Madam Chairperson, distinguished delegates,
It is an honour to address the General Assembly as one of Norway’s youth delegates. We represent 99 youth organisations with half a million members; all working towards what we believe can be a better society.
The question I want to address has been standing there for decades: how to involve youth? How to make use of this enormous potential?
Equality within society is a key ingredient for making it successful. Several UN documents stress the need, right and benefit of investing in and opening up for youth participation. Be this the Convention for the Rights of the Child, the WPAY, or the MDGs.
Unfortunately, participation is often on a superficial level, where young peoples contribution does not affect structural policy decisions. We also continuously receive reports of youth and student associations under attack and surveillance because they dare have an interest in societal progress. This is not participation as we’ve been promised. This is not acceptable.
The right of children and youth to participate is not an abstract ideal and it is not a threat. We have experienced and seen real participation, and some examples deserve to be mentioned:
The Zambian Youth Vision and Zambian National Women´s Lobby have worked together to give girls leadership education so they can have the relevant knowledge to take part in decision-making at local, regional and national levels. Several girls have finished the education courses and are now to be found actively involved in local administrative bodies.
During last year’s climate negotiations, the review of article 6 of UNFCCC for education and participation resulted in a strengthening that included non-formal education together with formal on climate issues. All parties decided on enhancing the implementation of the article and it was the effort and lobby of youth that ensured this strengthening. Thousands of youth organisations are doing an immense effort on empowering youth to take action on climate change.
There is potential and we see results. But to achieve realization of youth as a great resource one needs the support from both national governments and the international society. To invest in the education and empowerment of young people is the safest long-term investment you as state leaders can do. We demand that education is seen as one of the most important investments in a time of crisis. Make youth able to meet the challenges and we will be a part of the solution.
Young people have a democratic right to be involved in decision-making as peers. We call all member states to act upon your promises:
Continue to implement and respect WPAY in its current form and establish concise indicators to ensure progress.
Implement article six of UNFCCC and ensure children and youth have the possibility to educate and empower themselves on climate issues.
Ensure that the MDGs are implemented with youth as key stakeholders in both planning and implementation.
Thank you for your attention.