Youth volunteers mobilized for the Rio+20 Conference
by Bart Tilkin, UNV Programme Officer
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: In the lead-up to Rio+20, the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme was actively involved with the Government of Brazil and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in the training of 1,200 young volunteers for the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development taking place from 20 to 22 June in Rio de Janeiro.
The young volunteers were selected through universities and colleges in the less favoured neighbourhoods of Rio. With social inclusion being one of the main objectives of the United Nations, several people with disabilities – mainly hearing and visual, but also physical and mental disabilities – were also included in the training of volunteers.
The areas covered by the training were volunteerism, active citizenship, youth, inclusion, sustainability and human rights. The methodology was based on audio-visual material and experiential dynamics. The volunteers were not only told that their work for the Conference was very important, but also that volunteerism is crucial for reaching the main objective of the Conference which is sustainable development.
The young volunteers had the opportunity to discuss the concept of volunteerism and its underlying values and to develop definitions. By means of an example of UNV’s people-centered approach, many of the positive effects of volunteerism for peace and development were explained, including sustainability, ownership, self-esteem, capacity building, participation, resilience and well-being.
The volunteers posted their training experiences and pictures on online networks and participated in the Volunteer Action Counts campaign.
In the days leading up to the Conference, an important side-event is taking place – ‘Youth Blast’, the Youth Conference for Rio+20. After the event, a concluding statement will be presented to world leaders as the voice of youth in the outcome of the conference.
The outcome of the Rio+20 Conference will certainly determine the future of our planet, and youth have an important role to play. That is why UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon asked youth all over the world to “make some noise” (“façam barulho” in Portuguese) in order to persuade world leaders to act and reach valuable agreements during the Conference for sustainable development.
UNV will also participate in the conference with an exhibition space on the Volunteer Action Counts Campaign, and a side event on the importance of volunteering for sustainable development.
Ten days before the start of the Conference, during an official session with representatives of the Brazilian Government and the United Nations, all the volunteers who took part in the training received a certificate of acknowledgment and a volunteer kit. Marco van der Ree, UNV Chief of Partnerships, gave a motivating speech to the 1,200 volunteers in a full Conference Centre in Rio de Janeiro, followed by a music and dance performance to thank them for their inspiration in action.
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