The recently ended United Nations Summit on Sustainable Development in Rio D’ Janeiro, Brazil, may have come and gone. STANLEY NKWOCHA, who was in Rio de Janeiro, for the summit recounts the efforts of a non-governmental organization in advancing the cause of the African Youth.
The beautiful city of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil anytime any day will remain the tourists’ delight. Known for its hospitality and serene atmosphere, with beaches and landscapes that dot the entire city, radiating a freshness that is second to none, Rio de Janeiro lived up to the attributes that made it the original choice of for the United Nations Summit on environment 20 years ago.
This year’s conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) was organized in pursuance of General Assembly Resolution 64/236 (A/RES/64/236), and the 10th Anniversary 0f the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg.
The conference focused on two themes: (a) a green economy in the context of sustainable development/ poverty eradication; and (b) the institutional framework for sustainable development.
Rio+20, the United Nation say is geared towards defining pathways to a safer, more equitable, cleaner, greener and more prosperous world for all.
Twenty years after the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, where countries adopted Agenda 21 - a blueprint to rethink economic growth, advance social equity and ensure environmental protection - the UN say this year’s target was to bring together governments, international institutions and major groups to agree on a range of smart measures that can reduce poverty while promoting decent jobs, clean energy and a more sustainable and fair use of resources, stressing that Rio+20 is a “chance to move away from business-as-usual and to act to end poverty, address environmental destruction and build a bridge to the future.”
Official discussions focused on two main themes: How to build a green economy to achieve sustainable development and lift people out of poverty, including support for developing countries that will allow them to find a green path for development; and how to improve international coordination for sustainable development.
An upbeat United Nation’s Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, at the opening session of the conference said the organizers had purposefully scheduled Rio+20 immediately after the G20 meeting in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, hoping to lure US President Barrack Obama and other world leaders to attend. He, however, was optimistic that given the commitment of countries, global development would be on the rise steadily.
“We are now in sight of a historic agreement. Let us not waste this opportunity. The world is watching to see if words will translate into action, as we know they must. I am pleased that negotiations have reached a successful conclusion and I commend the Presidency of Brazil for facilitating this resolution.
‘’We have been given a second chance (after the original Rio Earth Summit in 1992), Rio+20 is not an end but a beginning. It is time for all of us to think globally and locally,” Ban ki Moon stated.
He enumerated some of the successes of the past conference to include the beginning of the process to establish sustainable development goals, detailing how the green economy can be used as a tool to achieve sustainable development goals as well as the strengthening of the UN Environment Programme(UNEP).
Others included the promotion of corporate sustainability reporting measures as well as taking steps to go beyond gross domestic product to assess the well-being of a country.
In his speech at the plenary session of the conference penultimate Friday, President Goodluck Jonathan reaffirmed his administration’s determination to create greater employment opportunities for Nigerians, saying it remained indispensable in the nation’s quest for development.
“In our sustainable development agenda, under our medium to long term National Plans, we have developed several sectoral initiatives, particularly in agriculture, petroleum, solid minerals, power supply, and renewable energy.
“The initiatives also covers trade and investment, water and sanitation, according priority to environmental and wider development issues.Our goal is simply to create more jobs and opportunities for our people to rise out of poverty, and to create wealth to ensure sustainable development,” the President said.
He noted that the presence of many world leaders at the Summit gave credence to the fact that global cooperation was necessary for ensuring sustainable global development, Jonathan said the leaders had an obligation to eradicate poverty and promote green economies for sustainable development.
“For us in Africa, the Green Economy is an agenda for growth, wealth creation and employment generation. We believe that the promotion of a Green Economy must be underlined by clear national objectives, social and economic development imperatives and the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals, ”the President said.
President Jonathan drew attention to the constraints to sustainable development in Africa by challenges such as the global financial crisis, migration, rapid urbanisation, the energy and food crisis, low resistance to natural disasters, desertification and the loss of the eco-system resulting from climate change and therefore, called for more assistance from the rich and developed nations of the world to help African countries to cope with these challenges.
“While we recognise that the developing countries have primary responsibility for implementing their own sustainable development agenda, there is no doubt that they need the support of the international community to achieve these objectives.
“In effect, Rio+20 can only be seen to be successful if the thorny issue of the means of its implementation is adequately addressed.We must bridge the yawning gaps undermining the fulfilment of international commitments on sustainable development, especially in areas of finance, external debt, trade and investment, capacity building and technology development,” Jonathan stressed.
“Today, we have a unique opportunity to reshape the future and redefine the relationship between human advancement and environmental sustainability, by ensuring that we join, in a collective effort, to reduce the conflict between human development and environmental conservation.
“Twenty years ago at the ‘Earth Summit’, we made a number of pledges. Today, twenty years later, it is evident, that there is still a lot more that we need to do. Working together to develop ‘green economies’ offers us a greater chance of a sustainable future. And that work must be intensified now.”
“As our challenges are collective, both in nature and consequence, our responses must also be collective, for them to have the desired impact. And because the circumstances that confront us are extraordinary, the kind of change that is needed must also be extraordinary.
To serve as a catalyst to advance this, Nigeria believes that the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) in Nairobi, Kenya, should be strengthened,” President Jonathan stated.
Meanwhile, as no less than a thousand Non-Governmental Organisations (NG0) stormed Rio de Janeiro for the Summit, one from Nigeria stood out in its quest to uplift the cause of the African youth. With an emphatic 15-man delegation, the African Children Talent Discovery Foundation, ACTDF, headed by its President/ Founder, Engr. Noah Dallaji, stormed the summit and moved for the empowerment of the African youth.
Known for its outreach in emancipating the less privileged and sponsoring of over 300 beneficiaries in schools across Nigeria and West Africa, ACTDF has gradually sold itself into the hearts of millions of Nigerians. A major bolster for the organisation was when it facilitated the signing of a sister-city relationship with the city of Oakland in the United States of America and Bauchi State in Nigeria.
Through the scheme, the lives of numerous less privileged in the society is being overturned as education and skills acquisitions is being granted them through a scholarship scheme put in place as benefit of the pact.
Back home in Nigeria, the ACTDF is renowned for its stride in providing means of livelihood for numerous communities spread across Nigeria and indeed Africa. Communities like Ajegunle in Lagos, Abuja, Bauchi, Ogun State, Plateau State, Bauchi State and others in Gambia, Ghana, Uganda and a host of other countries have shared from the magnanimity of the NGO either through the provision of basic amenities like water supply, clinics to educational centers and materials as channeling youth empowerment through its skills acquisition programmes.
And so it was no surprise, therefore when in partnership with World Mission Foundation Aids Initiative based in the US, it organized a side show with the theme;‘Sustainability, Value Based Leadership And African Youths’.
In his speech for the event, the President/ Founder of ACTDF, Engr. Noah Dallaji, espoused on the inherent potentials of the African youth, lamenting that years of neglect and frustration had left the youths hopeless with few taking to destructive habits.
Dallaji called on world leaders, especially those of African descent to immediately step up programme of actions with immediate benefit to the youths as continued neglect would not only lead to abject poverty but continued failure of set goals and objectives as the segment remains the live wire of any nation.
Taking participants to a mind task, the ACTDF President stroke hearts as to the hopelessness ravaging the African Youth, saying the inherent talents and potentialities that lie wasting in Nigerian youths must not be allowed to die or wasted.
He drew a poser asking, “ What makes us great as individuals, groups and organizations? Is it in the powers of wars which ravage humanity and make human lives miserable or in wealth which does not in any way impact on the less privileged in the society, especially the youths of the world - who despite the beautiful future they dream of, see their hopes dashed as opportunities never come their way with inherent poverty taking a highly centripetal position, determining the flow of events amidst unpardonable corruption?”.
Dallaji admonished that the barrage of challenges could be solved through our abilities to as individuals and groups to courageously stem the tide. He added that, the ACTDF’s answer to this was simple.
He said, “It simply lies in our abilities, strength, courage and determinations as individuals and groups to stand firm and resist these threats. The answer lies in our clinquant zeal to become co adjutant in issues which affect humanity.
