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Youth blast Rio+20 deal as 'pathetic'

By Roli Mahajan

"We are here to articulate and build our vision of a sustainable future," Karuna Rana, 24, one of Rio+20's youth speakers, said in addressing the gathering's opening plenary.

But that wasn't quite how youth saw the sustainable development summit turning out as it finished Friday.

"You have worked hard to close a deal," they told world leaders in a statement during the final meeting of the gathering in Rio de Janeiro. But "if any of you think this document is the ambitious, action-oriented outcome you said you wanted, please stand up."

"If you are unable to stand up, then you must be unwilling to move forward. So, we will move forward for you," they promised.

This was the view of young people who had gathered, online and offline, for the summit, which focused increasingly heavily on the threats to future generations posed by climate change, growing resource scarcity, deforestation and other environmental, economic and social problems.

Many youth said they had strategically organised and prepared for the summit for years, through list-serves and online meetings.

"We are not just mere presences but effective stakeholders who were - and are - trying to influence our country delegations by consistently picking up issues, educating our representatives and building support around points which will enable us to get the 'future we want,'" said Sebastien Duyck, 27, a French youth activist working at Rio+20.

But young activists and delegates at the summit said the meeting had largely failed to advance their aims.

NO FUTURE GENERATIONS REPRESENTATIVE

Many had been pushing for the creation of an ombudsperson or a "representative for future generations" at the UN level and at other levels throughout government to give a strong voice for young people and future generations in political decision making, which tends to have a short-term focus.

But that was left out of the summit's political agreement.

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