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UNESCO sees new hope in youth to save the planet

It is increasingly becoming evident that if we are serious about saving planet earth, the young leaders and journalists, worldwide should start working together to shape a better future for humankind.

This is a clear signal that UNESCO made this month in the one of the world’s iconic cities, Paris; where young leaders and journalists attended the UNESCO ESD Conference with the theme “Youth Saves the Planet”.
Selected on meritorious grounds to participate at the Conference and shape a new hope for a world in which our current leaders are facing increasing challenges in their quest to achieve sustainable development, the young leaders and journalists’ the enthusiasm and commitment towards achievement of sustainable development is a breath of fresh air.
Some of the work that the young leaders and journalists from different parts of the world pledged to start actively and continuously get involved in include the to promote mindsets and lifestyle changes, using an approach called Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). They are also going to create networks and start working on community and national projects that promote the wellbeing of both the people and the environment, with the view to ensuring that future generations’ need to enjoy the same wellbeing is not compromised. For this to be achieved, the young leaders and journalists appealed to UNESCO to continue making resources available for skills development to run successful projects that promote both human and environmental wellbeing and to ensure that the media is used regularly as a platform to promote sustainable development.
The young journalists and leaders from different parts of the world acknowledged the challenges that are limiting worldwide progress towards achieving sustainable development and have come up with refreshingly new and practical approaches towards changing mindsets and lifestyles in ways that promote both human and environmental wellbeing.

“The Youth Saves the Planet Conference was a success that brought together youth leaders all over the world in an effort to connect and learn from each other,” said Vinh Le from Canada. “This conference has given us the tools and skills to create social initiatives and be a better ESD leader. The next steps for my partner and I at Level Studio Inc. is to create an upscale social challenge to get more youth in our country to learn about the SDGs and have them implemented into their lifestyle.”
The young journalists and leaders have adopted a renewed perspective on the concept of development itself. They believe that sustainability does not simply mean conserving the present or the past with a distant goal in mind. For individuals, it boils down to adapting themselves to a constantly changing world, starting at an individual level and then spread it to all levels of societies. The young journalists and leaders identified lack of broader awareness and education on the need to change mindsets and lifestyles as one of the key challenges that the media can address through increase public education on sustainable development.

“As champions of sustainable development the young leaders and journalists need to lead by example,” said a Zimbabwean broadcast journalist, Ms Elizabeth Gandah. “We need to start living lifestyles that show that we are promoting the achievement of sustainable development goals.”
Most countries worldwide are members of the Global Action Plan (GAP) for sustainable development. In their April 2018 draft education for sustainable development position paper that is yet to be ratified, the world governments acknowledge that when promoting sustainable development, there is urgent pay attention to individuals’ life choices and convictions as much as to the social, cultural, political, and economical contexts they are set in.
“The fundamental changes required for a sustainable future start with individuals and their change of behaviour, attitude and life style, while the institutional supports are equally important and needed to support the individual contributions,” says the GAP draft report.


Call for win-win partnerships for sustainable development

Meanwhile most of the young leaders and journalists, particularly those from Africa and the island Africa and the island states said at the Paris Youth Saves the Planet Conference that although international cooperation is ideal towards achieving sustainable development, there was no need for other countries to dictate without consultation, what other countries needed to do to achieve sustainable development. They said win-win consultative partnerships hold the key to the success of achieving sustainable development worldwide.
In September 2015, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the 2030 agenda for sustain development that includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that need to be achieved worldwide by 2030. The SDGs are built on the principle of “leaving no one behind” so that there is an achievement of sustainable development for all. They include the need to achieve zero hunger and poverty, good health and wellbeing, quality education, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, decent work and economic growth, achieving equality, embracing people with disabilities, upholding human rights, accessible human settlement and peace, among others. They can be summarized as focusing on people, planet and prosperity.

The Paris Youth Saves the Planet Conference also discussed issues related to global, regional and community partnerships for sustainable development with the media as the key platform that needs to be used to promote sustainable development through sending out messages calling for the need to change mindsets and lifestyles. During plenary session discussions it was proposed that there is need to start a ESD for SDGs News Sources and News Writers Network in order to further promote sustainable development in the media – an initiative that UNESCO has already started piloting as a post-Conference activity for both young leaders and journalists worldwide.
Speaking at the Conference, the Director for UNESCO Education for Sustainable Development, Mr Alaxandra said that he was happy to learn that the young leaders and journalists had agreed to continue working together as a network.
“UNESCO will continue to promote education and sustainable development,” said Mr Alexandra. “Young people will remain a clear cornerstone of our work.”

Expose those who work against sustainable development
The Conference facilitators drawn from Africa, Middle East and Europe informed the young leaders and journalists that sustainable development could not be achieved without exposing and shaming those who work against achieving it, whether they are in public and private sector. This means that research and stories need to be written without fear or favour, calling for and end to all forms of corruption and exploitation and violation of human rights and those who work against achieving peace in the would.
For example, a delegate from Kenya who spoke on conditions of anonymity was anxious to get help to expose the human rights violations in his country involving human wildlife conflicts in which animals are being accorded more rights than humans.
“What is happening is Kenya is that when animals attack communities settled next to national parks and game reserves, the victims do not get compensated,” said the disappointed delegate. “Worse still, these communities do not get any benefits from wildlife and are gunned down by the Government if they are caught poaching wildlife or even harvesting resources from the game reserves.”
The Conference facilitators reminded the young journalists and leaders that they should not forget that they are working together with a UN agency that promotes and protects freedom of expression. Therefore, if ever they get victimized for telling the truth, they would need to appeal to UNESCO for protection.

By Emmanuel Koro – Paris
About the writer: Emmanuel Koro is a Johannesburg-based international award-winning environmental journalist who has written extensively on environment and development issues in Africa.


The Express News

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