Labour and Co-operative Member of
Parliament for Kemptown and Peacehaven

The World Youth Conference – Review and reflection, were do we take it now?

by Lloyd on 13.09.10
Tags: , ,

by Lloyd Russell-Moyle, Chair, Woodcraft Folk part of International Falcon Movement – Socialist Education International

The World Youth Conference was meant to be a follow on from 12 years ago and the last conference on youth held in Lisbon, moving the agenda forward and building on the progress that has been made in the last 12 years particularly the World Programme for Action on Youth (WPAY) and the MDGs.

While the conference fell short of many people’s expectations and logistically was a nightmare it will form one of the building blocks to the UN Conference on Youth.

Many people will have seen David Woollcombe’s (of Peace Child International) critical reflection of the WYC, Leon. While David and I have our differences on some points his broad reflection on the WYC process is good and I will not repeat it. I also have a blog and video updates at which also gives some reflections.

I want in this to focus on three areas the (a) Participation of youth delegates, (b) the outcomes in the declaration and (c) where we go from now, how we start to build.

My first points would be to also thank the NGO organisation team from ICMYO (see below) who took on at the request of the Mexican government the programme coordination of the NGOs for the first three days and then were discarded. The concept of working with ICMYO, which is the International Coordination Meeting for Youth Organisations is and should be the way forward for involving young people. The ICMYO represents internationals from the young communists in WFDY to the young Catholics in Pax Romana, in its attendees are all the regional youth forms and cross regional youth forums (such as the European Youth Forum and the Common Wealth Youth Forum). This body, lead by young people meets annually with the UN Agencies and is the right body to do the work at a UN conference on Youth, it was unfortunate that the pressure put on it by the Mexican government restrained most if its work.

(a) Participation of you delegates
The Resolution RES/36/17 and WPAY calls for member states to “include Youth Representatives in their national delegations to the General Assembly and other relevant United Nations” . There are very few states that take this on and as a non-UN but conference about youth, one would have expected to have youth representational from the national governments.

The original conception of the conference was that each National Youth Council would be able to attend as part of the governmental delegation with the two representatives from each country representing wider civil society and young people in organisations.

As the UK, with Germany, didn’t send anyone (not even the ambassador or junior embassy staff), this was hard. I held a UK government badge due to my attendance at the NGO part and my former links. This provided an interesting insight as I attended but didn’t directly input in to the meeting of the European Union in the negations.

The European Union was one of the only areas that involved independent young people in their delegations. It was therefore a shame that it was the EU and in particular the UK that didn’t positively participate in this conference or the lead up to it.

Where young people did input and were around the table there were a number of points that were taken on board. In the end only 4 were directly from the youth declaration and the youth delegates were responsible for those 4.

This means that when youth delegates are engaged in the government delegation there is a real co-management send of working and it does work. The problem was that if you didn’t have a government badge young people were effectively locked out of their own conference – this must not happen again.
What is clear is that we need to further strengthen youth delegates. We should be going into the UN conference on youth and also the MDG review, re-invigorating the push for youth delegates.

I will be writing further lessons from a youth delegate but you can see a video of the reflection on youth the youth delegate process went in
1. We should ensure that youth delegates are taken from each country.
2. We must engage young people in all the process.
3. That young people as NGOs are given proper access to the negations.
4. There is a proper coordination of youth delegates and the other young people who are outside the room so as to push for what youth want.

(b) The outcomes in the declaration
The declaration was a in may areas weaker than agreements already reached. For example where it mentions independent youth council is point 44 it “encourages … …the support of” compared to previous un General assembly resolutions that use the language “request”. This weakening also happens in the section of relating to health and maternal mortality.

The statement in relation to maternal morbidity and mortality was included as an aside rather than one of the main focuses of the MDGs, mentioned further strategies to combat mortality and provide full health services. This, as the maternal mortality is the furthest MDG from being archived is not only a shame, it shows a lack of wellness to tackle action to fulfil agreements already made.

This problem was two fold 1) most of the representatives (again from Europe) were junior civil servants or they were embassy staff that had no lead on Youth. Many people didn’t have much of an idea of the youth policy pre-existing and it was young people that pushed the agenda forward. 2) the Mexican government as chair and host was not really prepared to bring in many of the youth suggestions

Saying that the following points should be taken note:

“Recognising that young people are key actors in the quest for development and key stake holder of the MDGs”
This is key in moving forward for the MDGs summit and inparticular relevant to how the MDGs are monitored to reflect young people.
“Recognising the need to develop policies and laws that better support eh family and contributes to its stability and take into account its plurality of forms”
This in recognizing and supporting the plurality of forms, should be seen as a breakthrough, recognizing and supporting families including same sex, single parent and extended families.
It should be linked in to when families are split up and build on the right to family life which many young people are still denied, particularly disabled, Roma and immigrant youth.

