Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Save The Welsh Youth Assembly - #ProtectFunkyDragon

My experience travelling down to Cardiff with other young people to lobby AM’s in the Senedd was positive and enlightening, however there are many lessons to be learned.

Firstly it has been nearly 3 years since I was a member of the Funky Dragon Grand Council so it was lovely to see the staff that supported me and encouraged my participation a few years ago. Secondly it was amazing to see the same caring, supportive atmosphere resonate throughout the group. So instead of listing down all the negatives surrounding the process of appealing this decision to cut the core funding I thought it would be more beneficial to share the positives of being part of this inclusive and supportive organization. Some of them are just for fun – but the serious ones are integral and not understood fully by WAG as to why Funky Dragon is so important. 

1. If you didn’t already you'll learn all the counties in Wales – not because you have too, but because you’ll need to learn where all your new friends live when you go to visit in the summer.

2    2. You'll learn about your fundamental rights and be introduced into the world of representation. Being part of the Grand Council offers you a chance to learn about the UNCRC and give you the chance to report back to the UN on their implementation in Wales.

3    3. You’ll get fit through the entire warm up games, mixers and ice breakers. If you've not done the Haiku at least 20 times by the time your term is finished – there’s something wrong.

4    4. You can be part of a programme that benefits the North and the South – equally. Something many programmes can lack, but in Funky Dragon we can boast.

5    5. You get a chance to put Wales on the map, not only by trying to explain to your English counterparts that you don't ALL live in Cardiff but by being fitted into the British Youth Council Young Ambassador Project, where you will get to represent young people at a European or even global level.

Y    6. You get too see the world through a lens other than what’s being plugged into you at school. Funky Dragon has a mixed council of young people between 11 and 25, all with a plethora of experiences. Once you’ve been to a resi, you’ll never come back the same views. Grand Council members are diverse and inclusive, all are welcome. 

This is nothing on the list of positives that it has had on my life, but hopefully can give you an insight of what this established organization has become. The Welsh Assembly Government are retracting 12 years of work and essentially plunging us into the realms of underdevelopment when countries we may considered as less developed are pouring time, effort and resources into their youth.

Today I spoke to many different Assembly Members (AM’s) and got a diverse range of views on the future of the youth assembly. I received the drone like party response from a Labour AM for Cardiff, who plainly told us we didn’t understand what we were lobbying for and despite openly admitting having no clue herself what Funky Dragon is or what we stand for, felt the need to tell us that.

I was pleasantly pleased by the enthusiasm by North Wales regional AM Llyr Griffiths who was openly enthusiastic about how the youth assembly engages young people from both the North and the South. Something I am personally keen to advocate about the organization. He happily got a photo with us and wrote that he supports the youth assembly because of the good work we do regarding children’s rights. I will definitely have my eye on the Plaid Campaign following the next election.

I met the AM for my constituency Darren Millar. Millar has always been enthusiastic about young people and youth events and I recall him attending numerous panel events when I was at school, therefore I would not suggest his enthusiasm comes from the mere fact he is within an opposition party. He also wrote that the youth assembly does fantastic work and seeks to ensure we receive the funding we need to keep offering that high level of support, education surrounding rights and opportunity for young people in Wales to not only have their voice heard on a national level, but within the UK and internationally.

Funky Dragon – The Children and Young People’s Assembly for Wales is not a fad, or something extra that can be cut it times of austerity or hardship, it’s a fundamental platform for young people to receive their right to be heard under article 12 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Child. Other countries are moving forwards as we seem to be moving backwards – I want to be proud of my government, my input and my country and have faith in the system of self government we have been given, something I would fail to do if the youth assembly ceases to exist.

If you wish you help to save Funky Dragon please sign this petition - https://www.assemblywales.org/gethome/e-petitions/epetition-list-of-signatories.htm?pet_id=1042&showfrm=0

#ProtectFunkyDragon - Dorian Lewis

I joined funky dragon back in 2007. At the time I was a care leaver, unemployed and didn’t have any qualifications. I became a representative for my local forum as I was passionate about standing up for children’s rights and being heard. When I first started the grand council I was very nervous and lacked the confidence to do some of the things that I went on to achieve through my involvement of funky dragon. I gained a ocn qualification in funky dragon and 350 hours volunteering certificate. Through the opportunities that were given to me I gained so much confidence that it set me up for life. I was inspired to go back into education follow my dreams. I was later appointed to the care council for wales as a service user representative.

Funky dragon gave me the power to be heard and listened to. It made me feel valued as a person and it gave me some unique opportunities that no other organization has been able to provide.

Sign the petition to save Funky Dragon - https://www.assemblywales.org/gethome/e-petitions/epetition-list-of-signatories.htm?pet_id=1042&showfrm=0

#ProtectFunkyDragon - Jessica Peters

Having spent four years representing young people in the Vale of Glamorgan on Funky Dragon I have seen first hand how essential the organization is for young people within Wales. I have come to the assembly today to discuss with AMs the possible complications that getting rid of a young person led organization would lead to for young people around Wales. 

