Only I can best describe the effort it took to make my visit to UNCSD/Rio+20 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro possible. The fact that the actual conference was only a few days away when my name was added to the final official delegation list from Pakistan still amazes people who are unaware of the perseverance and commitment we display at BGTL to mould our goals into reality. I still remember my presentation on Youth Perspective of Rio+20 at the National Consultation on Green Economy on May 18-19, 2012. The formal struggle for Rio+20 began from there. The tedious details of how my participation was made possible, how a 15-year-old was made an official delegate, how the government for the first time included an official youth representative in their delegation to the United Nations, now remain futile.
I reached Rio de Janeiro on the June 13, overwhelmed with the excitement of representing my country. I soon discovered that I was the youngest official youth delegate in the international conference with over 80,000 delegates and more than 100 head of states. From the very beginning, Rio+20 became an adventurous and fast-paced experience with intensive learning. Regardless of the amount of work I had to do, I enjoyed the experience realising that it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Utilised their full potential to make the event a success became every delegate's foremost concern.
During my stay in the wonderful city, some events will always remain memorable:
Representing the Global Youth in an event by UN Education Caucus
On June 15, I was invited by the United Nations Education Caucus as one of the five international panellists for the conference. The panel including speakers from South African Department of Environment Affairs, UNDP, Environment Education Media Project, Education Caucus and others; each an expert in his own field of work. I was asked to discuss youth's role in a balanced and fair society that believes in sustainable development. In my presentation, I categorically dealt with pertinent issues followed by enforcing the notion of youth involvement in policymaking. It was truly one of the finest presentations I have ever given and was my first speech at the UN.
Participating in negotiations of Group of 77(G-77) and China
I felt privileged to be the only youth delegate allowed to sit in the closed meetings of the G-77 and China bloc, giving me an opportunity to trace the outcome and progress in terms of the text produced. There were two main issues for which we advocated, the first one being the inclusion of non-formal education for youth, which we considered a vital part of the text to ensure sound physical and intellectual development of youngsters. The second one pertained to the appointment of a high commissioner for future generations at an international level to make sure that political elements do not oppose youth empowerment. Together, I lobbied with important players of the international community like Venezuela, Brazil, China, Cuba, Nicaragua, the US, New Zealand, European Union and the UK among others.
Meeting the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon
I knew that Rio+20 was the best place to meet the UN Secretary General. However, it seemed impossible to reach him due to the high level of security around him. Whenever he came to attend a side-event, at least 10 security guards surrounded him so that no one could get a clear glimpse of the Secretary General. Fortunately, I got acquainted to Ban Ki-moon's special secretary as part of a high level task force and the man agreed to introduce me to the Secretary General.
When the time came, there was a crowd pushing closer to meet Ban Ki-moon, and as soon as he passed by me, his secretary pulled my arm and introduced me to him, which was followed by a brief conversation. Taking full advantage of the situation, I also had his photograph taken with me. That was really a miracle!
Pakistan took the initiative of organising a side-event on June 22 based on the theme "Sustaining Resilience - Development in Crises." The topic focused primarily on the extent to which Pakistanis have been successful on the road to disaster management. The event had prominent speakers from the government and the civil service. I was also one of the speakers at the event, representing the stance of the youth. This was the highest degree of honour for me!
Rio de Janeiro's charm!
Not everyone gets a chance to visit the unique city of Rio de Janeiro, and those who do get this opportunity do not get it frequently. So the conclusion is: avail your opportunity! Apart from using one's potential to make a difference at the conference, it was mandatory to have a short tour of the city. The Brazilian government, therefore, organised a trip to Rio's most fascinating places including the amazing sugar loaf, exquisite beaches of Barra, Ipanema, Leblon and Copacabana and most importantly, the Christ Redeemer aka "Christo." We thoroughly enjoyed the tour and commended the host government on organising them so well.