“1. To prioritize increased investments in young people”… …“meaningful participation of young people, as well as to develop or strengthen national systems for monitoring and evaluation;”

Very little of note that moves the area forward, there needed to be a higher responsibility put on alleviate poverty and hunger with aid that is untied and developmental policies that are young people lead.
Almost no mention of good shortages.

“9. Improve the quality and relevance of… …comprehensive education on human sexuality, the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women”
A really important point here, human sexuality was inserted later due to our inputs and is a step forward to sexual and relationship education.
“10. …professionalization of persons working with youth;”
This is a real danger, “professionalization” is not a positive move, we want and need support for high quality and good standards in youth work. Professionalization is seen by the paid sector as something to strengthen their demands for better pay and conditions, which in itself is not bad but undermines a lot of voluntary work which should be of high quality but not necessary professionalised. The second line is better.
“11. Develop non‐formal educational programmes and recognize… …especially by young people for young people;”

“14. Establish public policies that guarantee young people’s access to health without any discrimination and increase the quality and coverage of health systems and healthcare services, including for sexual and reproductive health, reduce maternal morbidity and mortality, prevention, care, treatment, counseling of young people in order to halt and reverse the spread of HIV and AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases, tuberculosis, malaria and other diseases, including non‐communicable diseases;”
While this is a positive mention it is far weaker than it needs to be, health related MDGs are far behind particularly the material health related goal (MDG 5).
There is a great lines about “sexual and reproductive health” but what does this mean? It needs and young people need to push the outcomes of the international Conference on Populations and Development (particularly POA:par76 which mentioned family planning, access to healthcare and reduction of unsafe abortions.) Without some recognition of the work that is being done in this area point 14 remains week and young people need to not only push forward by recognised that maternal, sexual and reproductive health disproportionally effects young people and they have a role is education on this area.

“17. Promote policy reforms to protect the right of young people to just and favorable conditions of work, including fair remuneration and social security, freedom of association;”
Decent work as mentioned a number of time, but this is the key line, outlined what that is seen as. Right of young people is great and an amendment that young people put forward. Freedom of association is a bit to trade unions and a positive mention.
What is fails to touch on is how this will intergrate to reducing poverty and supporting young people in getting work though active involvment of the government.

“22. … all forms of gender base discrimination, in particular discrimination against young women;”
This also was leading on from work of young people where they wanted to recognised all genders and their multiplicity (ie trans, women and man etc). This was after the NGOs put a strong request in for a more balanced understanding of gender which was not taken up completely.
“27. Promote the participation of young women in decision making processes in political, social and economic activities and the elimination of barriers that limit their full contribution to society;”
A very important issue – Western Europe (excluding northern Europe) is particular bad at this still and there is a lot of work to be done. Young people need to play a role in this as we are in many areas of civil life stepping backward in our understanding of positive actions for young women.

“30. Guarantee protection against arbitrary interference with privacy;”
An important line which represents a challenge to continues that censor /monitor the web and a clear guide that this should not happen. Recent laws to track texts, emails and other communications are clearly not in this vein and something that the present government should work on.
For development, information is vital and open and accessible as well as not interfering with privacy should be noted.

“35. Promote the role of the Global Youth Movement for the Alliance of Civilizations in fostering mutual understanding and respect both locally and globally”
The Global Youth Movement is particularly problematic; it has undermined organisational work and is dominated by young people hand selected by their governments. We should push for a recognising of all youth platforms with ICMYO (see above) being a meeting place of them to share and coordinate with the UN, not one over another but many all together.

“37. Promote the recognition of young people as key actors for development and eliminate their stigmatization as causes of conflict and violence;”
Another note that young people play a key role in development.
“39. Adopt systems of justice specialized for dealing with young people in conflict with the law,”
“40. Implement a wider application of, restorative justice and other relevant measures”
Both these points are important in understanding the role that young people and how they should be treated differently. That whilst supporting victims young people should have restorative measures – this links in to the UK drive to reduce prison numbers.
“42. Strengthen and promote the role of young people and youth organizations in building peace in their communities, countries and regions;”
A good recognition of young people and their organisations which needs to be recognised.

