Despite a deteriorating reputation of managers due to the ongoing financial crisis, business administration and management studies still rank among the most popular academic programs around the globe. According to the German Federal Statistical Office, about 200,000 out of 2.4 million students in Germany were business majors in 2011. This means that almost one in every ten students in Germany was studying business at the time.
When Njideka Harry answers the phone, her voice is warm and smooth. As she begins to tell me about the foundation she started twelve years ago, her tone conveys both humility and confidence. Before long, it becomes clear that these qualities are a trademark; something embedded in the very fabric of her organization and passed on to the youth who come through the Youth for Technology Foundation’s programs in six developing countries across Africa and Latin America. (more…)
“How do we create the positive energy to fuel real change?” Ian Johnson, Secretary General of the Club of Rome, asks to a young audience of artists, activists entrepreneurs, and representatives of international (youth) movements in his opening remarks at the Change Course Conference on December 8th, 2012. The scene in Winterthur, Switzerland was an atypical one for the Club of Rome. While traditionally, the organization’s member base consists of influential, elderly white males, the average age on that day was 25 years. Sixty young men and women from over fifty countries came together to deliberate for four days on how to “change course” towards a sustainable world. Founded in 1968 as an association of leading independent thinkers from politics, business and science, the Club of Rome is today primarily known as the think tank that published the influential “Limits to Growth” report in 1972.
“The economy, stupid,” was the quote hanging at President Bill Clinton’s Little Rock 1992 campaign headquarters. Although the quote has gone through many incarnations in the past decades, it really captured the zeitgeist for the President. Perhaps it has even captured every zeitgeist to ever have existed for every political candidate – this for the simple reason that the economy is something that affects each and every one of us.
“It’s better than nothing.” This was the general resigned tone of the remarks heard at the conclusion of the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro on June 22nd, 2012. Others echoed a bleaker outlook, proclaiming that the past twenty years of large UN conferences had merely resulted in the pointless exercise of talking the talk without walking the walk ad infinitum. The result from the countless preparatory meeting sessions and tedious negotiations is Resolution 66/288 – The Future We Want. All UN member states adopted the resolution document which serves, amongst other things, as the foundation for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
When I walked into pavilion 1 at the Riocentro on my first day at Rio+20, I passed a large white exhibitions space which was labelled ” The Future We Want.” I glanced at the big blue word clouds and five large TV screens — “What future do we actually want?,” I asked myself. The cynic in me felt there was no need to answer that question because even if we could agree that the future must be a more sustainable, prosperous one for all, politicians from all over the world, partially with completely different backgrounds, capabilities and ideals, representing conflicting needs and interests, won’t be able to agree upon a shared, long-term vision for the future anyway. My optimistic side countered that in the last 100 years alone humanity has overcome two world wars, ended apartheid in South Africa, escaped total nuclear destruction and developed the internet, among other things. Anything’s possible, if you work hard on it, I thought. Little did I know that just hours later I would be revisiting some of these questions about the “The Future We Want” in a conversation with the exhibition’s co-creators, Jonathan Arnold and Bill Becker. At a panel on “Sustainable Lifestyles 2050,” Bill was a panelist and spoke about the importance of a strong intergenerational relationship to help the young members of society implement their ideas for a sustainable future.
I spent two weeks tracking Rio+20 as a student reporter seeking to make sense of the sustainable development talks, listening to ministers, CEOs and scientists who opened up trail-blazing perspectives on changing economic and societal paradigms.
Most media judged it as meaningless, mainly due to its lack of political commitment, but to only focus on this would be wrong. As important was the momentum and narratives it created, which are seeding ideas among the younger generation that may actually change the way they will lead society and the economy in years to come. Rio+20 was a great platform for networking, conversations and knowledge exchange, bringing together experts from all over world to discuss specific topics such as climate change mitigation, social inclusion and ethical finance. The major ongoing impact from the conference will probably come from the world of business. There appears to have been a shift of thinking among corporates towards inclusive growth.
Located in the main conference venue for the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development, the “Tree of Rio+20 Visions” wall displays a collective art initiative organized by WeCanada. Conference attendees were invited to add their own vision throughout the three-day event for “the future we want.” You can see the tree in the slideshow below.
Members from civil society groups staged a major sit-in style protest outside of Pavilion 3 at the RioCentro convention center on Thursday before marching out en-mass, carrying banners and chanting the slogan “The future we want….is not here!” In a symbolic rejection of the negotiating text of the Rio+20 declaration, participants turned in their badges to UN security before boarding a bus for the People’s Summit in the Flamingo Park neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro. Civil society protesters were angered by what they perceived as an abandonment of environmental and social equity principles in favor of an economy-focused agenda. Interview conducted by Michael McCullough. The staged civil disobedience, which organizers advertised as a “People’s Plenary,” was in violation of the Rio+20 rules, which require a permit for every major event held at the Summit. However, Rio+20 organizers and security were reluctant to disperse the crowd, which was thronged by a swarm of media reporting for major news outlets. The sit-in ran intermittently from roughly 1:00 PM until the group’s departure shortly after 4:00PM. The protest was spearheaded by youth climate leaders and also included members of civil society groups representing women and indigenous communities. During the sit-in, leaders read a mock text entitled “The Future we Bought,” as a satirical jab at the conference’s trademark slogan, “The Future we Want.” Interview conducted by Nikolaj Fischer.
When Severn Cullis-Suzuki stepped on stage at the plenary session of the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, she knew this was her one opportunity to speak to the world’s most influential decision-makers. Just twelve years old at the time, she seized her once-in-a-lifetime chance to tell every politician, businessman and journalist at the UN: “You are what you do, not what you say… I challenge you, please make your actions reflect your words.”
Friday night June 15, 2012. The last preparatory conference of the Third Preparatory Committee Meeting ended without any agreement on the final document for the upcoming Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development. As a consequence, the Brazilian government took on a leadership role in order to facilitate continued negotiations. The exact nature of the process under Brazil’s direction was still unclear as of Friday night. When asked for comment, delegates from negotiating member nations expressed concern over the uncertainty of the process.
This post is in reflection of the Youth Blast – Conference of youth for Rio+20. The Major Group for Children and Youth (MGCY) gathers together these days in Rio at the Youth Blast – Conference of youth for Rio+20. The fact that they are a major group should help to give them a voice in the Rio+20 process. While the conference is not as strictly organized as official UN meetings, it provides some space for more creative approaches in order to influence the Earth Summit in Rio. Please find a short creative collection of what is in the mind of youth: