14.10.2011 - Natural Sciences Sector

Towards green societies; engaging the youth to create local solutions for a sustainable future

From 17 to 20 October 2011, the 7th UNESCO Youth Forum will be held at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris under the theme ‘How youth drive change’. Student engagement, social innovation, fostering democracy, youth employment, conflict and sustainable development are among the issues that will be discussed by youth delegates, civil society participants, UN entities, intergovernmental organizations, academics and the private sector. A special two-panel session focussing on facilitating green societies will take place on 19 October 2011.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated that ‘Youth should be given a chance to take an active part in the decision-making of local, national and global levels’. In that spirit, UNESCO has chosen to engage youth and provide a platform for them to voice their opinions so that their suggestions may be included in the organization’s preparations for the Rio+20 Summit.

Two panels have been organized to engage youth in creating local solutions and sharing ideas with experts to move towards green societies. The first panel will revolve around an exchange of ideas and examples of local solutions geared towards sustainable development. This panel will be moderated by Mr Salvatore Arico, Programme Specialist for Biodiversity, Division of Ecological and Earth Sciences. The panel will include Ms. Gretchen Kalonji, Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences, and Eduardo da Costa Paes, mayor of Rio (Brazil).

The second panel will offer a broader perspective of the challenges that need to be addressed to create green societies and ways in which the youth can address these issues, including engaging youth in policy responses. Concrete activities that UNESCO could potentially lead in partnership with youth will also be discussed. This panel will count with the participation of experts from various organizations including:

  • Mr. Bernard Combes
    Information Officer, UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development Secretariat, UNESCO
  • Mr. Luis Davila
    Associate Programme Officer, Capacity Building and Outreach Unit Finance, Technology and Capacity-building Programme, UNFCCC Secretariat
  • Ms. Fanny Demassieux
    Head, Responsible Consumption Unit, Sustainable Consumption and Production Branch United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
  • Mr Owen Gaffney
    Director of communications, International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Stockholm, Sweden  
  • Mr. Mitchell Hall
    Sustainability Consultant, CSAI, FAO
  • Mr. Walter Staveloz
    Director, International Relations Association of Science-Technology Centres, Washington, DC, USA
  • Mr. David Woollcombe
    President, Peace Child International


The Youth Delegates will also have the opportunity to exchange ideas with Young Professionals of the UNESCO Science Sector specializing in the fields of water, biodiversity, ecology, earth sciences, science education, disaster risk reduction, and science policy.

The panel participants will draft a statement on the role of the youth in facilitating sustainable development within the context of Rio+20 including clear recommendations, and a Facebook group will be launched to follow up on local outcomes of Rio+ 20.
After the session, fifty Youth Delegates will visit the permanent exhibition of the musée du quai Branly focusing on pieces relating to science and across cultures.

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