At the time of the first Earth Summit I was almost two years old and entirely oblivious to the huge environmental challenges faced by the world that I was still so new to. At the 1992 summit, delegates sat together and made plans for the world that I would grow up in, they had the role and the responsibility of sculpting the future, my future and the future of all of the world’s children.
In 1992, along with billions of other children around the world, I couldn’t tell delegates what I wanted Rio to achieve, but the world had to trust that they would make ambitious goals and meaningful plans. Now, twenty years on, I can tell delegates what I want and what is important to me but this time around I have to trust that they will listen.
Rio+20 offers a unique opportunity for world leaders to make world changing decisions, and in the run up to the summit I’m sure that all delegates have been inundated with the voices and opinions of those people who want to affect the outcome of Rio+20, mine being one of those voices. But it is essential for all delegates to know that there are billions of voices they cannot hear, the voices of the world’s children.
More than 46% of the world’s population is now young than 25 years old, three billion people in total. Unlike the first half of the 20th century where there was an average of 12 natural disasters per year, these young people are growing in a world with 350 disasters per year as recorded in 2004. This is just a tiny glimpse at one of the effects of climate change; we have to acknowledge that changing climates pose a real and frightening threat to the world’s children.
I’m not yet a parent, but I can imagine that there is some commonality amongst all parents in what they want for their child; good health, happiness, good education, physical and economic security, opportunity (I could go on). But I don’t think I need to have my own child to know that this is what every child deserves.
As a member of a family, a community, the global economy and a user of the world and its resources I know that I hold immense responsibility to the world’s children and to future generations to strive to enable every parents wish for their child to come true. But (for now at least!), I don’t have the power or influence of a world leader, so I hope that delegates at Rio realise that they too hold this responsibility for future generations.
This is why the issues at Rio are important to me, because the summit has the potential to change the lives of the millions of children whose voices are not heard, but this will only happen if delegates speak up for children.
World leaders at Rio will go with their own agendas which inevitably means that there will be countless opinions about what should come out of Rio. However, I would like to hope that there is common ground amongst all delegates, lobbyists and commentators; the hope that Rio helps to produce a more safe and secure world for future generations. This is what I hope for my children and my children’s children; that I can say that in 2012 the world united at Rio to make planet earth a better place for them, and the rest of the world’s children to live.