Young People Embrace the UN Millenium Development Goals

BANGALORE, India, October 17, 2005 (ENS) - Young environmental leaders from 67 countries have been meeting in Bangalore since Friday to further the Millennium Development Goals that the entire United Nations system is focused on accomplishing.

There are eight goals, but the youth leaders chose three as their focus - to ensure environmental sustainability, to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, and to promote gender equality and empower women.

Through Tuesday, delegates are reviewing their individual and group involvement in helping to achieve the goals by 2015, share experiences, and inspire each other to do more for the environment.


Conference participants enjoy dancing in the street. (Photo courtesy Tunza)
While the days of meetings and workshops are informative and productive, all was not work. On Saturday, a cultural performance given by two local Indian dance groups culminated when they invited all the participants to dance with them outside the convention center on the streets of Bangalore.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is organizing and sponsoring the event - the second UNEP Tunza International Youth Conference. Tunza is a Kiswahili word meaning to care for or to nurture. Spoken throughout East Africa, Kiswahili is often heard in Kenya where UNEP's global headquarters are located.

The young leaders are holding plenary discussions with environmental and sustainable development experts, educational workshops, and field trips for participants to learn about local sustainable development projects around the city of Bangalore.

The conference will culminate in the development of individual commitments for contributing to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

The governor of the state of Karnataka gave a reception for the participants. Organized for people 15 to 24 years old, the UNEP's Tunza conferences for youth and for children provide opportunities for young people to learn from one another. They can share experiences and ideas for community-based environmental actions, and develop joint strategies for promoting environmental protection.

Participants are developing partnership projects and action plans for youth organizations to adapt for their communities' environmental activities.


Delegates listen to a project presentation. (Photo courtesy Tunza)
The conference reviewed progress related to individual commitments made by youth leaders at the February 2005 UNEP Global Youth Retreat, held in Nairobi, Kenya.

Seeka Gueye of Senegal is training 50 youth between 12 and 16 years to take care of the environment. "In Senegal, our main problem is waste and we have mobilized ourselves to have clean up campaigns in Dakar. We also do awareness building in our community on the need to have a clean environment," said Gueye.

At the Global Youth Retreat, Lars Rosendahl Appelquist of Denmark took on the task of organizing a youth seminar for 50 young people in Tanzania about poverty eradication and sustainable development in cooperation with Tanzania Youth Coalition.

Then Appelquist will organize a workshop in Denmark about youth involvement and sustainable development in Tanzania.

Over the past several months, Nelly Paredes of Peru has had much support for an environmental youth group she represents known as Comite Ambiental Juvenil CAJU - Peru.

In coordination with the Peruvian Program on Climate Change and Air Quality, CAJU-Peru organized different study groups to inform teenagers, young people and adults, and conducted a training workshop in climate change. "We coordinated 15 seminaries groups some of them were held in universities, institutes, NGO’s of Lima," Paredes said.


Delegates in plenary session learn about the Millenium Development Goals. (Photo courtesy Tunza)
BoYoung Rhim of Korea is helping to facilitate the Korean Youth Network with the involvement of at least 10 grassroots environmental organizations, and working to involve the Network in UNEP Youth Programmes.

Rhim is interested in publishing the Tunza magazine in Korean. "We already formed an editorial group of young people from several grassroots organizations. So, I will be the coordinator for youth editor groups and provide information to those who are interested in UNEP and environmental issues," said Rhim.

Most participants said they are working to develop cooperation amongst youth organizations.

"The Millennium Development Goals provide an agenda for our generation, a blueprint for the kind of world we want to inherit," wrote Editor Geoffrey Lean in the latest issue of the Tunza magazine. "At last we have something clear to aim at and to press our leaders to achieve."

"And we can measure the progress - or lack of it - that they, and we, make. It remains a scandal, as the third millennium dawns on our beautiful and bountiful planet, that a billion people - one in every six of us - should remain in extreme poverty. We pledge ourselves to do everything we can to end it."

Ensuring environmental sustainability - Goal 7 - is an area where young people's active involvement can make big differences. Youth participation at the grass-roots level has already contributed significantly to halting and reversing environmental degradation. The report calls on countries to offer youth access to environmental entrepreneurship and policy-making decisions so that their voices can be heard. But opportunities for action do not stop at Goal 7; young people's actions must be felt at every level of MDG implementation.

The 2005 Tunza International Youth Conference follows in the footsteps of the first Tunza conference in 2003 in Dubna, Russia.

Prior to the adoption of the Tunza strategy by the UNEP Governing Council in 2003, UNEP had organized regular Global Youth Forums for the environment.