Key note address by Lloyd Russell-Moyle (Vice-President of the European Youth Forum and Deputy Organising Partner for the Major Group Children and Youth) to the ECOSOC Youth Forum 2014.
Thank you colleagues and friends.
What’s your theory of change? How do you believe we can make tomorrow better than today? For surely this is the challenge that brings us all here today.
In this global north an awful despair, a generation jilter by the excesses of their parents, means that many don’t believe their lives will be better than youth in the past. Whilst in the global south a vibrancy and enthusiasm for the future remain strong and growing (quite literally with a youth bulge) the structures of participation and governance remain weak and pose a risk that leads to a lack of belief.
We global youth have a responsibility – a tradition to upload – to ensure that changes – for the better – happens and effects those that need it the most. Belief is not enough, but neither are structures.
The responsibility we in this room all share, requires us to be both a critic and a friend to those bodies that hold power on our behalf. A critical friend to the UN, to our governments, municipalities and even our own organisations it vital (for we cannot achieve change on our own but only together if we organise).
In 1992 at the first Earth Summit in Rio, it was not just Severn Suzuki that was due to speak on behalf of children and youth. The youth caucus (which would later become the official youth space which we now operate in at the UN – the UN Major Group Children and Youth) was afforded a 7 minute speaking slot. Young people elected Wagaki Mwangi, a young women from Kenya, to reflect their disconnect with the process. She said that the conference deserved “commendation for brining over 100 heads of state, not to a state funeral, but to end a world crises” The questions she posed was “will this event mark the death of the causes of that crises”.
She went on to cast doubt on that question by saying “by observing the process we know how undemocratic and untransparent the UN is” further elaborating “some say it [the conference] has failed, we bed to differ, it has been a success – a success for the all-time wielders of power: Transnational corporations, for the World Bank, for the IMF and rich states have gotten away with what they wanted”.
At that moment the camera feed and sound to outside the conference hall was mysteriously cut so no one outside the hall could hear her call. Later at the press conference that the youth had organised UN security and the local police dragged out the young people who were trying to read statements carrying them out and ejecting them from the process.
Never again can we let our voices to be silenced, never again can youth sit back and watch out world be carved up without us.
Equally in the Millennium Declaration (the political document that the MDGs are based on) youth are mentioned only once, a whole section – and in many cases the majority – of society basically ignored.
At the Earth Summit +5 there was much concern that a solution to some of the problems that were being addressed could not be found. Overnight the young people young people made over 200 black boxes inside were the solutions to the problems the leaders couldn’t come to. The next day they put one box on each states seat and presented these boxes to the Secretary General.
In the commission for sustainable development 19 young people stayed in the room with the negotiators all night. They supplied free coffee and donuts on the condition that delegates to the proposed wording from young people – eventually despite the failure of CSD 19 our working on consumption and production patters was adopted at Rio+20 in 2012.
Over the years the ability for us to participate and the tactics that we have used have changed, but never was the door just opened for us to sit back and relax, the struggle continues today, a struggle which you here much continue.
In Colombo for the World Conference on Youth I said that outcome would not be the skyscrapers of our ambition but would lay the foundations for our struggle, for our call for youth to be a key party of the pose-2015 agenda.
Despite the qualifying statements Colombo is the generally agree way forward with governments and young people and must remain the bases of our work. From education to sexual reproductive health and rights, from peace to a world youth skills day Colombo and the summary of discussions from the round tables bust be our foundation and nothing less.
With any building – the skyscrapers of ambition that I come back to – building the foundations and walking away cannot be an option. To leave without constructing the remaining agenda would be a degradation of our duty, not only to the thousands of young people that fed into the Colombo outcome, the My World Survey or the crowd sourcing platform but to the generations of young people who fought to get us here in this room today.
Failing to ensure young people in the post-2015 agenda would be a betrayal of our past, present and future. So your task, our task today is to start planning, building, ensuring our ambition is met and our skyscrapers reach their heights.
The process of deciding the post-2015 has just over a year left. 2 more months of Open Working Groups on Sustainable Development Goals (which meet in this building) and then the secretary generally by October will produce his synthesis report using all the key inputs and presenting the first draft our the new framework.
Between October 2014 and September 2015 a year of negotiations between governments will take place. During that time the role of official government youth delegates and the official space for youth in the UN (the UN Major Group of Children and Youth) will have a vital role here in New York to ensure that by the time we come to the Summit in 2015 we, youth, remain on the table.
As governments will this time (as opposed to the MGD which were set by technocrats at the UN) be negotiated by governments our task becomes harder and more critical. Going back home, lobbying locally, nationally and ensuring governments (who will have the final say) reflect our views is key.
That why the session you will now go into is vital for the planning of our future. Using the “Global Youth Call”, which outlines a few of the areas we agreed on in Colombo, you must start planning how we go forward to achieve success. The Global Youth Call is not the ultimate guide of what we our governments what, but a consolidation of a few areas which are key. The process you do today will need to be replicated throughout the Colombo areas and other documents that we have agreed as the youth demands in this process.
A plan of action for this, just one of the inputs into the process, will with other plans create a web of action – a web which will catch our fly – youth in the post-2015.
I will leave you with this: sometimes our role is to protest, smash down the doors and demand entry; sometimes it’s to lobby for content, in our suits respectfully; and sometimes it’s to build an alternate when decision makers are unable or unwilling to find the solutions to meet our ambition.
This forum, is a good step, but clearly still too tokenistic, too much talking from the front from men, but it will evolve, it must evolve into a permanent forum on youth which makes decisions jointly with governments and young people. Today our task, wearing suits and lobbying respectively, is to set our out plans, but when we go home what role will you play?
Good luck and with that I’ll let you take over with interaction and not just passive listening, but don’t forget to whatever role you take, take action towards 2015.