Our resolve to forge ahead and change the status quo must be unrivalled and must be seen to be devoid of all dysgenic tendencies that tend to impair on human development.
“No matter our lean resources, we must be willing and have the spirit to always look outside the window and see those who we can offer shelter to.
At our dining tables, when assorted wines, sumptuous and delicious meals dot every space on the table, we must be willing to recognize that there are those that are contented with just having scrubs from the leftovers of our meals. Above all, we must also realize that the strength of our youths lie, not in the ability to carry guns and become suicide bombers, but indeed in inherent talents and abilities which lie wasting in them,’’ Dallaji positioned.
Dallaji, a UN youth ambassador said his NGO has set the paste and established a clear cut example on how individuals and groups could help to bring developments to their domains and indeed impact positively on humanity.
“Back home in Africa, our non-governmental organization has, despite lean resources at our disposal, continued in it’s strive to ensure that the African youth’s hope and dreams does not fade away like a candle blown off.
“No fewer than 500 students are on our scholarship, spread across primary to tertiary institutions in Nigeria. In Ghana, Gambia and Kenya, we have ensured that lives have been touched through assistance to orphanages and development of partnership programme like the one we have with the Gambia Government in which a youth empowerment programme is being developed with our assistance and technical expertise.
“In 2010, in Oakland city, United States, we signed a sister-city partnership programme that would see about 300 students – underprivileged at that, be given a new lease of life in the US as they are through the scheme to benefit from scholarship programme being trusted on us.
This is aside the health care projects that is currently on-going across Nigeria, with the essence of bringing health care to the very poor in rural communities.
“Across Nigeria, within our little funds, which we source mainly through kind and public-spirited individuals and organisations, we have sank boreholes in over 50 communities which never dreamt of seeing water in their communities.
Through our talent hunt discovery program in states across Nigeria, we have assisted several youths to discover their talents in soccer, singing, acting and also assisted quite a number to acquire skills in different human endeavors,” Dallaji said.
He said to achieve these goals, however, there must be untainted and purposeful leadership that sought to put the youth in its priorority list as regards set policies, just as corruption must be made to give way.
“The commitment of African leaders is a pre-requisite for a change in the order of things. Our leaders must confront these challenges with great political will and enthusiasm. We must begin to redeploy resources in such way and manner that the end benefits trickle down to the vulnerable and less privileged.
“Corruption must be fought with all zeal and seriousness, just as clear cut programme of action must be implemented by them.
Instances where documents and policy statements abound in offices and have become more or less office decorants must be discouraged, with punitive measures meted out to those who toy with the implementation of such policies.
Years and days of negligence must be put to a stop as rising youth restiveness may not endure this long. And this is the reality on ground. We must also begin to re-orient our youths to believe in themselves and become positive in all their endeavors in life,’’ the ACTDF President tasked.
Not done with the advocacy job he and his delegation had opted to come do in Rio de Janeiro, the ACTDF was on Friday, July 22, 2012 to host an interactive session at the Nigerian Stand, African Pavilion at the venue of the Summit.
Even with Summit at its end of day, numerous stakeholders from various parts of the world beat the heavy down pour and dashed for the event which had the theme, “ Sustainable Development: Leadership And African Youth Perspective For the World”.
Welcoming guests to the event, ACTDF director of programmes, Chief Mac Francis Okosisi, said the NGO found it imperative to be in Rio de Janeiro so as to bring to the fore the plight of the African youth and solicit ways of empowering this generational group.
He said it wasn’t just enough for NGOs to sit back in their countries and continue to lament the decadence that their countries youths have had to grapple with in terms of empowerment and purposeful living, saying they were bringing the battle to the doorstep of the United Nations with a view to exploring avenues for confronting the challenges. He called on stakeholders, African and world leaders to join hands in salvaging the situation.
On his part, ACTDF Board of Trustees chairman, Dr Bawa Abdullahi, who spoke on the theme of the interactive session, said African leaders role in sustainable development, not just in the country’s economic spheres but indeed in all aspects of the socio-economic lives of its citizenry must be taken with all seriousness.
