Actions of the Youth
Hello again, I’m Miles Hanks, writing from Rio+20 as a youth delegate of the Baha’i International Community.
Thus far, most of my involvement has consisted of attending side events, as opposed to following the negotiations. Most of the side events that I attended have been on the subject of children and youth, as well as education. At these events and at some of the meetings of the Major Group for Children and Youth I have had plenty of opportunities to meet with other youth and youth organizations, and learn about the kinds of events and actions taking place at the conference.
|UN CSD Major Group for Children and Youth delegate. Credit: MGCY|
The negotiations have been moving slowly. Certain topics important to youth have been removed from the text, such as the text concerning the ‘Ombudsperson,’ or ‘High Commissioner for Future Generations,’ which I briefly mentioned in my previous post. This has moved the youth to organize demonstrations and to lobby governments to reconsider certain aspects of the text in order to ensure a role for the youth and future generations in the United Nations system, and in new sustainable development projects.
Anger or hope?
I had an interesting experience involving the youth movement. I attended an event titled, “Get Mad and Do Something About it: Youth as Initiators for Change.” As the title would indicate, this was an action-oriented event. Yet it was very different from what one might expect based on the title alone. At the event, youth from many different parts of the world including, Portugal, India and France shared their experiences as youth involved with grassroots educational initiatives, but also with youth working in various different technological, social and community projects. The tone of this event was not one of hostility or opposition, but one of excitement about of the many initiatives that have been taking place all over the world.
One comment from an audience member caught the attention of everyone in attendance: “Maybe anger and fear are not the best emotion for action, when people are scared they feel that these issues are too big. Maybe hope is a more powerful emotion for action”. This comment shed a new light on the conversation and helped us to form a more unified vision of a hopeful future.
Meeting of the Major Group of Children and Youth (MGCY): The other side of the coin
|MGCY members reminding delegates about the need for a High Commissioner for Future Generation. Credit: MGCY|
Immediately after this event, I went to the MGCY meeting, where young people were discussing changes being made to the negotiation texts, as well as the actions and side events that were to take place later in the day. It was interesting to hear the various opinions about ongoing changes to the negotiating texts. Even more interesting was the discussion about some of the actions that the youth would be taking in the next couple of days. Gradually, the atmosphere changed from one of sharing and learning to one that was more contentious. A challenge arose when two different actions—both requiring large numbers of participants for successful outcomes—were planned for the same time. One of these actions was a silent protest, showing the voices of the youth being silenced by the removal of the text concerning the Ombudsperson; the other action was a planning session for a large event that would happen the next day.
This anger within the MGCY is a double-edged sword: it moves youth to act, but it is also creates disunity within the group. It makes me think back to the comment from the “Get Mad and Do Something” side event described above, namely that hope can be a more powerful emotion for action. I totally agree. If hope was the prevalent emotion, perhaps there would not be disunity among the youth.