Posted by: Darlene Sly McKechnie | October 3, 2012

Join in on the MDG development process

One of the main outcomes of the Rio+20 Conference was the agreement by member States to launch a process to develop a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which will build upon the Millennium Development Goals and converge with the post 2015 development agenda. It was decided to establish an “inclusive and transparent intergovernmental process open to all stakeholders, with a view to developing global sustainable development goals to be agreed by the General Assembly”.

The UN General Assembly will on 16 October 2012 hold a special event in order to provide an initial opportunity for all member states and other participants to engage in discussions on how to develop the SDGs, in line with the relevant provisions agreed in the Rio+20 outcome document.

The discussions will be moderated and led by a panel of speakers from the fields of scientific research and policymaking who will contribute their perspectives and analyses in three main areas:

1) How the SDGs could complement the MDGs and be integrated into the post-2015 agenda

2) How the SDGs could balance the economic, social and environmental pillars of sustainable development

3) How to develop universally applicable goals that at the same time take into account different national realities, capacities and levels of development.

It is expected that this event will inform the initial discussions of the intergovernmental Open Working Group and set a fruitful direction for future discussions on the development of the SDGs.

This is your opportunity to inform the process. Let us know your views by addressing the above three questions through:

- Rio+20 Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/UNRioplus20

- Twitter hashtag: #SDGs

- Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform: http://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdgsevent.html

Posted by: Darlene Sly McKechnie | July 24, 2012

U.N. Action Plan on Youth

The United Nations is developing a System-Wide Action Plan on Youth. This Action Plan will affect the way the whole UN system will work with and for youth in the coming years. The Action Plan will focus on the five priority areas identified by the Secretary General:

1. Employment

2. Entrepreneurship

3. Education, including education on sexual and reproductive health

4. Citizenship and protection of rights

5. Political inclusion

Before developing this Action Plan, the United Nations is reaching out to youth, youth-led organizations and others to seek their inputs. Please take a moment to fill out the questionnaire.

Tell the UN what you think. They are listening.

The questionnaire is online here https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/BFKH85W

Posted by: Darlene Sly McKechnie | July 6, 2012

The dusty road to Rio has come to an end

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The road to Rio has come to an end, and it’s travelers are emerging from their carriages, slightly bewildered, but happy to have finally arrived. After the dust settles we will see the journey was certainly worth the travel.

The conference seemed to end before it even really began, which could be noted by the marked change in the feeling at Riocentro between the last days of negotiations and the official opening of the conference on June 20th. The Brazilian Government who took over the presidency of the conference at the beginning of the dialogue days quickly and quietly closed the text for further discussion. The Brazilians took ownership over the document at the end of informal negotiations and created the final outcome document unilaterally. They insisted that all country inputs were taken into consideration and presented the document as something that would make “everyone a little happy, and everyone a little sad.” In the end, the mood at riocentro seemed to show most stakeholders more sad than happy, or at least greatly confused.

Most publications reporting on the outcome of Rio speak to its lack of ambition with much of the outcome document being a reiteration of previously agreed upon language. In some circles, Rio+20 is being dubbed as Rio-20. The failure to find agreement on the upgrading of UNEP, sexual reproductive rights, and the language surrounding gender are but a few examples of where the outcome document has failed to inspire. Not all was lost however. The inclusion of non-formal education, and the creation of an ombudsmen (of sorts) for future generations can all be counted as successes.

Was it worth the journey? I would argue that it most certainly was. Although the U.N is often criticized for it’s lack of power and accountability; the processes it tackles are most certainly to be commended. We must recognize that getting an extraordinary number of countries with diverse cultures and capabilities to agree on anything is at the best of times difficult. One of the U.N’s most valuable accomplishments is that it brings these discussions to the table at all. Without any dialogue, we would never see change; however painfully slow it may seem. We may not all be playing the same game; or even playing together, but at least we’re all in the same park.

As representatives of the MGCY, WAGGGS, and over 10 million girls worldwide we look back and count our many successes including :

- Representing WAGGGS in high level forums
– Hosting a successful officials Rio+20 side event
– Providing positivity and innovation through things like the tree of vision and the awarding of girl guide ‘negotiator’ badges.
– Lobbied successfully on the inclusion of non formal education in the text, and also ensured that gender equality and sexual and reproductive health rights were part of the conversation.
– Met with government representatives from around the world.
– Were visible to the public through news articles, and official U.N. radio publications helping to show the world we are more than just Girl Guide cookies and camping.

