By: Christopher Derige Malano, Pax Romana
Ensuring our voices are taken seriously; that was what we aimed to do. This was the last opportunity for us to meet together face-to-face before the actual World Youth Conference (WYC) later this summer in August in Leon, Mexico.

The Social Forum Committee (SOFOC) came together for the fourth time to plan the two events happening during the Social Forum of the WYC: the Global Meeting of NGOs and the Global Interactive Forum (GIF). Previous meetings were held in Mollina, Spain during the University on Youth and Development (September 2009); Madrid, Spain (December 2009); and Colonia, Uruguay during the University on Citizen Participation (March 2010).

Taking place in Helsinki, Finland on O6-08 June 2010, following the International Coordination Meeting of Youth Organisations (ICMYO), we were able to tackle several key issues. We know all too well of conferences which look nice, capture the attention of the media, and manage to move a lot of air, but often lack one of the most important elements: follow-up. This is one of the things which we worked on and I believe that we were able to convey its utter importance to the success of the conference.

We are seeking the assurance from the Mexican government that the final declaration is not something that is simply noted in future processes and conveniently filed away; rather, we want that it is brought to the UN General Assembly, resulting in a resolution. In order to do so, we need to make sure that the document is realistically accomplishable, yet not watered down or weaker than already agreed upon language, and that governments are willing to support it. Having these UN General Assembly resolutions are important to our advocacy work at the international, regional, and national levels because these are commitments governments have agreed to implement.

Keeping with local tradition, our discussions not only happened at the table, but also continued informally in the sauna. Well considering our attire, we can confidently say that everything was literally out in the open and there wasn’t anything up our sleeves. I learned quite a bit about this famous Finnish pastime. Not only did many important political agreements have been brokered in the sauna throughout Finnish history, there are excellent health benefits that go along with the experience. Is this where the term “healthy debate” originates?

Aside from the birth-day suits and “heated” discussions, there is still a lot of work to do. Action by participating organisations of ICMYO is crucial as we approach the actual conference date. Invitations from the Mexican government have been already sent out to the UN member states. We need to now try to ensure several things. These things can be done by our organisations at the national level. Firstly, we must contact our governments and ask them to accept the invitation and share with them the importance of sending a delegation (up to 5 people) to participate in the Governments Forum. Secondly, the invitation sent by Mexico suggests the possibility of having youth as part of the official delegation. We can follow up with this “window of opportunity” by engaging in dialogue with our governments sharing with them why it is important that young people are included as part of this delegation. This is another way young people can make a positive impact toward the accomplishment of the Millennium Development Goals.

I take this opportunity before I conclude to mention a word of gratitude directed toward the Finnish Youth Cooperation Allianssi, our gracious hosts. Thank you once again for your hospitality for both the ICMYO and SOFOC meetings! Immediately following the 4th SOFOC meeting, two members carried our priorities with them to the International Committee meeting, which took place on Thursday, June 10 in Leon, Mexico. All in all we made the best of our time together usually with work ending at around 1:30 in the morning, when the sun was finally setting in the summer months. The SOFOC is counting on all of our organisations participating in ICMYO to making this a successful WYC. See you in Mexico!!!

Paris, 06 June 2010

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