It’s one thing to want to change the world. It’s quite another to get into specifics. The Youth Sub-Committee of the DPI/NGO Conference wants to do both.
Comprised of representatives aged 18-24 from a variety of NGOs around the world, the Youth Sub-Committee is attempting to shape the global sustainability dialogue by influencing the Conference Declaration. The Declaration, to be released at the conclusion of the conference Monday, contains the agreed-upon text from member NGOs and will serve as their unified advocacy position leading up to next year’s Rio+20 Conference.
The young people here want the Declaration to include sustainability goals that not only involve but also empower youth. Dan Coviello, a student at Lehigh University in the United States, said that the Sub-Committee gives young people “greater voice in the decision-making process.” Once they arrived at the Conference in Bonn, Sub-Committee members formed ad-hoc working groups devoted to either adding verbiage to the Declaration or lobbying for the preservation of certain verbiage in the final version. Some of the most important topics for youth members include volunteerism, green jobs and sustainable development. According to Coviello, the interests of young people are often pooled with those of other marginalized groups such as women and minorities. Yet Coviello believes this “diminishes the influence we wish to have.”
Bernadette Fischler, Senior Advocacy Coordinator of the World Associate of Girl Guides and Girl Souts, works as a facilitator with the Youth Sub-Committee. She noted that for young people, it is “important to work on the outcome document” of the Conference, or the Declaration itself. Ultimately, it is the “legacy of this meeting,” she said.
Fischler also pointed out that Youth Sub-Committee members are attempting to build a Declaration that is useful as a “lobbying and advocacy document” in preparation for Rio+20. To that end, members center their proposals on those that are “not part of any other suggestions” already put forward in other UN contexts.
Youth Sub-Committee members work long hours drafting and submitting their revisions to the Declaration Committee. Starting daily with an 8 a.m. breakfast meeting, members are often seen manning conference booths and attending other meetings past 8 p.m. in the evening.
Coviello described the experience of participating in a United Nations conference and hoping to see the groups’ ideas incorporated into the final Declaration as plain “fun.” “We made sure we celebrated later in the evening,” he said.