“44. Encourage the full and effective participation of young people… …co‐decision… …independent national youth councils;”
In the Council of Europe youth structures are co-managed by young people and governments, this needs to be pushed at the local level (young mayors with budgets, and the international level). Support for the British Youth Council over other bodies is vital as it should be seen as the apex not just a player in the youth field.

“48. Strengthen the participation of young people”
“52. Support the creation of youth networks for cooperation on the issue of the environment at the national and international levels;”

This needs to be extended to the UK government taking and working with young people in the UK who are leading in this area. Recognizing UK Youth Climate Coalition with BYC would be a great start.

“54. Adopt comprehensive migration policies that promote and protect the human rights of migrants, including young migrants in order to maximize the positive effects of migration and respond to the challenges which migration poses to countries of origin, transit and destination;”

All rights for migrants needs to be respected and promoted – ending the detention of young people and children, supporting young asylum seekers and reforming the support systems. The UK has just opened up a centre to return young people and children back to Afghanistan and this should be seen as something that is not in conjunction with a promotion of human rights.

“58. Promote the implementation and, as appropriated, reinforce international or regional agreements and plans on youth;”

This is week and needs to mention the renewal of the WPAY and what we are going to do going forward.

“4. Welcome the initiative… …to participate actively in all activities related to the Year and in the United Nations Conference on Youth;
5. Considers discussing an international legal framework that recognizes the specific rights of young people;
6. Request the United Nations General Assembly to recognize, strengthen and mandate the UN Inter‐Agency Network on Youth Development to asses and follow up existing declarations, commitments structures and mechanisms specific to young people, namely the declaration of the World Youth conference, the world Program of Action for Youth and implementation of the agreements of the World Youth Conference, the World Program of Action for youth and the Millennium Development Goals, in relation to Young people.
7. Request the General Assembly of the United Nations to consider at its 65th session this declaration as a meaningful contribution to the activities of the International Year of Youth and to the process of reviewing the progress made in achieving the Millennium Development Goal ten years after their adoption.”

These are positive but week points, the UN Inter‐Agency Network on Youth Development is a set forward and the working is taken from the youth declaration. It however need to be fully mandated and kinked in to monitoring the WPAY and the MDGs in a strategic way not just a one off.

It is clear that governments recognizes young peoples input in the MDGs but it need to translate to 1) young people on the government delegations, 2) resources giving to young people for development and 2) a clear set up upholding existing rights for young people, and humans in general by governments (including the UK) which still are fragrant against these rights and the principles behind them.

(c) where we go from now, how we start to build.
Well what is clear is that we cannot let a process that took so much time and energy to produce so little in the way of tangible move forward. Much of what I have highlighted is not even steps forward it re-stating the blinding obvious and already agreed.

Youth councils need to step up – they need not to be partners with other youth organisations but lead the strong strategy in each country and be member driven – this means that when any young person is sent to UN or international conference BYC should have an active role in supporting and briefing them and BYC needs to get the resources to do that.

Young people is 15-25 and we need to have a board range of actors and young people, far too often we have young people who have no idea of what they are doing or are doing it so long they have no passion.
ICMYO and the regional youth platforms need to play a stronger role in originating youth and the UN should fully recognise this and help resource the functioning and coordination of young people.
We need to make sure that there are youth delegates on each delegation in the future but also that there are young NGOs there who can and do have access to those youth delegates and are part of a youth support network.

This network of young people needs to not be lead by, lone young people, but though organisations of national youth councils and international NGOs so as to allow a strong and mandated youth representation.
Youth shouldn’t expect to have their views just taken, but like all sectional groups needs to lobby and work to get their views heard this means coordination but that expectations not set too height. Young people should know that they are working in a realist system where we need to work together to be stronger and not accept with out pre-coordination.

Before Rio+10 and the Un Conference on Youth, young people with mandates from organisations around the world should come together and coordinate themselves and the UK should have a role in that.
Finally, we need to start at home, the UK government should review the declaration, if they want sign it with reservation that it didn’t go far enough or involve enough young people. We also fundamentally should be leading this debate with our youth minster and foreign secretary to make British voices heard in the international forum.

Leave a comment

Labour and Co-operative Member of
Parliament for Kemptown and Peacehaven

Contact Lloyd

Click here

Follow Lloyd