By Mira Olson, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO – Students and executives from all over Brazil gathered at Vivo Rio in Flamengo Park, Rio de Janeiro last week to attend the Third International Forum for Communication and Sustainability. The event took place May 19th and 20th, and brought lecturers from around the world to present on a range of topics, all related to the use of communications as a mechanism to foster sustainability.

Muhammad Yunus, creator of Grammen Bank, bank for the poor, was a featured speaker at the third-annual Forum, photo courtesy of 3rd International Forum for Communication and Sustainability.

The purpose of the event was to bring innovative ideas and know-how to businesses, researchers and the general public regarding economic, social, environmental and cultural sustainability that can be applied in Brazil. As a result, it encourages ongoing debate between the public and private sectors and civil society on the educational and social roles of communications regarding the concept of sustainability.

The long list of speakers included world-renown figures such as Muhammad Yunus, creator of the Grammen Bank and awarded the Nobel Peace Price in 2006 for the significant impact on development and poverty reduction that his micro-credit program and replicate programs have induced worldwide.

Guatemalan Nobel Peace Prizewinner and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Rigoberta Menchú was another highlight of the Forum, and spoke of her work in indigenous rights. ‘Clean Up Day’ mastermind Rainer Nolvak, who with the help of fifty thousand volunteers cleaned up Estonia in a single day, also spoke of his experience.

Several executives also presented, including Lucian Ternowski, the face behind BraveNewTalent.com who at the age of 26 is the youngest person to have been awarded the European Young Global Leader award.

Legendary Brazilian musician Seu Jorge was also a featured lecturer, as was 2001 MTV Music Award winner MV Bill, who was born in the City of God favela and still plays an active role in the rap and hip hop movement internationally to bring awareness about the difficult realities of favela life.

Nobel Peace Prizewinner Rigoberta Menchú spoke at the event about indigenous rights, photo courtesy of 3rd International Forum for Communication and Sustainability.

“The amount of knowledge the speakers shared was truly remarkable,” noted Yolanda Barroso (20), a third-year film and communications student at UniverCidade in Ipanema who is currently helping to launch an NGO in the Morro dos Prazeres favela. “Hearing Muhammad Yunus speak was amazing. By doing something small, he allowed children of illiterate parents to become doctors. Many people in Brazil need help, and the conference reminded us that it is possible.”

The event’s creators view the role of communication as essential to promote behavioral change in society, and directly linking speech to practice. As such this year’s Forum focused on solutions for waste production and disposal of residues in the environment, with attendees encouraged to begin making small changes such as carpooling, using organic products, and economizing water and energy.

As part of this focus on waste reduction, in the next few months the Clean Up Brazil project will be launched in Rio using Nolvak’s successful Estonian initiative as the main point of reference. The project will take place in various cities throughout Brazil to not only to clean up the country, but also create awareness and inspire change in the population’s mind-frame.

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