Do Young People Have a Voice in the UN?


The follow up process to the implementation of the UN’s Global Goals (the SDGs); the signing of the Paris Agreement; Sweden being elected to the Security Council. These were some of the highlights from my eventful internship at the Swedish Mission to the United Nations in the New York Headquarters earlier this year. A place where World leaders, diplomats, activists and celebrities gather to take collective actions for Peace and Security, Sustainable Development and Human Rights. A career dream that came true.

During my internship I participated in some meetings and conferences that focused on Youth and Development – and I was positively surprised to see that young people’s importance is becoming more recognized in the UN-system. As the Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stated at some of these meetings:

– Youth are more than victims of poverty and economic downturn. They can be agents of change. Young people are the leaders of today.

Thus, young people are key actors for achieving Agenda 2030 and the Global Goals. In recent years, some initiatives have been taken in the UN, which aims to include youth. Since 2013, Ahmad Alhendawi has been appointed as an UN Youth Envoy. His role is to emphasize the needs and the rights of young people as well as giving advices to the Secretary General on youth issues.

But although the UN is making progress and has begun to understand the significance of youth inclusion, one could ask to what extent there is real representation of youth in the UN system? And who is (and who is not) able to participate? During my internship I noted three concerns that I would like to put forward.

Firstly, at the UN High-level Forum for Sustainable Development in July 2016, only six youth delegates from six of the UN’s 193 member states participated, meaning that the majority of the world’s countries did not have young representatives.

Secondly, at the majority of UN meetings youth delegates are not present. The young people who may be participating in these meetings are mostly interns – who are representing a country or an organization, thus, having the task to report back to their mission or organization on what have been said in the meeting. They do not have a voice. Furthermore, there are very few people who have the possibility to do an internship at the UN. The interns rarely receive financial support, meaning that only those people who are able to finance their own internship, can apply for it. Unfortunately, this excludes those people who are generally most marginalized, namely the poor.

Thirdly, a “popular form” of inclusion and participation (not only in the UN, but in general terms) is to add for instance youth-participation as a separate event. This could mean inviting young people to separate youth events, in which the majority of the participants are young people – but in which the influence over the outcomes, the decision making power and the ability to contribute to progressive actions on the issue, might be limited.

This is not to say that experienced experts with years of knowledge are not important, but simply suggesting that more diversity of perspectives and representation could benefit all and result in sustainable development.

To end with a positive note, at some of the UN meetings I participated in, there were young people invited as speakers – telling us interesting and heartbreaking stories about their struggles for Human Rights. I particularly remember a young woman who had become a victim of an acid attack, and had her whole body burned with acid. She proudly stood in front of us in the General Assembly hall and she told us about her struggle to survive the acid attack – and how she later had found the strength to continue working for Women’s Rights. A young heroine.

To conclude, half of the world’s population today is under 30 years old. We, the young peoples, play a crucial role in tackling Global Challenges and achieving Sustainable Development.

Thus, more positive actions and initiatives need to be taken to truly include us and give us a voice that is heard. We are not only the leaders of tomorrow; we are the leaders of today. We need to be invited, listened to, and included in these processes – and be motivated to really be the first generation that can eradicate poverty and tackle climate change.

What Textiles, Wars and Earthquakes Have in Common

labores-patchworkOver 30.000 people displaced between August and October in the Centre of Italy due to several earthquakes, whose tremors are still threatening the life of its inhabitants. Experts asserted October 30th quake has been the strongest in 35 years, registering a 6.6 on the Richter scale.

One is man-made, the other is an uncontrollable – although predictable – phenomenon; both wars and earthquakes provoke victims and/or people’s displacements and do urge a quick and effective response. Not only at emergency level though. Continue reading

Nationality: Global Citizen

Source: GlobalGiving

Source: GlobalGiving

No matter what global problem you are dreading, whether it’s the elimination of poverty, whether it’s the creation of peace, whether its solving environmental energy problems, the solution- whatever it is- multiple solutions, the solutions always include education, never is it without an education component and sometimes cannot be done without education.

– Nicholas Negroponte

Growing up, my parents constantly affirmed, “Education is the passport to the world of opportunities.” I believed them, and I still do. As a teacher today, I tell my students the same thing.

In a privileged country like Singapore, education is a determined right of all citizens. The moment we step into Primary One, an EduSave account is set up in the student’s name by the government. Every year thereafter until the students reaches the age of sixteen, SGD 200 is credited into the account annually. The fund can be used by the student to pay for tuition fees and any other government-approved co-curricular activities and school trips. As of 2015, according to Organisation of Economic Co-Operation and Development, Singapore tops the global school ranking.

This is all well and good for the small city-state. My bigger concern today is, how do we get this world-recognised education to every student on the planet, especially when we constantly demand that education is a basic human right. How is it possible that in today’s globalised and technologically advanced world, that the right to education is based on a handful of pre-determined factors? Factors that include; where the child was born, their ethnic affiliations and even what their last name is.

Currently, more than 124 million children and adolescents are out of school. UNESCO predicts that this number is on the rise. This is a clear indication that the system we have in place, is not working and must be changed.

It is time to rethink the system because obviously, the global education system we have set for ourselves no longer serves today’s world. If we continue to demand from governments whose priority is not their citizen’s education, then, we must acknowledge that a clear violation of a right has occurred and must be amended.

It is time to hand out those passports in order that all children, regardless of their race, nationality, place of birth, or social creed, get access to a basic primary education. We, as the youths and adults, have the obligation to at least do one thing right – to provide our children, the future of the world, with opportunities to make this planet a better place.

Project Inspire 2015: Progress for Women is Progress for All

Project Inspire 2015

Project Inspire 2015

“A new economic agenda will not only make the economy work for women, but also benefit the majority of men. Progress for women is progress for all.”

