Youth Blast - Conference of Youth for Rio+20!
Aims and structure of the Youth Blast
The overall aim of the Youth Blast is to empower young people to effectively participate through the MGCY in its engagement with Rio+20 and its processes. Within this, there are three areas of focus:
- Build capacity amongst young people to effectively participate in the formal and informal processes
- Strategise for MGCY engagement in the official process
- Plan for a post-Rio+20 agenda that incorporates the implementation of the outcomes
The event, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, was divided into two sections: Brazilian Days (7-8 June) aimed at strengthening and supporting the host country movement, and International Days (10-12 June) aimed at bringing together Brazilian and International youth to prepare for Rio+20.
The Youth Blast was a great success with the participation of more than 1,800 young people from 123 countries from six continents. A breakdown of participants was:
- 816 Brazilian participants
- 724 International participants
- 84 press
- 215 volunteers
Programme and Discussions
These young people had the opportunity to engage in a variety of activities, including a series of panel discussions, plenaries, elective youth-hosted workshops, and workshops hosted by various UN agencies and governments. Almost 150 sessions were held over the Youth Blast days and included:
- 5 panel discussions
- 3 plenaries
- 24 parallel sessions
- 2 moments for working groups to work on the 9 themes creating the outcome document
- 92 parallel sessions
- 7 activities in the Art Space
- 4 plenaries
- 16 introduction sessions on Rio+20, MGCY and the different Task Forces (in English, Spanish, Portuguese and French)
The various sessions covered a wide range of topics including the themes of the Rio+20 Conference itself, the work of the MGCY, the policy points being lobbied for and a variety of youth-inspired topics that included:
During the Youth Blast, strong emphasis was placed on e-participation to increase the participation of youth with fewer opportunities from developing countries and economies in transition, and to mobilise youth groups across the world to take local action in support of Rio+20.
A collaborative team worked to ensure that a maximum number of people both inside and outside the venue were aware of the activities transpiring, and able to engage with them. A total of seven sessions were live-streamed using Google Hangout, allowing on-line participants to both watch and engage in the sessions. Recordings of these sessions are hosted on the MGCY YouTube and TIGVid sites. There have been approximately 3,600 views of the videos posted, demonstrating a strong desire to engage on-line through these platforms. Live-streamed plenary sessions gained as many as 282 remote viewers with participation from 91 countries. The top five countries were Brazil (2,145), United States (283), United Arab Emirates (115), India (90) and Germany (59).
Media and Social Media
Social media was also at its peek. There was a total reach of 163,877 on Facebook over the Youth Blast and posts were seen 746,218 times in News Feed, ticker or visits to MGCY Page. The link youth-blast.org was shared so many times that Facebook banned it several times thinking it was spam, and then unbanned it when they confirmed that it was a youth conference. During this period, we reached 21,341 Portuguese (Brazil) users and 49,516 (English) users. During the Brazilian Days of the Youth Blast, a ‘twitter storm’ was initiated with the hashtag #YouthBlastBrasil. Participation from around the world was remarkable, pushing the Youth Blast to be the third most commented tag globally, and the first most commented tag in Brazil.
In addition to building capacity, strategizing and planning for a post-Rio+20 agenda, the Youth Blast created a platform for young people to share experiences and solutions related to sustainable development. It fostered an environment that helped to forge global partnerships, develop an international knowledge base of activities, initiatives and best practices, and strengthen the MGCY constituency to ensure the continued participation of young people in these important sustainability processes.