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Joahannesburg Summit 2002
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Desai Urges Youth to Come to Johannesburg and Make a Difference

The Youth Panel New York, 12 August—Youth representatives will have a chance to make a major contribution at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg later this month, according to Summit Secretary-General Nitin Desai, and will have a seat at the meetings that shape action as well as the roundtables with Heads of State and Government.

With the focus of this year's International Youth Day on sustainable development, Desai told an audience in New York that youth are far more willing to show a personal commitment to sustainable development than others since "they will live in the future. They have to worry."

"One of the reasons," Desai said, "why we are not getting what we want is due to very short-term political thinking over long-term considerations. This is one area where youth groups can come in with strong convictions, not theoretical, to demand that action must be taken. Youth can make a very powerful contribution here."

Noting that youth groups had already been involved in the preparations for Johannesburg, and have held extensive preparations of their own, Desai called on the youth representatives to "come to Johannesburg and make a difference."

Desai said that youth could play an especially big role on the cutting edge of sustainable development, which is at the local level, where largely abstract policy formulations are boiled down to the point where people are forced to take certain decisions.

Youth are well placed to make a difference in Johannesburg, as Ghazal Badiozamani, from the Summit Secretariat, said 40 countries will have youth representatives on their delegations.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in his message for the commemoration, said the engagement of young people "is crucial" to the preparation and the follow-up to the Summit.

"While it is the responsibility of governments to ensure these commitments are translated into action, they cannot do it alone. They need to be spurred on by the voices of people everywhere. That is where young people come in. Just as youth have been active in the preparations for the Johannesburg Summit, so must they remain active in the follow-up, and keep making their voices heard as the main stakeholders in our planet's future."

This is the third year that International Youth Day will be observed, and the theme for the Day is "Now and for the Future: Youth Action for Sustainable Development." Youth--defined by the United Nations as the age group between 15 and 24 years old -- make up one sixth of the world's population. The majority of these young men and women live in developing countries, and their numbers are expected to rise steeply into the twenty-first century.

Since the 1992 Earth Summit, youth have been recognized as a major group in all sustainable development conferences. The Rio Conference found that "The creativity, ideals and courage of the youth of the world should be mobilized to forge a global partnership in order to achieve sustainable development and ensure a better future for all."

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24 August 2006