As Funky Dragon is young person led it exploits article 12 of the UNCRC and fully ensure that all young people involved, and ultimately all young people around Wales, truly are getting their own voices and their own opinions heard. By eradicating this and replacing it with something adult led it is possible that the genuine voices of young people will be silenced as the representation will not be as strong. Also, young people gain a great deal from having a young person led youth assembly; not only does it give those involved the opportunity to gain confidence in themselves and gain knowledge on the political structure in Wales it also shows those who are being represented that there are people willing to listen to them and take their opinions into consideration. 

Again, not having an organization such as Funky Dragon implies to the young people and future electorate of Wales that their voices are irrelevant and unimportant almost, completely refuting article 12 of the UNCRC which Funky Dragon has worked so hard to give to young people all over Wales for the past 12 years.

Jessica Peters, Vale of Glamorgan

Please sign the petition to save Funky Dragon - you don't have to have a Welsh address! - https://www.assemblywales.org/gethome/e-petitions/epetition-list-of-signatories.htm?pet_id=1042&showfrm=0

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Post-15.. Motions for UK Youth

Following my experience representing the UK at the WCY2014 I have had some time to reflect on what I believe UK youth should adopt and focus on these areas.

The direction of youth involment in Post-15 is still vague and non-formal. We need to ensure we chose wisely the areas for us to focus on. In this day and age children and young people still have to live in communities enthralled in violence, sectarianism and hatred. Education programmes are a pivotal way of ensuring these deeply rooted divides can be faded and eventually erased making way for a future of peace and security.

Below are the recommendations I have made for the BYC to adopt to ensure the key messages of Colombo 2014 resonate throughout to UK youth.

1) The BYC recognises the Colombo Declaration on Youth as a pivotal movement for young people to be recognised within the Post-15 development agenda.

2) As a UK representative to the Colombo Conference on Youth I suggest the BYC formally recognise the engagment of human rights and human security in conflicted and post conflict societies. The Colombo declaration suggests an increase of intercultural exchanges based on human/children's rights are mandatory in gaining a full understanding of the rights available to us and therefore enable young people to challenge violence and conflict accordingly.

3) I suggest the BYC engage with either the UK young ambassadors / national youth councils in order to form a structure to allow youth representation at UN level. This could be done according to the UN framework already in place for such national programmes. This would mean that UK youth would have a stronger voice on their position within the post-15 agenda and offer reliable feedback on the position of the Colombo Declaration at such an important time regarding global development.

Comments, debates and advice are encouraged in the comoments section below.

Monday, 12 May 2014

#WCY2014 Negotiations & The Colombo Declaration on Youth

 A pivotal part of the #WCY2014 was the integral dialogue between young people and policy makers. Many countries had representatives of their governments at the negotiations stage of the conference. Unfortunately the UK was unable to send anyone due to budget cuts - so i decided to sneak in and take the seat. 

Other delegates also took this approach including New Zealand, Bolivia, Panama, Argentina and Rwanda. Despite not being able to contribute to to initial negotiations the chair got tired of the same old arguments coming from ministers and we were allowed to take the floor. 

Although at first sitting and listening seemed mundane it felt for the first time we were part of change and our presence alone meant we were part of policy making and at least experiencing how these declarations are put together. 

Many of the more conservative states were sceptical about the wording of recommendations of equality, and furthermore it was interesting to see rivalries between states become apparent. More-so between ministers than the young people. 

The subsequent Colombo Declaration, which was the result of these negotiations will be presented to the UN General Assembly this September, hopefully championed by those ministers in attendance. If any of these recommendations are adopted it means that the work of young people from all over the world will be streamlined into the Post-15 development agenda and hopefully make life for children and young people a lot more simple, safer and fulfilling. Despite a chance of this not happening, we are able to take the work we have done back to our own countries and work with our own governments to help enforce elements of this declaration in our own states. 

If you would like to learn more about the negotiation process as well as the Colombo Declaration please comment below or tweet me directly at @JKSimonds. 

Sunday, 11 May 2014

#WCY2014 - Youth Rights

I attended the initial roundtable discussion on Youth Rights and how we are able to streamline them into the Post-15 development agenda.We started the same way as we did in the Realising Peace, Reconciliation and Ending Violence sessions with a presentation from keynote speakers. In this instance we heard from Wasantha Senanayake (Sri Lankan MP), a Serbian Minister and Andy Roland Nziengul VP, PYU. In this session I learned that many states who had been colonised by Britain still had many outdated laws such as the criminalisation of homosexuality. 

