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Young Kiwis Discontent as Rio+20 Conference Looms

Tuesday 12 June 2012, 10:44AM
By UNICEF New Zealand
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-The Future We Want Report -

Young Kiwis have rejected the image of New Zealand as a clean, green paradise and want Government and other decision makers to stand up and listen to their views – says a new report ‘The Future We Want’ compiled by UNICEF NZ (UN Children’s Fund) and partners*.

The report is the result of a series of in-depth consultations with young Kiwis (aged 14-26) which took place in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch**. The intention was to gauge their views in advance of Rio+20 on June 20 – a major conference on sustainable development which will be attended by world leaders and government delegations including New Zealand.

Sarah Morris, International Advocacy Manager, UNICEF NZ, said “In Rio 20 years ago it was acknowledged that, as the future custodians of our planet, young people should be involved in decision making on environmental, social and cultural issues. New Zealand’s government signed up to international commitments agreeing to consult with youth.

“But 20 years on and young New Zealanders were in danger of being ignored on the eve of the most significant event on sustainable development in their lifetime. So, UNICEF NZ and partners decided to step in and give young Kiwis the chance to have a voice at Rio. The consultations proved that our young people care deeply about the future of New Zealand and how we managed our planet’s resources.”

The report shows that young New Zealanders:

·        …want to be listened to and engaged with by those in power. They said they feel let down by those representing them and that their right to contribute to conversations about the future of New Zealand is not being upheld. Many were unaware of Rio+20, let alone the New Zealand government’s position on several of the issues being covered.

·        …reject the notion of the quarter-acre ‘pavlova paradise’. The report outlines their view that New Zealand has a series of environmental, social and cultural issues at its doorstep, which are often ignored by policy makers. This includes an excessive use of water (domestically and commercially) and the need to improve energy efficiency.

·        …believe in equity with participants citing inequality, poverty and poor environmental management as unfair and unacceptable. Young people highly value shared commons such as public spaces, oceans and waterways and believe that they should be sustained for future generations. Options proposed include enforcing stricter regulations for fishing and creating larger marine reserves.

·        ...think trade should be ‘fair not free’ with producers (in NZ and around the world) paid fairly for their work. Young people believe we need to live within our means and that green and sustainable options must be made more affordable, more available and more acceptable. This could include tougher standards of food labelling and encouraging people to buy seasonal food.

·        ….believe our cities should be designed around people and not machines. Young people cited the importance of reducing car usage, facilitating more effective public consultation with young people to design future cities, and encouraging more eco-friendly design.

Darren Zhang, UNICEF NZ Youth Ambassador, took part in the Wellington consultation. The 18 year-old Victoria University student said, “Never before has it been so clear that our generation will bear direct responsibility for the decisions made now on how our earth’s finite resources are managed.

“But at the same time, my generation of young New Zealanders are aware of the challenges and are ready to provide the solutions needed to support a sustainable, fair and interdependent future.

“As world leaders begin their journey towards Rio, they must remember that across the world, our generation have yet to begin a whole life’s journey ahead of us.”

The final report can be viewed at www.unicef.org.nz/thefuturewewant. It has been shared with New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and other key stakeholders ahead of the Rio+20 conference. Copies of the report have also been distributed to young Kiwis attending the conference to share with other attendees.