Rio de Janeiro - Elder statesmen attending the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in Brazil have said that the success or failure of the conference would be a defining moment for youths.
At a pre-conference dialogue, the elder statesmen urged world leaders to deliver concrete outcomes and stressed that the future of the world’s 3.5 billion young people should be at the forefront of their discussion.
The group included former Norweigian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former President of Ireland Mary Robinson.
The elder statesmen were joined in Rio by four young activists Esther Agbarakwe from Nigeria, Marvin Nala from China, Sara Svensson from Sweden and Pedro Telles from Brazil.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that they participated in "Elders+Youngers", an open dialogue on the planet’s economic, social and environment future.
Both the elders and the “youngers” emphasised that the potential success or failure of Rio+20 would be a defining moment for youths the world over.
The success or failure would also determine the aspirations and prospects of future generations, they said.
The elders urged world leaders to step up their efforts to achieve concrete outcomes at Rio+20 and ensure the full implementation of the past agreements.
Speaking at a press conference with the four young activists, the elders also urged leaders to make long-term plans and put the aspirations of young people in focus.
Gro Harlem Brundtland, the former Prime Minister of Norway and member of the UN Secretary-General’s High Level Panel on Global Sustainability, said: "We have to move fast to save our planet.
"Despite widespread skepticism, we firmly believe that there is time to make Rio+20 count for future generations.
"We simply cannot afford to wait another twenty years to put our planet on a more sustainable path.
"We need a clear agreement on the path to creating new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that will help galvanise efforts to grow economies in ways that tackle poverty and inequality and protect our environment."
According to her, women must be put at the centre of sustainable development; it is a fact that countries that empower women are healthier, more prosperous and more peaceful.
"If we are to succeed in building a sustainable future, women should be allowed to realise their full potential in economic, political and social life," she said.
Also speaking at conference, Robinson said that social justice and environment were linked
"In a world of finite resources, economic growth had to go hand in hand with social justice and protecting the environment
"Rio+20 is a once in a generation opportunity to implement a right-based, human-centred approach to sustainable development. We cannot afford to miss it."
Cardoso of Brazil said: "There are 3.5 billion people under the age of 30 in the world today, half the global population; it is their future that is at stake in Rio, not ours.
"Today’s young people are impatient for change. They are more aware and have a broader worldview than generations before them."
Cardoso said that the new technologies connect the youths to people everywhere and have created new spaces for them to find power in numbers, both online and in public squares.
The elders said that Rio+20’s opportunity would be squandered without courage and vision for implementation and sustainability.