Friday, October 12, 2012

Honoring Late Prof. Emmauel Obot at CBD COP11

 Hyderabad, India. Oct.12th 2012

I wish to take this moment today in the mist of global leaders in biodiversity conservation to honor a great leader and mentor, late Prof Emmanuel Obot. Professor Emmanuel Asuquo Obot died tragically o
n Sunday 3 June 2012 in the plane crash in Lagos, Nigeria. Professor Obot was the Executive Director of the Nigerian Conservation Foundation, and one Nigeria's leading conservationist, mentor and a strong ally to the Youth Biodiversity Network that he supported because he believe in the future.

Today, he would have been here at ongoing UN Commission On Biological Diversity, to share and inspire as always the movement to safe our rich biodiversity globally and locally. He was my mentor and I will never forget him. His memory will always live on.

Esther Agbarakwe

Biodiversity Young Professionals Forum

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Rio+20: The Future We Want for African Youth

The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20 conference was held in Brazil on 20-22 June 2012 to mark the 20th anniversary of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), in Rio de Janeiro, and the 10th anniversary of the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg. At this historical event world leaders, along with thousands of participants from governments, the private sector, NGOs and other groups, came together to shape how we can reduce poverty, advance social equity and ensure environmental protection on an ever more crowded planet to get to the future we want. Among them were few African youth delegates
Sustainable development is about the future as defined by Our Common Future; also known as the Brundtland Report states that sustainable development is “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs
Africa’s future rest on her large youth population who, when given the necessary skills and opportunity to participate, can provide solutions and contribute to efforts towards achieving development goals in local and national arenas. These youth are faced with so many great challenges that may be worse than that of their fore fathers  Many African youths joined their peers as they saw the Rio+20 as an opportunity to contribute to defining the future we want for Africa but was limited to those who had access to related information and opportunity to engage throughout the process.

African youth began as a continent to prepare for this historical conference in October last year at the 2011 African Economic Conference (AEC) and African Regional Preparatory Meeting on Rio+20 held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in October 2011. I was joined by many youth who demonstrated their passion for sustainable development by organizing side events and engaging their government.  We were also joined by International NGO and Civil Society organizations. African youths actively participated at this event, mostly under the Youth and Children Major Group of the UN CSD.   As the month moved on, the participation of youth in the process diminished with few youth-led activity on Rio+20 in Kenya, Nigeria and Cameroun  
While in Rio de Janeiro last June, we saw with some great disappointment that that many African government didn’t support many youth representatives to attend the conference and participate in shaping the future, for those who did managed to attend, the capacity to engaged was low compared to their peers form the global north; yet we did our best to lobby and engage our government on issue must close to our heart, Youth unemployment and comprehensive health care, including reproductive health. We believed that Rio+20 taught us something. It gave us as African youth a stronger belief in ourselves, in our ability to fight harder for the future we want with a new and different approach to support efforts for a more sustainable world
As a reproductive rights activist, I was sad that reproductive rights was excluded from the outcome document by governments who had supported reproductive rights over three month ago at the UN Commission on Population and Development held at the UN in May 2012, there they agreed on a landmark resolution to protect and support the sexual and reproductive rights of adolescents and youth.
 It was heart-breaking to see governments go back on this commitment. As many African youth are entering their reproductive age, they need correct information on their sexual and reproductive health and rights to make informed decision about their sexuality, about whether or when to have children. The exclusion means that they won’t have the right to a safe sex life, free from diseases. Their right to make these decisions will not be protected ­ they will not be free from stigma and coercion.
African youth have the experience and passion to help shape a better and sustainable future for Africa. They only need the opportunity. We are now looking forward to engaging in the 2015 Post development agenda and high-level political forum on sustainable development which Rio+20 created.
About the Author:

Esther Agbarakwe is currently an Atlas Corps International Advocacy Fellow working with Population Action International in Washington DC. She heads the Nigerian Youth Climate Coalition and one of the ‘Youngers’ of the Elders+Youngers Rio+20 Initiative

