Rio+20 GYMC as an Example of Innovative Connection of UN System with Civil Society

An extract from the presentation given at the Prague Young Scholars Conference full paper will be available soon.

Youth often feel disenfranchised in their local communities.  Overwhelmed by a combination of school obligations and market driven consumer products being bombarded to them as well as peer pressure to be someone other than they are not.  It is easy to get lost.  With initiatives such as the Rio + 20 GYMC, this can lift youth out of their soup of information overload and into a position where they they become global actors and citizens.
         Their sense of purpose grows when the reach the different levels. First there is an overwhelming fear that they are not “good enough” and they have “nothing to say” then gradually with the help of youth leaders and facilitators who have links to the central UN system, become their mentor.  They guide them and share resources, skills and they forget their fear and just become busy and engulfed in a new sense of purpose.  Suddenly what they are learning at school, economics, politics, language, religious, history, all become interlinked and relevant. No longer are these subjects isolated, distance or irrelevant.  They begin to include what they are learning in school with their informal learning time through initiatives such as the Rio + 20 GYMC.
       Spurred on by their new energy, creative ideas begin to flow and they see interlinks and challenge themselves without outside stimulation.  Suddenly they are the ones that are asking “What Next”?  Youth Mentors now find themselves having to play catch up, diving back into the UN system to gain more information and indeed find out.
   Youth Facilitators are able to be a part of the UN system through inter-linkages like Glocha center who started the Rio + 20 initiative for this purpose so that their can be civil society interaction at different levels.  Youth Facilitators keep guiding and making sure that everything is relevant and that youth are updated on the current developments of what is going on at the UN level.  This way the youth directly involved in making the musical expressions and really see the ripples and effects of their work.
         Rio + 20 GYMC is simple enough to spread around the world on a global level, but also flexible and adaptable enough so that on a local level people can implement it in their own cultural contexts.  It only needs a simple idea and the motivation of seeing others who are making a difference through music in their own way to spur others on.  This is the strength Rio + 20 GYMC to connect with Civil Society.
         Rio+20 Global Youth Music Contest invited young people from around the world to participate in Rio+20 by singing of their visions of a sustainable world in the context of United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development  13 songs have been submitted by young artists from 40 countries.  Between the 19 March till 18 May 2012 there has been going on an online voting with more than 200.000 visitors at the voting page As the voting phase has been successfully completed the winners of Rio+20 Global Youth Music Contest are:
      The winner in the category “Young” (up to 15 years) - who is also the overall winner of Rio+20 Global Youth Music Contest with a total of 44.251 votes - is the Choir Santo Amaro de Oeiras from Portugal with the Song “Meu Planeta Azul” (My Blue Planet)
 The winner in the category „Young“ are Milena Paraschiv and Radu Popescu from Romania with the song “Open Your Eyes”  This is a global movement that is changing the world through heart power: “Let the Music talk, let the Rhythm Play and Let the World Know What the Youth Have to  Say!”
   International Advancement for the Advancement of Innovative Approaches (IAAI) serves as a facilitator and knowledge broker, gaining wide exposure with the institutional UN structure, by working with youth facilitators, Glocha enables youth to connect and be a part of the decision making process.  Youth feel engaged as the Rio + 20 GYMC it is symbolically multifarious.  It is broad enough to encompass a global youth whilst at the same time it is polysemic enough to carry many meanings with it.  Youth can bring their diverse expressions into greater articulation with each other by coming together as a symbolic community.
    In Salzburg, Austria, I have been working with youth groups that included Denis Maksuti a 16 year Ilker Cirakoglu, 22.  We´d met through local partners such as a youth center, Spektrum and a local arts network F.A.R.M. Denis was looking to connect his passion for music with his academic work at school, through a series of 10 workshops he was able to link what he was learning at school in economics and society to his passion for music.  What transpired was a transformation of values.  Through the process of GYMC he was able to connect to his heart`s passion and his school studies exploring economics and international relations.  Similarly, Ilker had a passion for music and issues of multiculturalism.  Through a series of workshops that enabled him to make a music video for the GYMC he was able to synthesize his mind and heart, so that he is connected to issues that he could represent and be a spokesperson for, therefore giving him a position of responsibility and leadership through the GYMC process.  These youth have gained synthesis of their interests, passion and values and are even able to facilitate workshops like this themselves.  However, as facilitators we all need guidance on how to connect these to the larger UN system.
