25th January 2011
Welcome to all the Partners travelling on this Road to Rio+20
The Planet Expects from Rio+20... Intergenerational Justice
On the morning 21st October 1805, before the Battle of Trafalgar, Admiral Nelson raised in signal flags the message which every English citizen remembers to this day. The message was: “England expects every man to do his duty…” Today, as you step on to your planes ( - and massively inflate your personal carbon foot-prints!) - to come to our Partners meeting, I believe the planet expects – the human family expects – young people to do their duty and lead the charge for meaningful results to come out of the Rio+20 Summit. For it is fairly clear that no one else is going to. This is the moment when you have to rise up and defend that part of the Brundtland Definition of Sustainable Development which calls upon present generations not to ‘compromise the ability of future generations to meet their needs.’ The experience of the last 20 years is that the present generation of leaders really don’t care about future generations or their needs. My conviction is that you, and many young people do care – and that you are all eager to demonstrate that care with radical action along the Road to Rio+20. Indeed, future generations will be mightily pissed if you jack up your carbon footprints coming to this meeting – and do NOT take radical action as a result.
The job of Rio+20 is clear: it is to launch the building of the Green, renewable, post-carbon economy. Immediately! It also aims to set in place the governance structures that place a premium on delivering sustainability. How? – it’s very simple: governments have to tax unsustainable products and behaviours ( - making them more expensive to consumers) – and reward / give subsidies to sustainable products and behaviours (making them less expensive to consumers.) Only governments can do this – and it is easy for them: a simple matter of adjusting fiscal policy. But, in 20 years, they haven’t and, without enormous pressure, it is very likely that they will cruise the next twenty years finding very good reasons for not doing it.
So - the job of our first meeting this weekend is to figure out how to persuade them. We will go through all the traditional answers: education, lobbying, demonstrations, petitions etc. We will figure out how we are going to develop a brilliant ‘Focussed Political Youth Statement’ – and pester thousands / millions of young people and others to sign up to it.
Further, we will talk a lot about the GEBIC – the Green Economy Business Innovations Contest, and the Green Community initiatives project developed by our Mexican colleagues. All this will build a compendium of evidence to show what young people are doing already so that they can tell governments: “See?! – we’re building the Green Economy. Now we need you to do x, y and z to help us do it more quickly.” We will teach you all we know about advocacy – both physical and online – and we will plan the Regional Meetings, the book, the musical, the computer game etc.
- and we will work, and struggle, and beat ourselves up – but come November, we kind of know it won’t work: chances are, Rio+20 will be just another large, boring UN Meeting.
So we have to do something seriously radical - outrageously different. Which is why I send you Jonathon Porritt’s challenge. (below)
Think about it. We have an amazing chance here. Don’t let’s blow it!
Travel safely – and I look forward to welcoming you all to the White House,
From: Jonathon Porritt, Founder Director, Forum for the Future
Good to be in touch again! You asked for some ideas, so you’ve only yourself to blame if the following isn’t helpful!
Initially, reading through the papers you sent me – I felt a weird combination of despair and rage. Twenty years on and here we are going through the same motions all over again. Fortunately, the anger won out – as it usually does these days!
And, ‘getting angry’ is my theme for your weekend! We know how easily politicians ignore, co-opt or smarm all over most of the sustainable development stuff that young people put in front of them. We’ve learnt that this just isn’t enough – however crucial and valuable it is, in all sorts of ways, not least for young people themselves.
So anger alone won’t do it. It needs to provide just the spearhead of something much bigger, something that cannot just be brushed aside.
In your papers, I saw your reference to the University of Vermont’s coalition of legal academics exploring ‘legal sanctions that might be set in place to deter politicians from wrecking the chances of future generations to meet their own needs’.
In fact, as I understand it, this is just one of a number of initiatives out there today, looking at some kind of legal redress to translate the concept of intergenerational justice (which I much prefer, by the way, to intergenerational equity) into formal legal process – and from there into action.
I just wondered if you’d ever heard of an organisation called Client Earth? Google them – they’re brilliant! It would be an amazing organisation to work with if you go down the sort of route that I’m suggesting below.
Here’s how it might develop:
• Working with Client Earth, you come up with a specific ‘actionable’ form of legal redress, on behalf of young people as the plaintive. Essentially, a global class action against today’s rulers.
• Peace Child and its partners in all the different countries use this to recruit at least one young person’s organisation in every country all around the world (I’m sure you’ve done all the research on that long ago!).
• You then snowball a sign-up operation to get thousands of young people’s organisations on board with the global class action.
• Their target is of course the Rio+20 Summit itself, and the ‘world leaders’ who will be attending, but just as important, it should be targeted at all those progressive NGOs (in environment, human rights, development, poverty, climate change and so on) who hang on so fiercely to their role as ‘representatives’ of civil society. Young people should almost be as angry about them as they should be about the politicians!
• In the three months running up to the Summit, pressure as many of those ‘adult organisations’ as possible (on a name and shame basis) to sign up to the same class action – and agree that they will actively support it and even help fund it?
As we all know, the politicians these days are endlessly banging on about young people’s vote. In Rio, each and every one of them should be served with the formal writ indicating that ‘the time is over’ for ‘voice as chat’. From now on it has to be ‘voice in rage’.
So that’s just a thought to add to your deliberations!