The United Nations elected Indonesia to host the Tunza International Children & Youth Conference on the Environment, slated to be held in Bandung from Sept. 27 to Oct 1. Over 1,500 young people from 120 countries are expected to attend the conference, which is part of the run up to the Earth Summit 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, also known as the Rio+20 conference. The Jakarta Post’s Adianto P. Simamora talked to Environment Minister Gusti Muhammad Hatta about Indonesia’s hopes for both conferences. Excerpts below.
Question: What is Indonesia’s vision for the Tunza conference?
Answer: We are very happy that Indonesia was chosen to host the Tunza conference. The conference is essential. It will determine the future of the planet. Young people can play an important role in developing a better future for the environment.
We need to prepare young people by boosting their awareness of caring about the environment. It is for the sake for the young generation. Their voices must be heard, especially at the Rio+20 summit.
The Tunza conference is expected to produce a ‘Bandung Declaration’ as input for world leaders who will attend Rio+20 Summit.
The Bandung Declaration will truly reflect their voices and aspirations. They [young people] will formulate the contents of declaration.
Indonesia will only host the conference. The output will be in the hands of young people coming from 120 countries, including Indonesia. We invited young people from every province to represent Indonesia at the conference.
The interaction of young people from different countries during the Tunza conference will be important for increasing their love of the environment.
We plan to build a “World City Forest” in Bandung as a pilot project for the nations to green their cities. Every young person participating in the conference will plant a tree in the area.
We will also invite the young people on a field trip to geothermal sites to show them the abundance of eco-friendly energy sources in Indonesia.
Will Tunza effect Indonesia’s diplomacy on environmental issues?
With the conference, Indonesia will have two vital proposals that can be submitted to the Rio+20 summit.
We have the Solo Declaration, issued during the [High-Level Dialogue on the] Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development in Surakarta, Central Java.
The Solo meeting was the first conference that discussed institutional problems that must be solved to promote green economics. Many countries have planned to host conferences on green economy issues.
The Solo Declaration offered options on whether to name UNEP [United Nations Environment Program] as a focal point for sustainable development and green economic issues or give [responsibility] to the UN Economic and Social Council [ECOSOC]. The other alternative is to set up new agency. It is up to the Rio+20 summit to decide.
We will not go to the Rio+20 [conference] with empty hands. We have at least two proposals.
What is the Environment Ministry doing raise the environmental awareness of Indonesian young people?
The Environment Ministry has two approaches for teaching young people about the environment; through formal and informal schemes.
For formal schemes, the Environment Ministry holds an annual competition for the Adiwiyata awards, given by the President to elementary, junior high and senior high schools for promoting green lifestyles among their students to protect the environment.
Formal schools have also have a curriculum that includes environmental affairs.
We also often involve young people in informal activities, such as with the Waste Bank Program – recycling centers built in the center of cities. Young people can reap money while they protect the environment.
We have targeted to reduce by seven percent the amount of garbage dumped into final waste sites through the implementation of the bank.
By 2014, half of our cities should have at least five waste banks.
Our rough calculation show that if 200 cities have at least five waste centers, each of which can collect from 500 to 700 kilograms of waste per month, they will raise Rp 10.3 billion (US$1.16 million).
The involvement of more young people in protecting the environment can spread a positive “virus” to other people to save the environment.