Environmental Policy Consultant, Andrew was a co-organizer with us for NY+20, the youth conference that enhanced UN advocacy skills and successfully influenced the Rio+20 outcome document for global sustainable development policy.
Andrew recounts the background, stakes and process of the experience as well as gives quick tips on how activists can replicate such events:
“I have always believed that for economic development to be sustainable, it must respect the equilibrium of the natural world, and it must address social injustice in our society. As the world was preparing for the UNCSD conference in June, it seemed like an important time to mobilize young people on issues that matter most to them. We knew that the world might be ready to listen, if we just got together and formed a common agenda. That’s when we heard about the “MyCity+20” group in Paris and we thought, we can do the same thing here, if not better!
The idea of NY+20 came from multiple people all interested in moving in the same direction. A few of us started discussing an event in February, and the first real brainstorming happened at the US/Canada Citizens’ Summit in New Haven in March. From that point on, we started meeting every week at the UN (thanks to our colleague John Romano, UNCSD Intern). EOTO was one of the first groups to join and Elischia’s tenacity and team spirit helped us quickly reach out to new groups and supporters. EOTO also organized livestreaming of the event at the Ford Foundation, which enabled us to reach whole new groups of supporters online. In short the organization played a critical role in the event.
The main outcomes of NY+20 were three: a shared youth statement of principles to include in the Rio+20 outcome document, a new network of youth in New York and around the world advocating for a more sustainable world, and proof that young people can come together and effectively campaign to have their voices heard. Clearly, we cannot change the world overnight. This is one step in a longer process that will surely take years if not generations. We are one link in a longer chain, one particle in the winds of change!
To organize an effective event:
  • start early,
  • reach out to youth leaders and activists who share your mission,
  • always strive to make your campaign as inclusive and broad as possible,
  • do not be afraid to ask people in power for favors, or be afraid to also ask them for money. You would be amazed how willing some persons and organizations are to help youth realize their goals.”