Twitter @estherclimate

Monday, July 30, 2012


The Word on Women - African leaders renew commitment to family planning

By Babatunde Osotimehin and Sharon Camp
On July 11, at the London Summit on Family Planning, leaders from 18 African countries made unprecedented commitments­—financially and politically—to strengthen their family planning programs.
The summit, sponsored by the British government and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, with support from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), focused attention on the ongoing lack of family planning services for millions of women in the developing world and garnered extraordinary global support and resources to enable 120 million more women to use contraceptives by 2020.
The summit exceeded its target, raising pledges of $4.6 billion over eight years. The call to action came not a moment too soon.
In Sub-Saharan Africa alone, approximately 53 million women have an unmet need for modern contraceptives, meaning they want to avoid pregnancy but are not using a modern method.
A new study by the Guttmacher Institute and UNFPA shows there has been minimal progress in addressing the contraceptive needs of African women during the past four years.
What’s worse, in the 39 poorest countries in the region, the number of women with an unmet need has actually increased since 2008.
Among all sexually active women of reproductive age in Sub-Saharan Africa, 42 percent want to avoid pregnancy but only 17 percent are using a modern contraceptive.
Across the continent, progress in meeting the demand for contraceptive services has been uneven. The situation of married women—who represent the bulk of women with contraceptive needs—is telling.
Between 2008 and 2012, the proportion of married women using modern contraceptives increased from 20 percent to 27 percent in East Africa and from 54 percent to 58 percent in Southern Africa.
However, in West Africa and Central Africa, there was no progress during that time, and contraceptive use among married women remains low at 9 percent and 7 percent, respectively.
Not being able to plan their pregnancies can have devastating consequences for women.
In 2012, more than 160,000 are expected to die in Sub-Saharan Africa from pregnancy-related causes—62,000 of them did not want to be pregnant in the first place, a sobering statistic.
The benefits of improving and expanding family planning programs in Sub-Saharan Africa would be dramatic: There would be 14 million fewer unintended pregnancies; maternal deaths would decline by 29 percent, saving the lives of 48,000 women; and infant deaths would drop by 555,000 annually.
Plus, if women spaced their births by three years, which many would like to do, deaths among children aged five and under would drop significantly.
So, what will it take to make these dramatic gains a reality?
Currently, approximately $381 million is spent each year on contraceptive care in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Expanding coverage to all women who want to use family planning but lack access to contraceptive services would require an increase of $2.3 billion.
This sounds like a lot, but this investment is modest in relation to the remarkable returns it would achieve.
What’s more, it would actually lower total health-related costs. Every dollar invested in family planning services in Sub-Saharan Africa saves $1.30 on maternal and newborn health care—money that could be invested in other critical areas.
In addition to improving public health, satisfying unmet need for modern contraceptives would bring a host of other benefits.
Enabling women to control their fertility and time their births means better chances for higher educational attainment, increased employment opportunities, and enhanced social and economic status.
Family savings and investment would rise, spurring economic growth and reducing poverty. These advances at the family level would in turn make social and economic development goals easier to achieve, benefiting society as a whole.

Evidence from Ethiopia, Malawi and Rwanda shows that, with strong government commitment, significant gains can quickly be made in meeting women’s contraceptive needs.
In Rwanda, contraceptive use among married women increased from 9 percent in 2005 to 44 percent in 2010, a truly impressive achievement.
If the commitments made at the London Summit are realized, and similar ones follow, this kind of progress could potentially become the norm, not the exception.

Now it is up to all of Africa’s leaders and the international community to do their part through a sustained commitment to improving the provision of contraceptive services.
Not only do women want to time and space their pregnancies to achieve healthier outcomes and better lives for themselves and their families, it is their human right to do so.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Babatunde Osotimehin is United Nations under-secretary-general and executive director of the United Nations Population Fund. Co-author Sharon Camp, is president and CEO of the Guttmacher Institute.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Rio+20 Photo Story

Press conference between the Elders and Youth delegates: Elders Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Former President of Brazil, and Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway, and Esther Agbarakwe, a youth delegate from Nigeria 

Photo Credit: IISD Reporting Service 

Rio+20: A call for a Young Professional Partnership Forum for Sustainable Development

FLASH: A call for the establishment of a Young Professional Partnership Forum on Sustainable Development at the UN Partnership Forum, Rio+20!

