Maximize the education opportunity of Rio+20

07 March 2012 | News story

The idea of Satellite Earth Summits along the lines of the Model UN is being developed by Peace Child International with Science Po and UNESCO. Visit the Road to Rio+20 website.

By CEC member David R. Woollcombe, President, Peace Child International

I am delighted to be able to announce today the launch of our Education Hub for the UN’s Rio+20 Summit >>

For the first time, it brings together everything Peace Child has ever published on the Rio Earth Summit Process – from our Children’s Edition of Agenda 21: Rescue Mission : Planet Earth, to our Johannesburg update: Rescue 2002, to our Copenhagen briefing: Energy Revolution. Look for the  6 new Education Booklets on Sustainable Human Development we have prepared for Rio+20, loosely based on the UN Human Development Reports and the UNEP Green Economy briefing. All these are created by young people for young people – based on original UN documents, almost all of which are featured on the Background section of the site.

Our goal is to get every school on the planet to teach their students about the crucial issues addressed by Rio+20: the website Home page starts with seven jargon-free slides that summarise some of the Rio+20 issues, linked to posters outlining some solutions. It goes on to propose ideas for Action:

  1. The UNESCO-supported ‘My City+20’ – Model Rio Earth Summit idea;
  2. A DAY OF ACTION AND LEARNING for Rio+20.
  3. A ‘Do it yourself Green Economy Transition Plan’ – for your self – your household – your community – and your Nation.

The site also links to the UN’s Rio+20 sites and its Global Conversation Campaign: The Future We Want. It will, we hope – through the Add section – link to many other great initiatives for action and awareness-raising. Like your’s! Please share your ideas with me, or Simon Howlett, the young webmaster who created the site, at: rio@peacechild.org

Maximize the education opportunity of Rio+20

The Rio+20 Earth Summit has yet to capture the public imagination in the way that the original 1992 Earth Summit did. And yet it remains the most important opportunity that we, in the education sector, have been afforded in the last two decades to raise the awareness of our students to the enormous challenges to sustainability that lie ahead in their lifetimes.

The twin themes of the Summit are: (1) Transition to a green, sustainable economy from the existing brown, fossil-fuelled economy and (2) What form of governance – ‘institutional infrastructure’ – will deliver sustainability?

These themes frame the debate in a fascinating, challenging way. The issue of the Green Economy is a divisive one. I think that the G-77 countries prefer talk of ‘sustainable development’ as they feel that the focus on the ‘green economy’ leaves out the social and environmental pillar, commodifies nature with price tickets, and generally ignores the South’s urgent need for development. Nothing could be further from the truth. The United Nations Environment Programme’s ‘Towards a Green Economy’ and the UN Human Development Report 2011 with its focus on ‘Sustainability and Equity’ show how the Green Economy and Green Growth can hugely benefit the solar-rich countries of the South and drive poverty eradication.

But I think that G-77 are not buying it – and therein lies an amazing opportunity for a Model UN Earth Summit. This would take the form of a Model UN but using the single focus of Rio+20, and negotiating its Draft Outcome Document from the Zero Draft and all the National Positions which are posted on the UN CSD website. It is much easier to organise than a traditional multi-focus Model UN.

The idea of Satellite Earth Summits is being developed by Peace Child International with Science Po and UNESCO in Paris. This is being done at the urging of a student who felt it was ridiculous for young people to burn up their carbon foot print by flying to Rio – when they could do a ‘My City+20.’ (see: www.mycity+20.org)

Many schools will not have the time to do a full-dress Model Earth Summit, but the UN wants every school on the planet to get their students thinking: “What will our town / village / community look like when oil runs out and everything – EVERYTHING! – will have to change??” Young people need to start thinking about that. Investment houses, even the US Pentagon, have started thinking about what happens when oil runs out. The United Nations' 2012 focus on the ‘Year of Sustainable Energy for All’ is a good moment to start thinking about this issue.

Peace Child International has a ton of material on its ‘Road to Rio+20’ website – including

  • ideas for a ‘Day of Action for Rio+20’
  • do-it-yourself Green Transition Plans for your Self, your household, your school, your community, town/city and nation
  • a survey which asks students to review some the main commitments made at the 1992 Earth Summit to score how far they think that their governments, and others, have implemented them
  • scripts for a Peace Child musical built around the Rio+20 Summit, and
  • a 20-minute cabaret which allows young people to learn its importance through the prism of a ‘Time-Travel TV Chat Show.’

In our year of Youth Rio+20 Prepcoms in many countries last year, student after student asked: “Why don’t schools teach us about this stuff… (peak oil, climate change, the post-carbon green economy etc.)?” Agenda 21, Chapter 36 called for a ‘re-orientation of education towards sustainability.’ It hasn’t happened – 
So I urge all IUCN CEC members to plan something to draw their students’ attention to Rio+20: anything, even a brief, 20-minute School Assembly, is better than nothing. And please record what you do at the Road to Rio+20 website >

For more information, contact David Woollcombe david@peacechild.org