    Through the International Advancement for the Advancement of Innovative Approaches facilitators are able to connect on a regular basis so that we can navigate the larger UN structure.  At present, IAAI has proposed in the context of Rio+20 Online Consultation a 15/15/15 UN – Civil Society Partnership Formula (Global Civil Society committing itself to mobilize 15 billion € and 15 million volunteers for UN led sustainable development efforts by the year 2015) and is working with the global “network of networks” in the philanthropy and foundation sector – WINGS: Worldwide Initiatives for Grant maker Support on establishing a Rio+20 WINGS Interest Group and launching at Rio+20 conference a “Global Forum on Innovative Resource Mobilization for Education and Science.
    With a variety of stakeholders all at different levels we need to systematically collaborate.  Luckily we are in an age in which social networks can aid this collaboration.  Through the education programs it is important to link to the idea that it is about empowerment, not only about teaching.  It is important we all don`t sink back into our previous values and we collectively really find ways to break the barriers and become actors ourselves.  As facilitators working at a grass roots level there needs to be greater dissemination of how we can all becomes actors, between the different generations.  In addition to the GYMC, through Earth Charter, I have set up a wiki so that the youth can contribute their own projects and can feel less marginalized.
      This is all at a practical level.  Furthermore what is important in informal learning workshops is to recognise that we are all  part of the oppressed system and that the current systems are marginalizing us in some way.  Through this then we become facilitators with the people, not for the people and become one symbolic community.   In order to reveal this, each participant can present codified situations to each other, both the facilitators and the youth, in which each of us can identify with.  Imagine a moralizing educator who takes the role of teacher and presents youth an image of a virtuous citizen when the youth cannot identify with this as virtuous.  Retrieving virtue from the situations in which these both facilitators and youth are embedded within requires knowledge of the local situations and environment, so that as facilitators and youth we can empower each other by presenting situations in which we can all directly relate to.  Furthermore we need to be able to link our situations and our needs and translate this into the larger issues which the UN is dealing with through NGO`s such as the IAAI.
    One of the greatest obstacles to the achievement of liberation is that oppressive reality absorbs those within it, submerging human beings consciousness.  It is the responsibility of us all to find a series of situations through the facilitation process, in which we can see our own situation from afar, in order to gain objectivity and then to link it back into our own oppression. In these kinds of projects such as the Rio + 20 Global Youth Music Contest, it is possible to do this through a series of visual and sound/music elicitation.  For instance we utilised the medium of music videos, music and images to explore themes in which we were all troubled by-often this involved going into pop songs of the day.  This may seem superficial to the moralising educator, however, guided by youth facilitators can see that there in contained our collective stories of oppression and concern, albeit in different forms.    By extracting the grains of truth within these songs, and then synthesizing this with our own lives and giving access to the proper tools in which we could make our own music videos such as the recording studio and the music video, in this way there can be collective empowerment. 
    It is only by providing them with multiple synthesizing situations, examples and tools that we are able to connect all these together with our own lives, in totality.  By dialectically exploring themes in our own lives that are also a part of and related to the Rio + 20: Governmental Debt/austerity,  wealth distribution, poverty inclusion/exclusion, environmental issues and sustainable development.  By seeing a multiple of perspectives we were able to see the totality of all these themes dialectically interacting with each other, causing oppression in our lives.  Only through understanding this dialectical interaction are we able to see, together that there can be a transformation in this way.  From this realisation of the totality, only then is it important to go from these into a demarcation of “their” issues that youth are centrally concerned with.   Ilker was concerned with  multiculturalism, Denis was concerned with was economics and society.  It is only by looking at the totality first that we can then narrow down.  Without this collective wide shot and close-up like a camera lens we would be in danger seeing a fragmented view of the world that gives only a marginalised view our collective oppression.  Furthermore, if seen in a narrow way, we do not find solidarity with our peers that are dealing with or oppressed by different forces.  This marginalised view of the world is dangerous because leads to our own prejudices and in the worst case conflict and war.
    The way of exploring the combination of these areas is symbolically.  It is symbolically that there can be a construction of a community that can be mobilised for decision making.  This community is motivated by what IAAI has coined as heart power, or the emotive symbolic power of art.  Because music and art is emotive it includes, not excludes the issues that are being dealt with through the Rio + 20 conference, but because it is emotive and symbolic it can cause deep restructuring at a conscious and subconscious level and goes further than just objective rational reasoning.