Posting my second blog following a great article I read from the UN. And it links to my ongoing lobby that we risk treating “youth diplomacy” or “youth empowerment” as a fringe issue from that of the formal political diplomacy and decision making we see across the G8, G20, UN, Nato, Commonwealth, EU etc. The work we are engaged in is NOT merely a junior version of the real deal or somehow an political apprentice scheme for those into international development or democracy. Those who think like that are not only selling themselves and others short, but they are bypassing the golden opportunity to make a lasting impact across the globe. the work we do is not simply youth issues, rather we are developing policy solutions to people issues, global issues, mainstream political issues that we happen to approach through young eyes. Youth-led policy development – done properly – adds real and lasting value to the political debate. Today’s generation offers a freshness, dynamism and optomistic outlook captured nowhere else across often an institutionalised environment of multinational discourse.
Young people’s inherent value to global debate is the fact that our political memories lie in the future, and that we are daring to design those memories.
Youth’s contribution to the global debate helps not only youth, but societies as a whole. For example, providing education, employment and empowerment for young people are key factors in achieving global progress, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said this week at a meeting with educators and students in New York. “Young people everywhere deserve the power to get information, to connect and to ask hard questions – about justice, equality and opportunity. Our job is to listen to youth and answer their calls,”
Mr. Ban said in his keynote address to the Global Colloquium of University Presidents at Columbia University, that we must focus on three elements in achieving progress: education, employment and empowerment:
Outlining the global inequities in educationhe said “Around the world, countries are bringing more children into classrooms, but still, more than 125 million young people cannot read or write,”Mr. Ban said.
Mr. Ban also stressed the need to provide employment opportunities to the 74 million young people who are unemployed worldwide, and warned that a lack of jobs can lead to social unrest, as shown by the civil uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East over the past year. “The Arab Awakening was a season of hope and expectation. At the time, I told the region’s leaders: listen to your people. They were not only talking about democracy. Many young people were looking for a better future with decent jobs and decent pay,” the UN chief said, adding that in the next decade, Arab countries need to create 50 million jobs for new people joining the workforce.
Education and employment should also be coupled with empowerment, Mr. Ban said. He called on countries to encourage young people’s potential and participation in society. “To unleash the power of young people, we need to partner with them,” he said, adding that the UN is boosting its own efforts to work for and with youth on issues affecting them, such as joblessness, political inclusion, human rights and sexual health, as well as the appointment of a Special Advisor on Youth.
I personally can only be in admoration for Ban Ki Moon’s efforts here. Empowerment is key and underpins global progress generally be that political reform, gender equality, education or health. But unlike education or employment, empowerment can not be given, it must be taken. That is our challenge and that is the challenge of decision makers – to engage us not as fringe participants of tomorrow’s leaders, but centra partners to progressive change now and leaders of today.
This spirit of partnership is key ahead of Washington, and I for one am ready to meet that challenge of political partnership.