URBAN21 - Youth Forum
At the beginning of the 21st century, the ramifications of rapid urban development affect each and everyone one of us, but it is the younger generation that will have to live with the choices their elders, politicians and businessmen have made.  Because the participants of the Youth Forum are relatively young, the majority of them have probably never studied urban development formally, and it is also unlikely that they have ever held political office.  However, these young people--be they from Sao Paulo, New York, Tashkent, or Dakar--know how urban development affects their lives.  Therefore, it is crucial that their voices are not discounted.

The Youth: Partners of Today
In the context of improving living conditions in human settlements, the Youth Forum is working to take part in the formulation and implementation of policies and strategies particularly related to Habitat Agenda and Agenda 21.  This situation is recognized and promoted in paragraph 120(a) of the Habitat Agenda.  Principle 25 of the Rio Declaration and paragraph 120(b) of the Habitat Agenda foresee youth playing an active and creative role in building sustainable communities.  Paragraph 182(n) of the Habitat Agenda further stipulates that youth should be accepted as a key partner for the implementation processes.  Despite the fact that young people are the dynamic and enthusiastic segment of society, planning with youth is unfortunately not an integral component of national development programs in most countries.  This situation is aggravated by insufficient inter-institutional coordination, lack of basic data and research, limited financial resources allocated to youth issues and lack of training.

Short-term Planning of Politicians
A democracy with short legislation periods creates a situation in which those who are politically responsible tend to plan only for periods of a few years, but not for decades or centuries.  Usually, their actions are related only to the present.  That is, they are shaped by the wishes and needs of voting citizens, while the interests of future generations and non-voting youth remain unconsidered.  Today’s decision makers too often make decisions for the effect of which they won’t have to take the responsibility in their position – who remains in office for 50 years?

Need for Future Ethics 
Considering the above-mentioned issues, we conclude that there is a need for future ethics:  Just as the freedom of the individual ends where the freedom of the next one begins, so the future of every generation should be limited by the freedom of future generations.  Dieter Birnbacher, a moral philosopher of future ethics, summarizes the problem: “The promise to prolong the bliss of the present leads to neglect of the future.”  The sustainability principle is massively violated because our society wants to make short-term profits and reap immediate advantages, purchased with the misery of future generations.  Indeed, the “futurization” of ecological problems poses an existential threat for today’s youth.  The happiness of present generations is bought with the misery of future generations.  Already today’s children and youths will be affected.  In the face of present and future problems, the Youth can no longer accept such a short-sighted policy.  We need a new future ethics in order to preserve the chances of future generations.  The Brundtland commission defined ‘sustainable development’ as a ‘development that satisfies the present needs without risking that future generations cannot satisfy their own needs.’  Hans Jonas, the former propagator of future ethics, formulated a new ethics of responsibility as early as 1979: “Act in a way that makes sure your actions are consistent with the permanence of genuine human life on earth”.

Pre-meeting, 2nd-3rd July
Prior to the Youth Forum, a pre-meeting will be held for two days in order to prepare a guideline titled, “Youth Contributions to Sustainable Urban Development.“  This guideline will include the input of the participating organizations and will be a resource document for young people dealing with sustainable urban development all over the world.

Youth Contribution 
This forum will include nine 20- to 30-year-old panelists coming from: Africa (2), the Americas (2), Asia (2), Australia (1) and Europe (2) in order to discuss the theme, “Sustainable Urban Development.“  Several youth organizations have been actively involved in youth-related activities for creating more viable and sustainable cities.  These organizations have gained great experience during such activities and projects, and their potential should be transferred to other youth initiatives or organizations.  Transferability is a crucial component of sustainability, which requires the regular flow of information and experiences.

In the beginning, the participants will be asked to reach a common understanding on the following sustainability principles:

In an ecologically sustainable society, no generation releases more harmful substances than the air, water and soil can absorb.  Renewable resources are not used beyond their capacity to renew themselves.  Before using non-renewable resources, the needs of future generations are considered.  In a financially-sustainable society, no generation lives in excess of its means or forces later generations to pay for its consumption.  In short: in an ecologically- and financially-sustainable world, one does not live at the expense of one’s children.  These principles go hand in hand with a fair distribution of resources between North and South, between the poor and the rich, between men and women.

After that, they are asked what this – as a consequence – means for urban areas.  It will be ensured that each of the panelists are well aware of the World Report prior to arrival.  It is important that the sustainability concept be defined, and goals for the future be set.  Necessary improvements can only be made after the young leaders explain which problems effect them now and what they foresee in the future.  They shall also discuss what their contribution to change could be.  Secondly, the draft guideline will be presented, other recommendations included, and the document will be finalized. 

During this event, a preparatory meeting is also planned with the young participants on the way to Istanbul +5.  The Youth Forum will be chaired by Mr. Martin Viehöver (FRFG).

Official Organisers:
Foundation for the Rights of Future Generations
The Secretariat of Youth for Habitat International Network
Youth Initiative EXPO 2000