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.

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

#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

Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women

Source: UN Women

Source: UN Women

Women constitute a central focus in the socio-culture system of every nation. Many world bodies, international, non-government organizations have also established legal, administrative and institutional structure for the effective existence and survival of women and girls.

In 1995, the Beijing platform for action remains a relevant guideline for development programming. It provide for “an agenda for women’s empowerment” signed by all government that is seen as “a necessary and fundamental pre-requisite for equality, development and peace.

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Race, Class, Imperialism, Mankind and the Young – Ingxubevange

ujdaklsgdönnamed

I have been reading Steve Biko’s “I Write What I like” and in it he opens up my eyes and names things I have been thinking about but have failed to give names to. Biko tackles lots of issues from colonialism to racism and imperialism. Biko confronts the issue of white guilt stemming from the past and how white South Africans, particularly, deal with this guilt. “Basically the South African white community are a homogeneous group of people. It is a community of people who sit to enjoy a privileged position they do not deserve, are aware of this, and therefore try to spend time trying to justify what they do and why they are doing so. Where differences in political opinion exist, they are in the process of trying to justify their position and usurpation of power” Steve Biko. Biko further suggests that white South Africans become liberal in hope to overcome their guilt, and not because they understand what black South Africans have been through, are going through and will continue to endure. Whilst Biko wrote the article during the epitome of Apartheid, his Black Consciousness (BC) ideals still prove to be necessary. It is however imperative that black people do not use BC ideals to perpetuate racism, for populist tactics that are likely to degenerate their countries into states of anarchy that undermine the democracies that were attained through blood, sweat and sacrifices.

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Achieving Universal Primary Education

Source: World Bank

Source: World Bank

Among the eight MDG goals, achieving universal primary education is second of them. Many children of the developing and under-developed countries are deprived of this basic need. There are many reasons behind, why the primary education should be compulsory for all. Just think about a situation, a young girl or boy, who has completed her primary education may be careful about the important things like as marrying at a later age, having fewer children, decreasing the chance of HIV, finding employment, seeking medical care, doing noble for the community etc.

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The Situation of Human Rights of Disabled Youth in Kenya

Source: http://tinyurl.com/l3y89vy

Source: http://tinyurl.com/l3y89vy

“When you hear the word ‘disabled’, people immediately think about people who can’t walk or talk or do everything that people take for granted. Now, I take nothing for granted. But I find the real disability is people who can’t find joy in life and are bitter”, says Terri Garr, a motivational speaker.

When I heard Terry speak, I asked myself, WHO IS THE DISABLED? WHAT ARE HIS OR HER HUMAN RIGHTS? HOW YOUNG ARE THEY? DOES THE CONSTITUTION DEFINE RESTRAINS OVER THE SAME? As for Kenya, the Human Rights commission defines the disabled as the naturally challenged beings whose daily livelihood does not follow the norms of normalcy, but rather struggles through the corridors of life to make ends meet. Continue reading

The Role of Renewable Energies in Achieving Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in Ghana. (Solar Energy)

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are eight goals with measurable targets and clear deadlines for improving the lives of the world’s deprived people. To meet these goals and eradicate poverty, leaders of 189 countries signed the historic millennium declaration at the United Nations Millennium Summit in the year 2000. However, renewable energy is reliable, abundant and will potentially be very cheap once technology and infrastructure are improved. It includes solar, wind, geothermal, hydropower and tidal energy, plus biofuels that are grown and harvested without fossil fuels. Non-renewable energy, such as coal and petroleum, require costly explorations and potentially dangerous mining and drilling, and they will become more expensive as supplies decrease and demand increases.

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