We started the discussion by focusing on issues that can restrict young people receiving not only basic human rights but access to UNCRC rights from a young age. The delegate from Cameroon stated that many young people who are discriminated against by society and the government don't feel that they challenge this and that we should create a mechanism for doing so. Further to this the delegate from South Africa suggested that this would be difficult to implement universally as some countries who suffer corrupt governments can easily exterminate those who protest or lobby for their rights. 

We then decided to focus more on how young people receive information on their rights as the delegate from Denmark suggested that this would be easier to compare universally. Further to this the delegate from the Bahama's suggested that the main areas we should focus on is how National Youth Councils help young people learn about their rights and targeting discrimination and violence. Further issues that were bought up as restrictive to young people having access to their rights include corruption, immigration, violence and poverty. 

As I was involved in negotiations in the days following this discussion I am unable to comment on how it continued, however here are the recommendations for this theme as set out in the Colombo Declaration. 

Youth Rights
79. Draw the attention of the United Nations system, the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Member States to the call by young people and youth organizations to launch a participatory, inclusive and transparent process among member states, youth and youth organizations, building on, inter alia, the experience of countries that already have developed legislation, which may lead to a Convention on Youth Rights.
80. Recognize the urgent need for the fulfillment of young people’s human rights and responsibilities and their right to redress in a manner appropriate to their age.
81. Encourage the establishment of a permanent youth department within the United Nations with representations in member countries to support and follow up local youth programs.

The full text of the Colombo 2014 Declaration can be found here: http://www.news.lk/wyc-2014/item/703-colombo-declaration-on-youth

#WCY2014 Realising Peace, Reconciliation and Violence

One of the two thematic areas I worked on was Realising Peace, Reconciliation and Violence. We worked on the theme across three days, the first focusing on how young people have contributed so far to reconciliation within divided communities. Initially we listened to keynote speakers on the theme including Sandy Tesch Wilkins from the Red Cross, Nalaka Gunawardene a development communicator and John Loughton founder of DareToLead. We then split off into sub-groups to share ideas and experiences. I was lucky to work with young people from Germany, Sri Lanka, Ireland, Denmark and Finland to say a few. 

On the second day we focused on ideas surrounding what young people could do to aid the reconciliation processes and shared experiences and best practise. Again we had several keynote speakers such as Anna Matilda Flemig from the UNOY, Minister of Nepal for youth and sports development and Asanga Abeygunasekera, Executive Director of the Lakshman Kadiragamar Institute. 

On the third day we were presented with the challenge of prioritising three goals to be included in the Colombo declaration in order to streamline youth in the Post-15 development agenda. 

The outcome of our work is the sub-heading of Realising Peace, Reconciliation and Violence in the 2014 Colombo Declaration which suggests the UN should enforce that states:- 

64. Recognize and increase the role young people, especially young women, play in conflict prevention, peace building, conflict resolution, post-conflict reconciliation and reconstruction efforts.
65. Demand an end to the application of coercive and unilateral measures that affect the rights
of the youth and development.
66. Demand to cease politics that undermine the internal order of countries, violating the proposals and principles celebrated in the Charter of the United Nations and International Law.
67. Reaffirm the commitments of the United Nations system to protect children and young people from unlawful recruitment, including kidnapping for military purposes and terrorist activities.
68. Increase opportunities in education and employment for all youth, especially those affected by armed conflicts.
69. Increase opportunities in peace building education and employment for all youth especially those affected by armed conflicts.
70. Promote inclusive and effective post–conflict rehabilitation and reintegration policies, programs and mechanisms recognizing and dealing with the underlying causes of conflict.
71. Develop policies and programs to identify and address factors that put young people at risk of engaging in crime and prevent youth violence.
72. Implement a wider range of options that pursue restorative justice for the children or youth in conflict with the law as instead of imprisonment, and pursue other similar measures outside the criminal justice system.
73. Strengthen and promote the role of young people and youth organizations in building peace in their communities, countries and regions. 

A full copy of the Colombo declaration can be found here - http://www.news.lk/wyc-2014/item/703-colombo-declaration-on-youth

Monday, 5 May 2014

WCY 2014 - Intro

A month or so ago I was selected by the British Youth Council,  Department for International Development, and the Foreign and Commonwealth office to represent the UK as a National Delegate at the World Conference on Youth 2014 in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

My role is to represent the views of young people in the UK and ensure their best interests are streamlined into the output document. 

The main themes of the conference are that of the Millennium Development Goals and I am personally going to focus on youth development,  realising peace, reconciliation and violence and youth rights. The position of the UK is that we want to learn from others methods of best practice as well as engage with LEDC's specifically in the global south in order to start projects.

In the run up to the conference we have ran consultation with young people,  NGOs and experts in their field. This has assured our judgement in line with the DFID, BYC and FCO.

I have also been communicating with delegates through social media and look forward to making comparisons with New Zealand in regards to our consultation.

If you have any questions or want to get engaged with the conference please tweet @JKSimonds with the hashtag #WCY2014