ECI youth rep. in the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD)

Nigerian Earth Charter Youth Group coordinator Esther Agbarakwe was funded by German government to attend the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) 17th Session. Esther role was to represent Earth Charter Initiative’s youth network – read her comprehensive report from the event and leave your comments! I also encourage you to read her article in the publication called “Outreach Issues” by the Sustainable Development Issues Network, page 10.

Thank you Esther for this!
International Youth Facilitator


May 4th -15th 2009
New York

The Government of the Federal Republic of Germany announced that for the third year in a row it will sponsor the participation of two African Youth representatives in addition to the funding of two German Youth to attend CSD-17. The nomination and selection processes for Africa-based youth representatives was coordinated by the CSD Youth Caucus Southern-Coordinator, thus after a through scrutiny of all applications, I emerged as one of the winners (female).

The United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) was established by the UN General Assembly in December 1992 to ensure effective follow-up of United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), also known as the Earth Summit.

The Commission is responsible for reviewing progress in the implementation of Agenda 21 and the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development; as well as providing policy guidance to follow up the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPOI) at the local, national, regional and international levels. The JPOI reaffirmed that the CSD is the high-level forum for sustainable development within the United Nations system.

The CSD meets annually in New York, in two-year cycles, with each cycle focusing on clusters of specific thematic and cross-sectoral issues, outlined in its new multi-year programme of work (2003-2017). The cycles alternate a review year to a policy year. For this cycle, the themes are as follow: Agriculture, Rural development, Land, Drought, Desertification, and Africa. Cross-cutting issues are also taken into consideration, and include Water and Sanitation, Education, Gender, Human Rights, Health, Natural Resources and others.

After a 13hours air travel from Lagos, Nigeria to Atlanta, Atlanta to New York and arriving by 1.00am on the 3rd of May just to sleep for 5hrs only and begin preparation to participate at the Youth Blast, holding at Columbia University the same day. Arriving at the Venue and realizing that you are the only Africa delegate, wasn’t quite funny. The Youth Blast was organized by the Youth Caucus for youth delegates; It was aimed at providing youths with the knowledge about the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD), the role youths play and of course getting to know each other!

It is a fact that no African Government had a youth on their official delegation or even a youth representative at the youth Caucus, except those funded by the German and Swedish governments or NGOs. Why do we not involve the young people from Africa? An environment where elders believed that they have the monopoly of knowledge cannot lead into a sustainable future!. “Provide all, especially children and youth, with educational opportunities that empower them to contribute actively to Sustainable development.” (Earth Charter 2000).

At the opening session of this meeting, the Youth Statement was delivered by me, Esther Agbarakwe, a youth representative from Nigeria. After the Opening Statement I was filled with a deep sense of humility and responsibility in addition to being an active global citizen and inspired to effectively and respectfully represent Nigeria/Africa (a copy of my statement can be found from my blog). 

On May 12th, I was asked to be a speaker at a side event on “The Role of Youth at the United Nations/CSD” organized by Youth Caucus, European Youth Forum and Sustainable Youth.

The members of youth Caucus had a meeting with the Chair of UN CSD 17, H.E. Ms. Gerda Verburg (the Netherlands). It afforded the youth delegated the opportunity to met with her and lobby for the youth Caucus priorities. As an Africa Youth representative, I asked her “As a young person growing up in Africa in an environment that believes that only the elders have monopoly of knowledge, do you think that this will change in the coming years? And why African government delegations are not commitment to pointing to youth development in their priority? I believe that the best window for sustainability in Africa is the involvement of youths and children in all level of decision making.” Her response was “You will be a decision maker in 10 years. Use your position in changing this. Since you’re aware what is wrong, start making the difference.” I was not satisfied with the response!

I was asked by the Youth Caucus leadership to write an article as a youth representative from Africa. My article was titled “CSD 17: Africa Youth Perspective”. This article was published through the Daily Out Reach Issues by Sustainable Development Issues Network (SDIN) on May 14th 2009 (page 10).

Throughout my participation, I was always in the youth working group on Africa as a major theme or any Africa related issues; I was giving my views with concrete experience and young person grouping up in Africa and gaining more experience on public speaking and with techniques on speech writing and lobby/negotiating. The Majority of Africa Women delegates have shown support to the entire youth representative from Africa, an indication of the strong bond between African mothers and their children. So these should be stepping stones the government and other stake holders should follow.

A Way Forward
Sustainable development cannot be achieved in Africa without the establishment of an effective intergeneration partnership for sustainability among the young people and the other generation. If Africa has challenges today, these are mere preludes to the looming threats of tomorrow. The youth have deep stakes in the future and we are eager to contribute our quota. The future belongs to us. The youths are full of ideas and we are waiting to share them. Give us the space!

As a follow up to my participation and in line with my Earth Charter Special Project, I am organizing a “Dialogue with the Elders Forum” on Intergeneration Partnership for Sustainability with grant from Earth Charter International on June 6th in Abuja. The “Dialogue with the Elders” Forum will focus more on the Earth Charter as a tool for achieving environmental sustainability and Intergenerational Partnership for Sustainability among youths and older generations. “Based on the conviction that intergenerational partnerships are essential for achieving a just, sustainable, and peaceful world“.

The meeting is aimed at bringing all youths in the Earth Charter Family to meet with Earth Charter Nigeria “Elders” as well as bring more youths into the Earth Charter Youth Initiative family and also inspire the formation of new Earth Charter youth Groups across the country. It will also afford us the opportunity to meet with invited guests who have a role to play in sustainability issues in Nigeria like the media, government and CSOs and people living in a community.

Thank You!

Esther Agbarakwe
ECYG Calabar coordinator /
Project Manager Earth Charter Youth Special Project-Nigeria
[email protected]
+234 80 6818 4017