UN Conference on sustainable development, Rio+20, is over and goes down in history as an unsuccessful conference in our eyes. We are now drained from too many long days with a lot of hard work and are trying to find out if it was all worth it. Did we achieve anything at all?

We had a meeting with some norwegian parliamentarians here in Rio the other day, and they expressed a dissatisfaction with the weak outcome text as well, but they pointed out that the real work begins now. Now this document has to be filled with concrete measures. We can look at the text as a minimum for what has to be done and then hopefully do much, much more than is stated in the outcome document called «The Future We Want». I think they have a point and I am glad to hear that our politicians are ready to work further with this, however, we know that there need to be binding agreements to get everyone to work towards a clear and common goal and thus achieve change. With no clear commitments in the «Future We Want» post-Rio work will be challenging.

But we are the youth and we cannot give up! We are the present generation and many of us might soon be the ones negotiating the terms of the future. So we’ll just have to put our disappointment aside and look ahead. We did not get a high commissioner for future generations in this round but that does not mean that the battle is lost. We knew that it would not be easy.

Ban-Ki Moon said in the opening plenary of the Rio+20 that «our scarcest resource is time, and its is running out». Sadly the UN-system seems to be too slow of a mechanism and precious time has been wasted discussing how to avoid commitments for a susatinable future.

Meetings postponed and no guts to make commitments in Rio+20. Waste of precious time. Photo: Mona Wærnes, ForUM


Paragraph 86 in «The Future We Want» states: «…We will also consider the need for promoting intergenerational solidarity for the achievement of sustainable development, taking into account the needs of future generations, including by inviting the Secretary General to present a report on this issue.»

So this is what we have to work with now, a report that Ban-Ki Moon will write. Hopefully he will remember his own words from the opening plenary at the Rio+20 and acknowledge the need of an institution that will bring the long-term perspective into the work of the UN, namely a high commissioner for future generations, that can ensure that development will be truly sustainable.


We rely on you now, Mr. Moon, to be visionary and have the guts to make things happen.


We’ve started a process that hopefully will give some tangible results, and we have met a whole bunch of people who work towards the same goal as us and have the same visions for the future as we have. It has been extremely valuable and inspiring to work with these people and we have made some good contacts. In addition we have been talking to Heikki Holmås, the norwegian minister for international development, and the rest of the norwegian delegation about Spire’s further efforts to establish a national ombudsperson for future generations. So I guess we achieved something, but we are far from finished. Like the parliamentarians said, the real work has to start now!


Some of the hard working norwegians who’ve been attending Rio+20. Photo: Mona Wærnes, ForUM


-Siv Maren Sandnæs






We returned to Rio Centro today ready to keep on working for the revival of paragraph 80, which is the only hope to include the concern for future generations in the text that paradoxically is to be titled «The Future We Want».

We arrived in time for the first round of negotiations for Institutional Framework on Sustainable Development (IFSD). The new Brazilian chairman was really strict about what he would allow to be raised in the meeting and not. He wanted comments to the text, but was not very pleased when additions to the text were suggested. We were happy to hear that the EU raised the issue of the removal of paragraf 80 concerning a High-level representative for future generations. Norway followed up with expressing that the former paragraph 80 hadn’t even been up for discussion and stated that «We owe it to the children and youth to discuss the suggestion of a High Commissioner or a High-level representative for future generations». We were really pleased that Marianne, the Norwegian negotiator, commented on this and that she even used the term «High Commissioner» which is exactly what it should be called in the text.

We are pleased that we have been able to convince Norway, however the real problem is still the G77 and especially Brazil and Venezuela. There has been some intense lobbying from the youth since last night and we have had positive signals from several G77-countries, but the major players are still not showing their support. The chairman clearly stated that there has to be concensus for anything to be added to the text, and things are not looking too bright at the moment. But we are still not giving up hope!


Remember me, the High Commissioner for Future Generations? Photo: Spire.

Besides lobbying we have been focusing our efforts on what the youth do best – arranging actions! Brazil told us to keep the pressure up, and we certainly have been doing that. Hopefully it will help us convince Brazil and with it the G77.


Major Group for Children and Youth want High Commissioner for future generatiosn back in the text. Photo: Spire.

The IFSD negotioations were scheduled to continue at 18:00, and the youth lined up outside the meeting room with posters and flyers waiting for the delegates to arrive. We taped our mouths with gaffa tape to express that we, the youth, feel that we are not heard. We want an institution in the UN that will concider the lives of our children, this is the very essence of sustainable development, yet negotiations on sustainable development avoid adressing this.

At 20:30 the meeting had still not begun, the chairman was sitting in the room next door talking to the Mexican delegation and nothing seemed to be happening. We gave up waiting and decided to go home to catch up on some sleep.


Photo: Spire

It is heartbreaking to see the lack of will and aspiration to adress the problems we are facing as a global community. These problems can only be solved through collaboration, and only through collaboration can we find a new and better way of proceeding post-Rio. The outcome of Earth Summit in 1992 was several important documents; such as the Agenda 21, the Convention on Biodiversity and the Framework Convention on Climate Change. In 2012 the outcome document seems like it will be a short, shallow and not very specific text with no real ambition.

Things are looking bleak, but we cannot afford to give up yet. We will be back at Rio Centro tomorrow morning to keep on fighting for the future we want!

-Siv Maren Sandnæs