As Sustainable development is about the future and  deeply disappointment by the outcome document, I was invited to speak at the UN Partnership Forum where I called for the establishment of a Young Professional Partnership Forum on Sustainable Development that will consider holistically the ecological, economic and the social aspect of development. 
My speaking slot start at 39.41 seconds

UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20)

At the Rio+20 Conference, world leaders, along with thousands of participants from governments, the private sector, NGOs and other groups, came  together to shape how we can reduce poverty, advance social equity and ensure environmental protection on an ever more crowded planet to get to the future we want.

The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) was organized in pursuance of General Assembly Resolution 64/236 (A/RES/64/236), and will took place in Brazil from 20-22 June 2012 to mark the 20th anniversary of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), in Rio de Janeiro, and the 10th anniversary of the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg.

I was very privileged to join to join The Elders+Youngers and Population Action International delegation to this historical conference, that decided the future we want. 

I participated in many events that included speaking at the Rio+Social event, organised by the UN Foundation, UN Partnership Forum organised by the UN DESA  and PAI's Side event on 'Youth Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in the Context of Sustainable Development'

As a Social media for development and participation fan, I also participated at a Live Twitter Chat #Youthrio and #Sexrights via @estherclimate on the Rio negotiations in relation to gender equality and the exclusion of Sexual rights in the outcome document.

Here is an amazing video of the Elders+Youngers Debate on Sustainable Development

What kind of World do you want for you great- great grand children?

Thursday, May 31, 2012

PHOTO Story: #Stockholm+40

Speaking at the Third High Level Panel on Sustainable Living. #YoungPeopleRights #OccupyNigeria

With the Honorable Maurice Strong  UN 1992 Rio Earth Summit Secretary-General and Earth Charter Mentor  . 
Sir Maurice Strong is a man I have admired from far when I get involved with the Earth Charter Network, a group he inspired.. I had hoped to see him at the Earth Charter+10 Anniversary at the Peace Palace in the Hague, but that wasn't the case. I finally met him at Stockholm+40. You could only Imagine who happy I was.  

“Youth are those with more dreams than memories, which is why they are the leaders of the revolution for sustainable development” – Maurice Strong, UNEP’s first Executive Director at the closing ceremony for Stockholm+40.

What About A World Run by Women?

The Future I Want for My Great Grandchildren

Achieving global sustainability: The Elders in conversation with young global leaders
PAI Atlas Fellow, Esther Agbarakwe meets with the Elders in Oslo. Photo Credit: Jeff Moore | The Elders
Nelson Mandela once said that, ‘‘It always seems impossible until it’s done.” The world has been discussing sustainable development way before I was born. Now we have a chance to set our feet on the ground, to unite our voice, and take things more seriously. No more “business as usual” – not with 7 billion people on earth and many still living in poverty.
Last week, I traveled to Oslo, Norway to join a team of amazing global leaders who have dedicated their time to making the world a safer and sustainable place to live. I was invited as one of four “Youngers” to meet with The Elders, an independent group of global leaders who work together for peace and human rights. Our job is to call on the heads of government, and all individuals, to begin urgent dialogue on sustainable development.
At a panel titled Achieving Global Sustainability – The Elders in Conversation with Young Global Leaders, I joined Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Chair of The Elders; Gro Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway and member of the UN Secretary-General’s Global Sustainability Panel and Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The Elders reaffirmed the need to strongly consider the social dimension of sustainable development: poverty, food security, and women’s access to voluntary family planning. Women’s’ and girls’ sexual and reproductive health and rights is about equality, and women play an important role in development. Gro Bruntdland asked: “What about a world run by women?”
Then it was time for the “Youngers” to present their vision for “The Future We Want.” For me, when I think about the kind of world I want for my great, great grandchildren, my heart is heavy. I reflect on what is happening around us, how women suffer so much to take care of their children, how many women badly want to space their children, how they want the right to determine how and when to have children without losing their lives in the process.
We have overly exaggerated the promise of our children’s future. We tell them they “are the future” without explaining in concrete terms what that means. We don’t provide the ecological, social and financial order and discipline that will result in a better world.
What does the future that I want look like? I want a world where girls have to right to school first before marriage. A world with equality for women and girls, where young people are consulted and truly involved in governance process at local, national and global levels.
This is what I want from the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) next month in Rio. This is the vision that I asked the Elders to extend to heads of country delegations during Rio+20.

