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 In this session I learned that many states who had been colonised by Britain still had many outdated laws such as the criminalisation of homosexuality.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:

#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 -

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