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Youth groups start preparations for World Summit on Sustainable Development

Youth groups start preparations for World Summit on Sustainable Development

Some 250 young people from 109 countries have participated in a conference in Sweden to help prepare for the World Summit on Sustainable Development scheduled for September 2002 in South Africa, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said today.

The 23-27 May Youth Conference for Environment and Sustainable Development in Borgholm brought together young people between the ages of 18 and 25 to express their views on the state of the environment and formulate strategies for making sustainable development a reality. The Conference marked the beginning of a youth preparatory process that will lead up to the Summit.

Opening the Conference, Sweden's Minister of the Environment, Kjell Larsson, offered a challenge to the young people. "You are the generation that cannot fail," he said. "We have made mistakes that now have to be corrected. My generation must show political leadership in order to break unsustainable trends, but you will have the responsibility to build the sustainable society."

In his opening remarks, UNEP representative Tore Brevik said, "If today's adults ask the right questions, generate productive answers, and take meaningful actions, the dialogue will have a much different form by the time the next generation takes charge. If we conduct the exchange well, they will honour us. If we do it poorly, they will be right to blame us for their plight!"

The youth preparatory process for the Summit will involve national reviews of the implementation of Agenda 21 and other agreements reached at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, UNEP said. Representatives will meet again in Copenhagen in March 2002 for the Global Youth Forum, where a statement will be developed for the Summit.

The process was initiated by UNEP, the Ministry of Environment of Sweden and Nature and Youth, an organization based in Denmark.

In other news from UNEP, the agency today announced the winners of its prestigious Global 500 Awards - which honour individuals and organizations that have made outstanding contributions to the protection of the environment.

"The winners of UNEP's Global 500 Roll of Honour are members of a broad and growing environmental movement that is flourishing around the world," the agency's Executive Director, Klaus Toepfer, said in a statement issued today in Nairobi. "They have taken the path that most of us hesitate to take for want of time or caring."

This year's award recipients include a husband and wife team from Malaysia who have rescued over a quarter of a million turtle eggs; a Kenyan children's doctor who has almost single-handedly transformed an old quarry into a much loved nature reserve; a United States company specializing in eco-tourism; and a Canadian teenager who began battling pesticide misuse at the age of 10.