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.

#4 Ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life-long learning opportunities for all

Goal-4Education is the fundamental principle that enables citizens to develop their own perspective of the world. As Malala Yousazfai said at the United Nations, “one child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world”. Education gifts people with a voice, it allows understanding of your rights and duties, and it provides a person with the knowledge to lead a healthy and fulfilling life. However, despite the importance of receiving an education, in 2012, 58 million children were still out of school. Moreover, there are huge gender gaps in youth literacy rates. According to the United Nations 60 per cent of the adults and youth who lack basic reading and writing skills are women. It is crucial to think over this data and to take measures in this regard.

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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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Making a better world with a better education

The Model International Delegate team with President Tjalke Weber at the UNYANET General Assembly 2014

The Model International Delegate team with President Tjalke Weber at the UNYANET General Assembly 2014

Education has two faces: learning and teaching.

People learn from each other as they teach each other. This means that from the moment you have learned and understood something, you can teach it.

The principle falls in line with the words of the American author and humourist, Mark Twain:

“It is noble to teach oneself, but still nobler to teach others!”

This quote is one of Model International Delegate’s philosophies to share something meaningful with people, so that they can pass it to others in return.

We, at MID, see education as a game, an important one; where there are winners and losers.

Why do people fail where others succeed?

Resources often make the difference. Specific knowledge is something you purchase and this fact brings a new element into the game: wealth.

Individuals can be rich either with their money, or with their knowledge; therefore creating a circle. People with money can afford higher education and people with knowledge can generate higher income. MID is there to hide the money matters in order to give everybody a chance of becoming something more.

Model United Nations around the world are very good schools. They often are student-led conferences for large scale youth participation and established at arelatively low cost. MUNs give every attendee the opportunity to improve his or her research and writing ability, analytical thinking, and communications skills.

Albert Einstein once said:

“The only source of knowledge is experience.”

Model United Nations is all about reversing the faces of education, giving young minds, notwithstanding their socio-economical background, the opportunity to learn from each other, teach each other, and therefore, impact their own destiny.

MUNs are one of Model International Delegate’s main focuses. Though they are excellent tools to educate people, some challenges prevail.

MUNs around the world have no common grounds. It’s a little bit like: “Do whatever you want”. This is a problem for the quality of MUNs and for the UN members that are concerned about how MUNs take place.

That is why we collaborate with organizations such as UNYANET and UNDPI in order to establish internationally recognized standards.

This way, MUNs will have a better visibility towards the United Nations and other institutions. Improved RoPs will increase conference quality and participation. And so on, our educational target will be reached.

Of course, working on these standards is not our exclusive activity. Model International Delegate is involved in several other activities with little or no relation towards MUNs. At the end, it’s all about inclusive and participative education.

We believe simulations and role-plays are the best tools for sharing knowledge and empowering one other. So, you can consider MID like a knot between the strings in the MUN world. In collaboration with the concerned UN departments, UNYANET, and with MUN delegations all around the world we want to build, together, a stronger,
safer and better future for everybody.

To conclude, the most important thing to remember about MID is the word “everybody”. MID is a tool for everybody, made by everybody. You are part of it from the moment you embrace it:

“Making a better world with a better education”

Matthew FAIRCLOUGH
Consultant at Model International Delegate

Youths and their role in Project Inspire

As a joint initiative from the Singapore Committee for UN Women and MasterCard, Project Inspire was launched in 2011 to mark the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day. It aims to provide youths from the ages of eighteen to thirty-five the opportunity to work with non-profit organisations and compete for a US$25,000 grant to help create a better world for women and girls in Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and Africa.

The grant is aimed towards the target beneficiaries of the winning proposal. In the past, other than the winner’s grant, selected teams have been chosen and granted additional grants due to the strength of their proposal. It’s not just about the best proposal winning, but about increasing awareness about the promotion of economic empowerment for women. These additional grants are funded by the judging panel or by interested members of the public. Thus is the impact of such an initiative, that it encourages the public to see through the implementation of feasible projects.

