My Personal Journey to Rio +20 Earth Summit

From the 10th -15th of August 2011, I had the privilege of participating in the West-African Youth Prep-com Meeting on Sustainable Development.

This Prepcom was hosted by Young People We Care together with Peace Child International supported by the European Commission. It was a privilege to meet vibrant West-African Youth from Liberia, Ghana, Nigeria and Togo as well as a solidarity participant from South-Africa. Unanimously we echoed the advocacy of youth to be involved in discussions towards a sustainable future. After all for whom are the leaders of today safe-guarding the future? …..obviously for the youth.

It was inspiring to feel the passion that all youth gathered therein had about the safety of our planet. Regardless of the diverse backgrounds from which we all came; entrepreneurship, education, poverty alleviation, microfinance and health, our endeavours and passions had obvious benefits and prospects from the concept of sustainable development; aiming at social and human well-being.

But then, we were mindful that following the protracted global debate on the definition for a Green Economy and the controversies that surrounded the proposition of a Universal definition, it was important that states and societies be allowed to define their own sustainable development agenda in the context of environmental safety and human well-being. Looking at the disparities in social and infrastructural development across different societies, countries and regions, it will be unfair and impractical to seek global well-being of all nations if a straight jacket modus operandi is formulated for the achievement of sustainable development. There should be the freedom to operate based on national and societal priorities and this is better at inducing the patronage of the citizenry to this unique development agenda.

We feel that, as West-Africans, and in effect Africans, our history has had elements of sustainability in our approach to development. We had used our taboo system and mythologies to preserve our forests and water bodies. We had used our reverence for the traditional leadership to maintain sanitation in our environments, and we had depended on natural means to preserve and cook food, hunt and create shelter. Our environmental woes of today have emanated from our misguided and unconscious deviation from these helpful traditions of our past.

Of course as the world transformed in development since the 19th century we as Africans could not afford to stagnate our civilization; modernisation became essential.  However as we modernised our civilisations in Africa, it was prudent to have imbibed the principles of responsibility and commitment that our fore-fathers devoted to handing down to us the harmonious environment we inherited. But we lost grip. Yet there is still hope for sustainability if we “right the wrongs”   In the Ghanaian Parlance the campaign is “SANKOFA”! -which means let’s go back to the initial, to the old path, to that which we left behind as we strive for social and human development; this is what places Africa in the fore-front of this campaign.

This is our conviction as African Youth: Green Economy Now! AFRICA, LEAD THE WAY!


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