27/11/2011 10:14 GMT | Updated 27/11/2011 10:14 GMT

Five Gabala Principles Point Way to Rio+20

Recently I outlined my support for the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, and his aim for more young people to be included in crucial discussions on major policy issues such as sustainability and our global fight against climate change. The importance of Rio+20, marking the 20th anniversary of the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development, cannot be over-estimated.Held next year, its aim is to secure renewed political commitment for sustainable development across the world.

I also share the Secretary General's belief that, prior to this crucial conference, we must engage with the world's young people to link them into decisions which will impact on their future to a greater degree than ours. By doing this now, we can make sure we all build real momentum for action in Brazil next year. The opportunity to secure a new consensus on governance in ecological issues at Rio+20 cannot be missed despite the current preoccupation with the global economy. If our leaders need the young people of the world to communicate the urgency and threats posed by new and emerging global environmental challenges, then so be it.

With all this in mind I am proud that the International Dialogue for Environmental Action (or IDEA), of which I am patron, has taken active steps to bring young people together from across borders, religions and diverse backgrounds to begin to work towards these aims.

Last week my country, Azerbaijan, hosted an international camp of young people from 38 countries with the aim of putting environmental awareness and action at the heart of family, community and national life.This has been part of a full month of ecology in Azerbaijan championing the environment and measures to protect our most precious assets.

The camp was organised by IDEA and supported by the UN.The group who assembled were a mix of students, environmental managers, and researchers in the field of environment, representatives of NGOs as well as academics and a sprinkling of government officials. All share a passion for action on delivering sustainable solutions to the world's problems and a real desire to work together and make a difference. This can hopefully develop into something tangible that will form a framework for governance supported by all.

The camp was hosted in Gabala, Azerbaijan's most ancient city. That the camp was hosted in Gabala was no fluke. Gabala is a place of immense beauty which plays host to an international music festival each year and is able to inspire and motivate people in equal measure.

It is terribly important to have faith in the ideas and passion of young people. The camp was a further way for young people to have a voice, take active participation in public life of the region and drive forward an agenda in support of the United Nations and Rio+20. Specifically it is hoped that those who attended the camp will become champions for ecological issues in their own communities and encourage them tobecome an informal ambassador for local environmental awareness.

The list of problems is long and pressing no matter where in the world you live; but it is particularly problematic for those who are poorest. We are facing the increasing frequency and severity of disasters, melting of glaciers, declining water resources, loss of forest coverage and bio-diversity, declining agricultural productivity and increasing food insecurity, greater impact on health, sea levels rise and coastal flooding, environmental refugees and socio-economic problems.

If the passion shown by those who came to Gabala is anything to go on they will be able to nurture positive action in their own communities which will itself ensure the emergence of a new generation of independent young experts in the field of environmental studies. Only with this kind of movement can we truly start to deal with these issues.

During the three days of the camp the attendees discussed these issues and those they themselves see as most pressing and deserving of international cooperation. The themes were tackling new and emerging environmental challenges. Building on this, they want to see a roadmap for environmental cooperation, from the simplest community support projects to a much more fundamental desire to achieve a new level of shared global governance. Alongside this there was a real desire to ensure the role of the young, to contribute to sustainable development, by including them in the decision making process locally, nationally and globally.

Finally, and coming somewhere in between the micro and the macro, an area where individual governments can make a real difference, was promoting green businesses to secure the future of technology and create environmentally-friendlyzones for trade and commerce.

This is an ambitious list of ideas to come out of just three days of dialogue and discussion at Gabala; just the sort of new thinking Ban Ki-Moon called for earlier this year. I'm proud that IDEA has played a part in starting to work toward Rio+20 and am confident we can build on this positive beginning.