Global Youth Forum Opens Gate to Johannesburg Summit

ARHUS, Denmark, March 26, 2002 - Globalization and poverty, sustainable development and population pressure, clean air and water - these weighty but vital issues are the focus of attention for the 100 young people from 60 countries here at the Global Youth Forum.

The United Nations Environment Programme's Global Youth Forum opened its four day meeting today at the Fuglsocenter near the city of Arhus to consider environmental topics that are crucial for sustainable development in the 21st century.


Shafqat Kakakhel of Pakistan is deputy executive director of UNEP. (Photo courtesy IISD)
"This meeting is an essential one. Youth represent more than 50 percent of the world's population and in many countries more than 60 percent," said Shafqat Kakakhel, deputy executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), in his opening remarks.

"More than in the past," he said, "young people need to struggle in a united and concerted manner to protect this fragile planet - for ourselves and for succeeding generations."

He stressed the importance of providing opportunities for the benefit of all - whether rich or poor.

The Forum is part of the Youth for Sustainable Development Process that was launched in February 2001 by UNEP, the government of Sweden and Nature and Youth, Denmark. It was organized with advice from a steering committee made up of young people from all over the world.

The process is intended to facilitate and support youth involvement in the World Summit for Sustainable Development and its preparations.

Participants will have the possibility to exchange their personal opinions and experiences in the field of sustainable development with other young people, explained organizer Silvia Guizzardi.


Global Youth Forum organizers (Photo courtesy Global Youth Forum)
They will have an opportunity to compare national reviews of successes and failures of Agenda 21 since the 1992 Rio Earth Summit where it was agreed as the action plan for sustainable development by more than 100 heads of state and government.

Participants will craft a common youth political statement and an action plan for youth and sustainable development. These statements will contribute to preparations for the World Summit on Sustainable Development scheduled for Johannesburg, South Africa from August 26 to September 4, 2002.

"Sustainable development is about conflicts of interest. It is important to have dialogue to resolve these conflicts", said Johannes Flensted Jensen, the mayor of the County of Arhus.

"Continue to speak out, protest, campaign, mobilize youth and struggle for sustainable development with your own personal commitment as the driving force," urged Anna Jonsson of Sweden and Philip Mcosano of Kenya, chairpersons of the May 2001 Borgholm Conference held to kick off the Youth for Sustainable Development Process.