (You & Me) and businesses to engage in policy making. It is more than just caring about the environment or generating money through economic growth. As we think of sustainable development, we must think of a structure, where the decisions taken ensure that each component of the system (like man, trees, environment, society etc.) is capable of thriving without hampering the capacity of the other component to do so, regardless of time. We need a vision which addresses the wellbeing of people and the planet together. We should approach sustainable development by considering that everything is interconnected across generations and across countries.

Over the years, we have seen a growing institutionalization of sustainable development on the international level. In 2012 the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development was organized at the highest possible level. Following which we had the Rio+20 conference which was aimed at spurring actions that would help people and countries move toward a greener economy, lesser poverty and ensuring that we all live in decent communities. But it didn’t quite live upto its expectation. According to me it was called Rio+20 because it was aimed at twenties something people not because it was taking place after 20 years.

For us youth — the world’s fastest growing age group, most under-represented in policy making and also the most over-represented among the world’s unemployed — the stakes of development’s success and sustainability are even higher. High youth unemployment and shrinking opportunities for us means that we are a generation blighted with an uncertain future. Young people have an enormous stake in the present and future state of Earth. If young people’s resources of energy, time and knowledge are misallocated towards violence, terrorism and unsustainable consumption, development risks deterioration.

The UN is making youth participation a core focus in the process but our governments (like India) have not taken up this approach. The results are very clear. WE demand a voice in the deliberations about the future, our future, and we have unique, and effective, contributions to make in ensuring a sustainable future for all.  But still, there is huge shortage in the capacity of young people to successfully involve in these processes, mainly due to their procedural nature. If young people are going to have an impact on these processes, then they need to be equipped with much more than a few lessons in school about the meaning of ‘sustainable development’.

I for one fundamentally believe that Young people should be at the heart of designing and implementing the national & global policies and this belief is indisputable. There is a powerful opportunity for society if youth can participate positively in all aspects of sustainable development.

Therefore, I call on the government to frame policies that will protect our future. It’s a little cliché in sustainable development groups to say: “we do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.” Future generations will always have to live with the decisions their descendants make. It’s our call as young people because it’s a foundation for which our country will ensure better jobs, cleaner cities, and equal sharing of resources.

About the author:

Saket Mani is a 19 year old Youthvist (youth activist) & youth policy analyst living in India who is passionate about youth issues, public affairs and climate change. He raises his voice for more inclusion of youth & children in the decision making for a sustainable future.  He is the Youth Ambassador for the UN Millennium Program MY World Survey (http://saket.myworld2015.org) and the Ambassador for UNCSD Rio+20 India Program. He is an active member of UNFCCC YOUNGO, UNEP Major Groups for Children & Youth and also of United Nations (UNCSD MGCY). He’s also the thematic Consultant for Youth in United Nations & UNESCO. Currently he Co-Chairs the Collegiate chapter of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). After graduating with a Bachelor of Engineering degree, he is looking forward to a career focused on his passion for the International, Sustainable & Youth Development, presenting opportunities to work with like-minded people.

Besides the aforementioned, he holds the following positions/memberships:

  • Eco-justice Campaigner for Greenpeace International.
  • Contributor of ‘Education for All’ Global Monitoring Report| UNESCO.
  • Active Member of TakingITGlobal, World Youth Alliance & Global Youth Biodiversity Network
  • Blogger for United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
  • Champion for Children at Save the Children.

Any opinions Expressed in "Youth Perspectives" are those of external parties and not those of Thomson Reuters.

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