I am proud of the work of WAGGGS delegates and members of the MGCY, and am grateful for being given the opportunity to represent the Children and Youth of the world in such a forum.

The final outcome document can be found here : The Future We Want

Alternative reflections from colleagues and major print sources:

1. Rio+twenties – Copacabana Blues
2. The Economist – Many “mays” but few “musts”

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Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton

At the UN Conference on Sustainable Development Plenary

June 22, 2012

Rio De Janeiro, Brazil

SECRETARY CLINTON: Good morning. To President Rousseff, the Brazilian Government, the Brazilian people for hosting us, to Secretary General Ban, Secretary General Sha: Thank you for convening this conference. And thanks to all of you representing governments, civil society, the private sector, young people, men, women, and children everywhere.

Brazil has done the world a great service by hosting us all here. This can be a fractious time. But thanks to Brazil’s deft and effective leadership, we have coalesced around an outcome document that marks a real advance for sustainable development. We know this is one of the most pressing matters of our time, because how we grow together over the long term isn’t a question for only some countries. It is a question for all countries. And here in Rio, thanks to Brazil, we are at the center of our shared efforts to find answers.

I want to thank the President of Samoa for his remarks and the reminder that we meet at a critical moment. For some countries and some people around the world, this is not just a matter for long-term planning, but for immediate, pressing action. And we know that voices are being raised demanding expanded opportunities and a greater role in the decisions that affect the lives of us all. We have the potential to answer that call. Hundreds of millions of people have been lifted out of extreme poverty in just the past generation, laying the groundwork for even more progress. We are working together to end chronic hunger, an area where Brazil has shown particularly strong leadership. I believe we can end preventable child deaths and chart a path towards an AIDS-free generation.

In short, this is a time for us to be pragmatic, but also optimistic. A more prosperous future is within our reach, a future where all people benefit from sustainable development no matter who they are or where they live. But let’s be honest. We know what is possible. We know what we could do. But we also know that future is not guaranteed, because the resources that we all depend upon – fresh water, thriving oceans, arable land, a stable climate – are under increasing pressure. And that is why, in the 21st century, the only viable development is sustainable development. The only way to deliver lasting progress for everyone is by preserving our resources and protecting our common environment.

So we have come together, here in Rio, to identify practical ways we can all promote sustainable development. And while our views may differ sometimes, I believe we agree on some fundamental principles. We cannot be boxed in by the orthodoxies of the past. We should and must make decisions based on research and scientific evidence about what works. And above all, we need fresh, agile, action-oriented partnerships that can produce results year after year after year.

So while the outcome document adopted here contains many important principles and proposals, the most compelling products of this conference are the examples of new thinking that can lead to models for future action. It should be said of Rio that people left here thinking, as the late Steve Jobs put it, not just big, but different.

We should be thinking different about harnessing the power of the market. Remember in the 1960s, official development assistance accounted for 70 percent of the capital flows to developing nations, but today it amounts to only 13 percent, while at the same time, development budgets have actually increased. Why is that? Well, you know very well. Because while continuing to provide assistance, the private sector investments, using targeted resources and smart policies, have catalyzed more balanced, inclusive, sustainable growth.

The United States has taken this idea to heart. And earlier today, I helped launch a partnership between the United States and African nations that will use $20 million in U.S. Government funding to unlock hundreds of millions of dollars in private financing for clean energy projects in Africa and beyond. It’s part of our contribution to the United Nations Sustainable Energy for All initiative, which has secured significant private sector investments for sustainable energy. And we hope to see even more coming out of Rio.

You also see the power of the market in the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, which aims to help 100 million families adopt clean cookstoves and fuels by 2020. By supporting consumer research and creating incentives for manufacturers, we’re helping to create a market for stoves that people will pay for and use, while at the same time preventing health problems in women and children, and cleaning the air of black soot.

Now in addition to tapping into the private sector, we should be thinking different about new types of partnerships to solve problems that might otherwise seem insurmountable. Here in Rio, the United States launched joint efforts on everything from deforestation and water to solid waste. We’re also leading Feed the Future, a global effort to improve food security that is helping food producers adapt to climate change even as they reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions.

