Role of Youth in Human Rights


Role of Youth in Human Rights

Commission on Human Rights Agenda item 15: The role of youth in the promotion and protection of human rights

Geneva—21 February 1985

The Baha'i­ International Community is pleased to have the opportunity to speak under agenda item 15 on the role of youth in the promotion and protection of human rights. We feel that the beginning of International Youth Year offers an auspicious occasion to consider further how the rights of youth can be better safeguarded and how youth themselves may contribute to the realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

In its resolution 1983/46, adopted at its 39th session, the Commission called upon states to take appropriate action for the exercise by youth of all their human rights, including the right to education and the right to work, "with a view to creating conditions for the active participation of young people in the formulation and implementation of programmes or the economic and social development of their countries."

We would like to offer several comments on each of the two areas for action underlined by the Commission -- the right of youth to education and work on the one hand, and the role of youth in social and economic development, on the other.

First, the right of youth to appropriate education, training and work. In the Baha'i­ view, all youth must benefit from a system of universal education. The education youth should receive must not only involve training in the skills necessary for gainful employment through the practice of a trade or profession, but also provide moral and spiritual enlightenment. Both kinds of education are essential.

Training in a trade or profession is strongly emphasized in the Baha'i­ Writings, in the recognition that work is a form of service and worship. Special attention is given in the Baha'i­ teachings to the often neglected education of young women. It is important that at all levels of activity, in both the family and the community, youth be given the opportunity to pursue activities and develop skills that will enable them to engage in trades and professions which are of service to their fellow human beings.

While training in the sciences, arts and professions is important, youth will be able to offer their fullest contribution to society only when they receive proper moral and spiritual education. This education must be directed towards fostering in youth a consciousness of the oneness of mankind. It is the Baha'i­ conviction that only the establishment of unity and agreement among the peoples of the world can cure the world's deeply-rooted ills. Youth have a special responsibility to develop a global perspective and values based on such qualities as love, truthfulness, kindness, justice and esteem for all members of humanity. Youth must be assisted in developing these qualities both within the family, which is the foundation of society, and within the community to which they belong.

We now turn to the second major area upon which we would like to comment -- namely, the role of youth in promoting social and economic development. The Baha'i­ teachings emphasize that youth have a crucial role to play in improving the economic, social and spiritual life of the planet. To quote from the Baha'i­ Writings:


"The present conditions of the world -- its economic instability, social dissensions, political dissatisfaction and international distrust -- should awaken the youth from their slumber and make them enquire what the future is going to bring. It is surely they who will suffer most if some calamity sweep over the world. They should therefore open their eyes to the existing conditions, study the evil forces that are at play and then with a concerted effort arise and bring about the necessary reforms -- reforms that shall contain within their scope the spiritual as well as social and political phases of human life."

Accordingly, youth, including young women, should be able to participate actively in implementing projects dedicated to improving living conditions, upraising the quality of human life, and developing the self-reliance of their communities. In particular, during International Youth Year and beyond, youth could be encouraged to participate actively in rural development projects; to promote the spread of literacy; to participate in projects aimed at improving health care and medical treatment; to contribute to community service programmes of a humanitarian nature; and to develop ties with youth in other countries in order to exchange thoughts and ideas and to inspire coordinated efforts among youth to improve social conditions throughout the world. Baha'i­ youth in all parts of the world are already gaining valuable experience in these areas.

In order for youth to contribute to the enjoyment of human rights and the establishment of world peace, the world community must provide the necessary means for educating youth in both practical skills and spiritual values. At the same time, to achieve this full enjoyment of human rights youth must also be at the forefront of efforts to promote social and economic progress and justice. On the occasion of International Youth Year, we would like to reiterate the commitment of Baha'i­ communities around the world to work towards both these important goals.