I first heard about the call for Project Inspire’s Country Ambassadors in one of the Singapore Committee for UN Women’s bulletins. The qualities needed to be a Country Ambassador are similar to some of those needed for participants of the project: drive to contribute positively to society and determination to build a long-term relationship that extends beyond the initial phase.

The bulk of my time as Singapore Country Ambassador lies in relationship management and public relations, driving awareness to youths, particularly those in local and international tertiary institutions. My aim in targeting these institutions is that these youths can form a proposal with like-minded individuals. I am pleased to note there has been great support from the management of these institutions. Many of them recognise the potential of youths, and are glad to lend their support to such an initiative that provides youths with the ability to promote economic empowerment for women.

The importance of youths is key not only to the development of Project Inspire, but also in ‘Womenomics’ and creating sustainable economic growth in developed and developing countries. This enables them to believe in their own voices, and to believe in their ability to influence key decision making steps and policy planning.

One of the Special Recognition Award winners of Project Inspire 2012 recently had the pleasure of knowing that most of their beneficiaries had created their own income from using the skills developed through their proposal (http://projinspire.com/bringing-sustainable-change-to-women-in-northern-sri-lanka/). Many of the Livelihood Initiatives for Empowerment of Women (LIFE) past beneficiaries in Northern Sri Lanka are now working full time at government managed farms. LIFE has now expanded its programme to include business management skills for future beneficiaries. The ability to transfer long-term knowledge on these women’s areas of expertise have led them to further become active producing, contributing members of their economy.

In the words of Singapore Committee for UN Women’s Project Development Coordinator Ms. Soha Yassine (http://projinspire.com/the-team/), Project Inspire “represents a sustainable solution for the world we want our children to inherit. The traditional model of non-profit NGOs has seen limited success in the past but the convergence of business and social good is a more realistic and exciting model for ending poverty, disease, and injustice in the future.”

Applications are open until 30 June 2014, after which the panel of judges will select the best proposals. Representatives from these teams will be mentored and flown to Singapore to give a formal presentation of their proposal. For more information of Project Inspire, please visit http://projinspire.com/.

Model United Nations must grow into the role of a simulation of the UN

WMUN1

Photo: Delegates at Harvard WorldMUN 2014. Rima-Maria Rahal

At ModelUN, we simulate the United Nations. A ModelUN conference is a hands-on way to learn how international relations work, how to behave as a diplomat, and – wherever you see your career path take you – a golden opportunity to learn how to be a global leader. After all, slipping into the role of a diplomat to a UN body not only requires you to put your knowledge of current affairs, international relations and the mechanics of being a diplomat into action while aiming to represent your nation’s views to your best ability. Being a MUNer also means trying to cut deals that are not only good for you, but good for the simulated international community as a whole, crafting your own network of cooperators and pulling through intrigue and competition.

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Bring Back Our Girls

BringBackOurGirls-pix-599x330

Photo: change.org

It is time for the international community to take actions not only in responding to the Chibok abductions, but also prevent more tragedies from happening.

In the week since the kidnapping of over 200 girls in northern Nigeria, people from across the world have condemned the terrible attack caused by the Boko Harams. The truth is that before they were taken at gunpoint, the Chibok girls lead a life that was exceptional for a girl in northern Nigeria: they were in school.

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Youth Unemployment

UN Photo/Jean Pierre Laffont

UN Photo/Jean Pierre Laffont

Youth unemployment. This is one of the major concerns for young people all over the world today, especially in the countries going through major economic crises.

According to the International Labor Organization, there are 75 million youths looking for jobs around the world today [1]. However, it is not only unemployment that is affecting our fellow youngsters across the world.  The precarious conditions in which they work involve low salaries and long hours, with interns feeling lucky to be paid since the increase of unpaid internships in which one works as a slave with only a “thank you” and a whisper from the boss hoping that this job will help you find better future opportunities.  How are we, the younger generation, supposed to survive in a society ruled by plutocracy (money) if we cannot get a job?

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