Young people from across the island of Ireland gathered at the Greenhouse in Dublin to learn and share their ideas about sustainable development at ECO-UNESCO’s “Global Youth Citizens for Sustainable Development – A National Youth Meeting for Rio+20.”  This one day interactive event was hosted by ECO-UNESCO, Ireland’s environmental education and youth organisation in order to engage Ireland’s young people in dialogue about becoming active citizens around the upcoming RIO+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development and the Milennium Development Goals.

Over 60 young people participated in the event at ECO-UNESCO’s Dublin city centre venue, the Greenhouse and engaged in workshops on Policy and Active Citizenship, Sustainable Development and Rio+20 as well as a practical workshop on the photography and the power of images with professional photographer and educator, Clare Mulvany. Young Delegates were present from Antrim, Dublin, Galway and Monaghan.

The event was opened with an inspiring talk by Paul Cunningham, author of Ireland’s Burning, and European Correspondent for RTÉ who was also joined by Kevin Greene, representative from the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government; and Johnny Sheehan, Development Education Coordinator, National Youth Council Ireland, for a panel discussion. The young people had the opportunity to share their ideas and have their queries answered about their role in Sustainable Development and how they can become active citizens in Ireland in order to have a positive global impact. They also raised concerns about what the next steps will be if Rio+20 is not successful as well as the question of whether or not Ireland will be sending key senior politicians to represent the country at the upcoming Rio+20 UN Conference.

The experts highlighted that young people have powerful potential to have their voice heard through new technologies such as social media. In this way, every young person in Ireland can become a ‘citizen journalist’ and have their voices heard on key issues affecting their local and global communities.

“Our National Youth Meeting was about giving young people a voice on issues that affect them; in particular surrounding the issues of sustainable development and the RIO+20 Conference where some of the biggest global environmental and sustainability challenges will be debated and discussed in Rio de Janeiro this June,” commented Elaine Nevin, ECO-UNESCO National Director. “It is vital that young people are given a voice and heard.”

“I think that sustainable development is a key point in my future and the future of my generation and generations to come. This event has taught me that there are things I can do to help and there are many organisations that I can include myself in to make my future brighter. I thought that the people who came in to talk to us gave us good information which will help us make good choices in life.” Sorcha Hughes, Young Global Citizen Global Youth Citizen participant (age 13)

The innovative ideas and inspirations of these young people will contribute to a special ECO-UNESCO publication which will serve as a guide to ‘Young persons guide to Rio+20’. Following the event, all young people from Ireland will also be invited to submit photographs for a special exhibition entitled “Camera on Citizenship – global Views.” This exhibition will be launched at the Greenhouse in the weeks prior to the Rio+20 Conference in June.