The 2011 TUNZA Youth and Children’s Conference was held from Tuesday, the 27th of September to 1st of October 2011 in Bandung, West Java, Indonesia, after a colourful opening ceremony marked by cultural performance by Indonesian cultural groups; and statements by the Vice President of the Republic of Indonesia, the governor of West Java and the UNEP Executive Director.
The Tunza Children and Youth Conference is a biennial international conference of children and youth on the environment from countries across the world. More than 1300 young people from over 118 countries are believed to have taken part in this year’s event, to discuss, inputs young people’s ideas and;
– Strategize how to augment youth participation to the upcoming United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development “Rio+20″. With the slogan: Reshaping our future through a Green Economy and Sustainable Lifestyle”, the Conference also reviewed the contribution of youth to the International Year of Forests and how they could adopt more environment-friendly green life styles, forests, sustainable consumption and state of the Global Environment from the youth perspective.
In his opening statement, the Vice President of the Republic of Indonesia, HE Prof. Dr. Budiono, welcomed the delegates to the Republic of Indonesia and to the conference, describing them as being passionate about environmental protection and conservation. He expressed the Indonesian government’s commitment to environmental protection and to supporting movements and institutions ready to fight against climate change and environmental degradation.
Giving a statement on ‘why young people should be at the centre of sustainable development and UNEP’s commitment to engaging and involving youth in Rio+20’,the UNEP Executive Director, Achim Steiner praised the togetherness and commitment of the world’s youth and children in promoting sustainable development and environmental protection. “It is people such as you; young people, who intuitively, through your mind and your brain understand what sustainable development is all about” he said. He went on: “It is to your appreciation of what environmental sustainability is all about; but it is also through the spirit of togetherness that you bring to the Tunza network that I trust in many of us in the United Nations that the future would be better than the past . We don’t need big text books to understand that as humans we are part of a larger system; we don’t need great theories to understand that if you destroy what feeds you, what sustains you, what keeps you alive, that you will ultimately pay a heavy price”
The UNEP boss made reference to the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio De Jenero in Barazil, which marked the first high level environmental gathering, from which sprung the zeal and spirit of present environmental movements. The summit he said was a special moment, as stakeholders – world leaders, young people, civil society organizations and business leaders decided it was time to rethink our development methods.
He expressed concern about the rapid loss of environmental resources, the collapse of the ecosystem, loss of biodiversity and species extinction and called for collective effort for a stop to these. He went further to remind that the Rio principle was: ‘think globally and act locally’ and therefore enjoined the participants to enliven that principle.
His Excellency Steiner hail efforts of young people such as tree planting in environment protection, saying “it is the small things we can do that build our dreams and visions” for better life.
Other speakers included the Minister of Environment of Indonesia, and TUNZA youth and children representatives.
The opening speeches were followed by a press conference involving the Minister of Environment of Indonesia, the UNEP Executive Director and Goodwill ambassadors, one child and one youth representatives. An award ceremony of the winners of the 20th International Children’s Painting Competition and 20th Anniversary commemoration followed.
The theme for day two, Wednesday, 28th September 2011 was Global Environmental Governance/Sustainable consumption. This was marked by parallel plenary sessions and workshops on themes of the day and regional workshops in the evening.
In the African/Caribbean workshop, various organizations from different parts of the region presented on their projects and programmes relating to climate change and environment.
For Global Unification The Gambia, I introduced the organization’s ‘Enhancing community resilience to climate change through mangrove planting and education’ project. This is a project that aims at empowering and building the capacity of local communities in the fight against climate change by engaging them in planting and preservation of mangroves and making them aware of climate change threats.
Parallel plenary sessions continued on Thursday, the 29th, under the theme: State of the Global Environment/ Forests, with the election of the TUNZA Advisory Council. The evening sessions were plenary on Bandung outcome for Rio+20, and plenary on adoption of the Bandung Declaration.
In the Chaperon’s workshop, under the theme ‘forest of ideas’, the role of the media in the fight against climate change was dealt with. It is concluded that much prominence is given to political leaders and political affairs in the media, neglecting serious issues as climate change and environmental degradations; as well as efforts being made by environmental movements and institutions.
Day four of the Bandung TUNZA was spent in field trips to various sites such as the Little Farmer Bio-Farma Centre, Volcano and Forest Walking – Tangkubang Perahu, the Boscha Observatory, Forest Hunt at Junada Forest. Each child or youth delegate had to choose to go to one site.
The ‘Little Farmer’, where our child delegate, Teneng Jawneh chose to be, is a recreational facility that offers a unique experience in farming and livestock husbandry. There one is accorded the opportunity to enjoy the natural scenery and participate in gardening.
The conference ended with a visit to the proposed World City Forest in Bandung and closing ceremony marked by musical performance and closing remarks.
A major result of the TUNZA Bundung is the Bundung declaration, which enjoined world leaders to be more committed to climate change and environmental preservation crusade, and to recognize the role of young people in this matter, as they meet in June 2012 in Brazil. ■
By Madiba Sillah