And earlier this year, I was privileged to host six countries in the United Nations Environment Program as we launched the Climate and Clean Air Coalition. The goal is to reduce short-lived climate pollutants that cause more than 30 percent of current global warming, as well as millions of premature deaths and extensive crop losses. We know we have to keep working together on CO2, but we think that our Climate and Clean Air Coalition, to which many more countries are joining, and we welcome you, can take targeted action and produce results with respect to methane and black soot and HFCs.

We also have to be thinking different about development in our cities. That is, after all, where most of the world’s population lives today, where most of the growth is and will take place, and where innovative ideas are being put into action. Under the Joint Initiative on Urban Sustainability that President Rousseff and President Obama kicked off last year, we are bringing political officials from every level – from state, county, local, municipalities – together along with industry leaders and developers to find creative ways to generate sustainable economic growth. If, as I heard earlier today, that 70 percent of the structures that will be needed in 30 years to house, to provide economic opportunities for the world’s population have yet to be built, then we have a tremendous opportunity we cannot waste.

And finally, the only prosperous, sustainable economy is an inclusive economy. That means we should think different about how we recognize the needs of workers in the informal economy, how we unleash the talent and energy of young people, and how we act on the compelling evidence most recently published by the World Bank that women are essential drivers of sustainable development. I applaud the bold call to action issued here in Rio by UN Women, and likewise the Rio+20 outcome document devotes a strong section to expanding opportunities for women.

And while I am very pleased that this year’s outcome document endorses sexual and reproductive health and universal access to family planning, to reach our goals in sustainable development we also have to ensure women’s reproductive rights. Women must be empowered to make decisions about whether and when to have children. And the United States will continue – (applause) – the United States will continue to work to ensure that those rights are respected in international agreements.

Now none of this is an abstract discussion. There is just too much at stake, too much still to be done. And many of you visited the U.S. Center here in Rio and saw practical solutions related to some of the work I’ve discussed and other goals we hold in common. We believe solutions require action by all of us. Governments, yes; let’s do our part. Let’s do more than our part. Let’s pave the way for more clean energy investments, take on the entrenched political and economic interests that stand in the way of clean energy, technology, and sources being used in nations around the world. Let’s use the private sector, particularly the consumer goods companies, as they have agreed to do, to make sure they have sustainable supply chains, the right kind of packaging and marketing that puts the least amount of burden on the earth we share.

Let’s bring in the nonprofits, the civil society organizations, faith groups, individuals, all of us, committed to realizing the sustainable development goals that we have embraced. We know that we will be judged not by what we say nor even by what we intend to do, but by whether we deliver results for people alive today, and whether we keep faith with future generations. I’m very honored to be here with all of you, and I pledge my country’s, the Obama Administration’s, and my own personal efforts to continue our work together. We simply cannot afford to fail.

Thank you all very much. (Applause.)

Posted by: Darlene Sly McKechnie | June 20, 2012

WAGGGS Press Release – Negotiators receive Girl Guide badges!

19 June 2012
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

PRESS RELEASE

Negotiators at Rio+20 awarded with Girl Guide badge

The pride glowing in her eyes, she stands a little straighter and grows just an inch or two. As she gets her badge presented, she cannot help but smile.

The first time a Girl Guide is awarded a Girl Guide badge is a time of joy and sense of achievement. It is therefore with great pride that the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) will award the Brazilian Girl Guide badge ‘Citizenship Specialist’ to the Education, Health and Gender group representatives from Switzerland, the European Union, United States of America, Australia, Norway and the G77 for their support in reintroducing ‘non-formal education’ into the draft outcome document.

Giving youth a voice
A spontaneous applause sounded in the plenary session, when the Chair of the Education, Health and Gender group announced that the education text was agreed upon, including the following new text:

Education 2bis We encourage Member States to promote Sustainable Development awareness among youth, inter alia, by promoting programmes for non-formal education in accordance with the goals of the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development.

The change of the text occurred due to the hard work of many youth, talking to official delegates and negotiators, and joining effort to have the small words ‘non-formal education’ put in. The fact that youth united and was heard was a powerful action showing that civil society and youth have a voice in the negotiations about a sustainable future.

The importance of non-formal education
Education empowers youth with knowledge and skills to change the world. Non-formal education, which is delivered outside of school, is a curriculum-based approach to learning about topics such as the environment. Through education, poverty and inequality can be tackled, and people develop skills to build a strong and lasting green economy. As Girl Guides and Girl Scouts we see how ‘non-formal’ education matters for millions of girls and their local communities.