From Stockholm to Rio. Again!!

The relationship between economic development and environmental degradation was first placed on the international agenda in 1972, at the UN Conference on the Human Environment, held in Stockholm. The Rio Earth Summit was held in 1992

Earlier this year in April, I was invited by the Swedish  Government (Lena Ek,  Swedish Minister for the Environment and Gunilla Carlsson Minister for International Development Cooperation) to participate and speak at the one of the High level panel on Sustainable Living  during  the Stockholm+40 Partnership Forum on Sustainable Development in Sweden, an event that marked the historical 40th anniversary of the first UN Conference on Human environment held in 1972 in Stockholm as well as a preparatory meeting for the UN Rio+20 Conference At the event  500 participants - young people, researchers, decision-makers and representatives of the business community and civil society from 72 countries - had the opportunity to meet , listen to and participate in panel discussions, seminars, workshops and not the least conversations during the breaks. Young people were seen as an integral part in moving towards a more sustainable society.

But this conferences isn’t enough. We need a more radical change in moving forward as the ‘old way’ of doing things hasn’t helped. This radical change must also start inwards as well as at  local and national levels.

The Occupy movement and the Arab Spring have thoughts us so many things. My country Nigeria last year witnessed a transformation in the electoral process when young people rallied around and where effectively engaged in the electoral processes from mobilization, to civic education to monitoring of the elections as citizen journalists and as voters. We were involved, and we even made getting involved fun. We saw for the first time what the power of young people combined with access to technology and information can lead to the radical change we all so desired. 

Rio+20: The 20th Anniversary of the UN Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

"Next June, the United Nations will gather in Rio for one of the most important meetings in its history. Young people can and must play a central role in bringing dynamic new ideas, fresh thinking and energy to the Rio+20 process. We should all work to engage them and ensure that their voices are heard." ~UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki Moon

we believe that youths are the greatest resource on earth and should be empowered to have say in defining their future. As the world population reached 7 billion in October, Young people are becoming more socially aware of issues and are making a difference. Now, more than ever, young people are in need of comprehensive family planning and reproductive health services which will better empower them for the future. When women are empowered to plan and space their children, they are better able to adapt to world’s challenges including climate change and ensure the survival of their families

In 1992, world leaders recognized the vital role that youth play in contributing to the process of Sustainable Development with the adoption of Agenda 21. Twenty years later, young people should and will be present again in Rio de Janeiro, at the conference dubbed Rio+20, in order to strengthen their profile as The moral stakeholderwhen it comes to Sustainable Development. As the conference aims amongst others at securing a renewed political commitment to Sustainable Development and addressing new and emerging challenges young people are preparing to show once again their own commitment. Indeed, balancing the needs of the current generations with those of future generations will be a matter of survival for those who are young at the moment

November 15th 2011 Over 35 youths from around gathered at the UN headquarters in New York to discuss effective youth participation in the UN Rio+20 Conference on sustainable development. The Event titled Mobilizing Youth for successful Rio+20 was organized by The European Union, The United Nations and PeaceChild International and had the UN Deputy secretary Dr. Asha-Rose Migiro and, Mr. Thibault Devanlay First Secretary, Environment, Sustainable Development EU Delegation to the United Nations as well as David R. Woollcombe, President, Peace Child International in attendance.

Esther Agbarakwe, NYCC Co-founder was supported by Population Action International to attend the event.