– UN Women Flagship Report “Progress of the World’s Women 2015-2016”

As the international community is poised to agree on the new set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), there is a strong and growing global consensus on the need to achieve gender equality. While we have to acknowledge the significant strides made towards this goal, we have to also focus on where we need to redouble our efforts to achieve substantive equality and the realization of human rights for all women and girls.

To educate girls is to reduce poverty.

Now in its fifth edition, Project Inspire: 5 Minutes to Change the World seeks to highlight the efforts of entrepreneurial women in the less advantaged global regions and celebrates five years of supporting social entrepreneurs around the world. This is done in the hopes of emphasizing the right of all women and girls to a good job with equal pay and safe working conditions, which in the medium to long run should be brought into consideration during economic policymaking. Through Project Inspire, we hope that the increased support would enable these women to provide enough income to support a decent, sustainable standard of living for themselves and their families.

Little girls with dreams become women with vision.

Little girls with dreams become women with vision.

Previous notable projects have been those such as the 2014 Runner-up, Riverkids Project, which provides counselling, healthcare and vocational training for Cambodian sex workers, so they can transition out of the sex industry, and run their own small business; and the 2014 People’s Choice, Sinag Store Project, where financially disadvantaged girl students will gain marketable design skills and experience first-hand how to use those skills to launch a social enterprise project.

Launched in 2011 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day and the 25th anniversary of MasterCard in Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa, “Project Inspire: 5 minutes to Change the World” is a global challenge that presents 18-35 year olds with a 5-minute platform to pitch their inspired idea to the world.

The fastest way to change society is to mobilise women of the world.

The fastest way to change society is to mobilise women of the world.

With a US$25,000 Grand Prize and US$10,000 Runner-Up Prize on offer to make their idea a reality, Project Inspire 2015 will take on the theme of ‘Technology or Design for Economic Empowerment’. Applicants will be asked to demonstrate how they use design or technology as a tool in the work they are doing to enable and empower women economically throughout Asia, the Pacific, Middle East & Africa.

As part of the youth community, let us take a stand and continue to support these youth initiatives and the projects and women that they support during the crowdfunding period. The Grand Finals will be held in Singapore on November 13, 2015. For more information, please go to http://www.ProjInspire.com.

Goal 13: Combating climate change and its impacts

By Sakshi Jain

Goal 13 of the Sustainable Development Goals was to ‘take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts’. Climate change encompassesGoal-13 within it global warming, which is mainly a surface temperature increase phenomenon, as well as the other changes that are caused by increasing greenhouse gases. The causes of climate change vary from solar irradiation to human activities.

Continue reading

Goal 12: Sustainable consumption and production – UN calling and our answer

Goal-12By Rima-Maria Rahal

Statements which describe the importance of achieving sustainable consumption and production begin by highlighting that there is a necessity backed by hard facts to embrace this goal: the human population is growing rapidly, being projected to reach 9.5 billion by 2050 – and it needs to be fed. This goal of eradicating hunger has not been achieved even with the comparatively few 7 billion heads we number currently. At the same time we are overexploiting and destroying the majority of ecosystems that we rely today already, painting an even dimmer picture of our prospects of feeding the planet’s growing number of inhabitants. Usually, this is where the executive summaries, issues briefs and extended abstracts stop illuminating the relevance of coming up with sustainable consumption and production patterns. Continue reading

#10 Reduce inequality within and among countries

Goal-10Inequality, which is one of the main concerns to UN, can be defined as an uneven distribution of resources in terms of social, income, gender, ethnicity, disability and age. It was identified as the most significant trend in 2015 as it ranked 2nd in last year’s economic outlook. In developed and developing countries alike, the poorest half of the population often controls less than 10% of its wealth. While it is true that around the world economic growth is picking up pace, deep challenges still remain very present, including poverty, environmental degradation, persistent unemployment, political instability, violence and conflict. These are often closely related to inequality.

Continue reading

59th session of the Commission on the Status of Women

wThe Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action in 1995 is a visionary agenda for the empowerment of women. It still remains as the most comprehensive global policy framework and blueprint for action today, and is a current source of guidance and inspiration to realize gender equality and the human rights of women and girls worldwide.

After two weeks of political debate, exchange of information on good practice and lessons learned, representatives of 189 governments agreed to commitments that were unprecedented in scope. In addition, The Platform for Action covers 12 critical areas of concern which still classify as relevant challenges today: poverty; education and training; health; violence; armed conflict; economy; power and decision-making; institutional mechanisms; human rights; media; environment; and the girl child. For each critical area of concern, strategic objectives are identified, as well as a detailed catalogue of related actions to be taken by governments and other stakeholders, at national, regional and international level.

Continue reading

Xenophobia

xenophobia 1Xenophobia can be defined in many ways. For example, Oxford online dictionary describes it as “An intense or irrational dislike or fear of people from other countries”. Based on Wikipedia website, xenophobia is the “unreasoned fear of that which is perceived to be foreign or strange.” This is a subject that one can argue has not spoken enough or been raised in irrelevant platforms. Unfortunately, almost every country in the world experienced xenophobia.

Continue reading

#7 Ensuring access to energy for all

Goal-7

2014 marks the launch of the United Nations decade of Sustainable Energy for All, which calls for universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. Energy access is a vital development goal, and the focus on energy as part of the agenda reflects energy as crucial in solving many development challenges.

The importance of universal access to modern energy services may not be clearly obvious, but its impact on developing countries are wide and far reaching, being critical to a country’s socioeconomic development. Increased access to reliable clean energy is essential for the protection of ecosystems through basic human rights such as sanitation and healthcare, as well as strengthening economies through improving access to education and improving national infrastructure. Continue reading