The hope for ambition
The negotiations will continue and we hope that the positive outcome – listening to the youth and being ambitious, will continue throughout the coming days at Rio +20. It is therefore with smiles and positivity that we award the above-mentioned Girl Guides badges and we hope that we will get more opportunities to do it here at Rio +20.

We hope that the representatives will have pride glowing in their eyes, stand a little straighter and grow just an inch or two when the presentations are made.

Posted by: Darlene Sly McKechnie | June 20, 2012

Air Canada departs first biofuel flight in recognition of Rio+20

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Posted by: Darlene Sly McKechnie | June 18, 2012

WAGGGS Tree of Life at Rio+20

WAGGGS members have taken to manning the MGCY space at the entrance to the Rio+20 conference. Delegates and attendees are asked to write their hopes for the future and add it to the tree!

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At “Youth 21″ where the Presidency of Brazil has just spoken on the importance of youth participation in the U.N. process….yet they have unilaterally taken out or watered down participation in outcome document of Rio+20

Telling us what we want it hear? Or speaking the truth?

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Severn Suzuki speech

Posted by: Darlene Sly McKechnie | June 17, 2012

Bring the Future Back in the Text!

Bring the Future Back in the Text!

The newly released Rio+20 negotiation text by the host country Brazil is an attempt to “make all delegates a bit happy, and a bit unhappy” said Ambassador Luiz Alberto Figueiredo Machado, Executive Secretary of Brazil’s National Commission for Rio+20. But at least for youth, it is making us very unhappy indeed! Civil society participation has been severely reduced, the Sustainable Development Council is off the table, UNEP is not receiving a coordinating role, and crucially the High-Level Representative for Sustainable Development and Future Generations has been deleted from the text.

This deletion (previously Paragraph 80) is a serious concern for youth at the Rio+20 conference. Alice Vincent a youth activist from the UK says, “I strongly believe that a Rio+20 outcome that does not include the creation of such an advocate for the needs of future generation wouldn’t be worthy of the title The Future We Want.”

The interests and needs of those who will inherit this planet are being systematically compromised by the short-term nature of decision-making and policy. A High-level Representative for Sustainable Development and Future Generations will be tasked with helping government to bring sustainable development, often separate from core policy issues, into the heart of all decision-making.

Rhoda Robinson youth activist from Nigeria said “The removal of this text effectively relegates youth and future generations to the side-lines to watch – not participate – in deciding on our future. This may not look like it something of concern to a young person in Africa but we cannot continue to have no representation, no say and no access to decisions that affect us.”

“This is a one-time opportunity to influence the outcome text in a clear and radical way and make sure that Rio+20 goes beyond just copying the language of previous agreements” says Mathieu Soete, President of the Environmental Working Group, AEGEE / European Students’ Forum.

The High-level Representative would work in close cooperation with civil society to represent their concerns and to further their participation at the United Nations. This efficient and innovative solution would ensure a more integrated approach to sustainable development – one of the key objectives of the Rio+20 Conference – and embed long-termism into our political thinking.

Kate Offerdahl from Columbia University says, “Young people are demanding that this language be reinserted into the negotiating text and that a High-level Representative for Sustainable Development and Future Generations be an enduring accomplishment of the Rio+20 Conference”.

In addition to the representation of future generations and young people in the form of a High-Level Representative, wider youth participation throughout the process of developing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), inclusion of youth delegates in all member state delegations, and meaningful and effective youth participation across UN sustainable development forums are all key to making sure the interests of youth are represented and their voices are heard.

Laurence Dambuki. African Union Youth delegate said, “Developing countries are particularly concerned about improving means of implementation to ensure the effectiveness of the interventions and to invest financial and human resources efficiently. This proposal would be instrumental in addressing current implementation gaps by helping governments and UN bodies work together on long-term planning and the sharing of best practice.”

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Posted by: Darlene Sly McKechnie | June 17, 2012

Omission of the Ombudsmen for Future Generations or High Level Rep

The Ombudsmen for Future Generations or in other words a high level rep has been left out of the newly consolidated text. If Future generations are to be protected we need a body that protects that wholistic function – a high level rep is the minimum and we MUST act now before it’s too late.

It is vital that country delegations support us. The aim of negotiations today is to close text, and not reopen it. Denmark has just raised the issue of its omission this morning in the IFSD splinter group.

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