Citing the situation in Nigeria, Dr. Bawa said the prowess of the Nigerian youth must not be viewed from ills ravaging the country like the menace of the Boko Haram sect, kidnappings, thuggery etc but rather in the potentials and endowments of the youths as regards their bountiful talents, deployment of manpower and resourcefulness as vital components in nation building.
‘The message, therefore, at this Rio+20 Summit is a straight one: So long as youths of the world, especially of African descent are relegated to the background in terms of prioritized policies, programmes, party manifestoes human empowerment indices, the lot of Africa would continue to be reflected in the continued underdevelopment of our countries.
The time to act is now and the political will to achieve this must be total and selfless no matter whose ox is gored’, Dr Bawa emphasized.
ACTDF President, Engr Dallaji who took over the podium afterwards, reiterated the role of individuals, groups and government in the alleviation of poverty and uplift of the standard of living of African populace especially the less privileged.
Dallaji, regretted that majority of African populace have been left to face uncertain futures as a result of hopes that have been dashed and abandoned. He called on stakeholders to put all hands on deck to ensure that at the next Rio Summit, the story would have been different.
He reasoned that all youths who have attained levels of education but are being challenged by financial impediments must be given and have the opportunity to go to schools, while those who opt to practice skills other than education must be given the opportunities to excel in such fields.
Dallaji further called on governments across Africa to promote and enact legislations which seek to make it mandatory for African youths’ welfare and priorority to become matters of utmost need, pushing that the continued neglect of youths was only going to become a time bomb capable of destroying a whole continent if not pursued.
“We have extended our tentacles to Ghana, Uganda, Gambia, Kenya and seeking more partnerships with individuals, groups, organizations and governments in this drive.
We have been licensed by the UN to bring about 50 youths to the United States for the UN World Youth Summit and this is one opportunity we cannot afford to waste no matter the challenges as it regards funding and sponsorship. Thus we are determined to achieve this no matter what.
“For us at the ACTDF, our resolve to contribute to the development of the Africa and Nigeria in particular through the salvaging of our youths knows no bounds. Our commitment is total, whether in the area of talent discovery, provision of scholarships, rural development or community service relations.
It is our belief that such commitments if intensified will go a long way in sustaining developments across the world. Like this year’s summit theme portends, therefore, there must be commitment, speed and political will to achieve this”, Engr Dallaji said.
Some notable Nigerian Nollywood stars, who are ACTDF ambassadors also joined on the trip. They included the famous Jim Iyke, Emeka Rollas (aspiring to become the president of Actors Guild of Nigeria), Thelma Ojiji, King Joe and Abubakar Sanusi.
Jim Iyke, who spoke on behalf of the ambassadors, said he and his colleagues having identified with the spirited efforts of the ACTDF decided to embark on the trip to show support and further draw the attention of the global community to the challenges of the African youth.
“The quest to drag the developing nations of the world out of the woods of poverty and underdevelopment is not a one stop action, neither is it peculiar. I think it’s an effort that is both derisive and decisive. If this is the case what it means is that all of us have a role to play and advance this cause.
So we have taken a break off our tight schedules to be here in Rio de Janeiro to join in lending our voice as well as endorse ACTDF’s programme here and say the time is now to secure the future of our youths,” Jim Iyke said.
Guests who attended the event and spoke included UN officials and participants from Sweden, Germany, South Africa, Brazil, United States and Portugal. Others included Ghana, Botswana, Namibia, France, Bulgaria and other NGOs who came to seek for partnership.
Rio+20 Conference on sustainable development may have come and gone but the achievements of the ACTDF at the event remains memorable in the minds of stakeholders at their events. What remains to be seen is if the governments who have been fingered as the major pilots of these developmental schemes will help fly them to success.
But for the ACTDF, it is yet another monumental success by a Nigerian NGO. Indeed for the Engr. Noah Dallaji –led team, it is a bold step in the organisation’s avowed step to not only stem the tide as it relates to the impoverishment of the African youth, but also opening a new chapter in advocacy by NGOs.