- Created on Tuesday, 19 February 2013 22:39
- Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 February 2013 22:39
- Written by Daniel Cohanpour
It felt like my entire professional career had culminated to this point. I had done Model UN for six years and have worked for various international aid groups and government agencies, but I had never really been right in the middle of the decision making process. My week as a Youth Delegate to the Commission on Social Development was probably one of the most enriching and eye-opening weeks I’ve had in a very long time.
The priority theme – “promoting empowerment of people in achieving poverty eradication, social integration and full employment and decent work for all" – was integrated in every discussion and policy proposal organized by the Commission, and every large session and side-event divulged into various aspects of this broader idea of “empowerment” – including issues such as youth rights, ageing, disability liberties, migration, and unemployment. Besides for wanting to learn more about education and women’s rights – two priority themes for my personal charity’s initiatives – I came in with a goal of understanding more about youth policy integration in the various UN mechanisms. I definitely departed with a great deal of knowledge on the presence of youth at the UN.
It boils down to this point: if youth want more of a voice at the UN, we have to ask for it. The infrastructure in place is not conducive to youth involvement; even the United States, a nation that serves as a sponsor on most resolutions regarding social development and empowerment, has barely gotten its own embassy-led youth delegate program off the ground.
That was one thing I realized as I met ambassadors and NGO-leaders at the conference – the system wasn’t built for us. We needed to establish the connections. We needed to hold our heads high and walk, talk, and negotiate just like everybody else at the conference. I’m really proud of our delegation and the work that we managed during the week: we developed a info-graphic on our action items for the conference as they related to the priority theme of the Commission, spoke up at sessions and side-events on the importance of youth integration and social empowerment in the global arena, delivered our oral statement to the entire body, as well as met with other youth delegates to develop a youth resolution to the Commission. It was a productive week, to say the least.
There were a few moments that I’ll never forget. Sitting five rows away from the Iranian Ambassador, who in the past has given his fair share of extremist public statements, was unbelievable. There was also a side-event by Ms. Raghida Dergham, the founder of the Middle East-based think-tank Beirut Institute, which I thought was the single most interesting talk on the state of intellectual organization in the region that I’ve ever sat in on. Standing there while Ashley, my fellow youth delegate, gave the oral statement that we’d all worked on was so incredibly satisfying.
The last thing that I took away from the week was this: from my experience, more seemed to get done in backroom deals, negotiations, or side-events than at the larger sessions. This was ironic, seeing that throughout my whole life the main stage of the UN seemed to be where all the action happened. It was actually the final parting words between delegations, or the in-hallway resolution mergers, that made the most lasting differences. This changed my view on the scope and form of negotiation, and I wouldn’t have gotten that opportunity without actually being on the front lines.
At the end of the conference, a nice elderly lady, who later introduced herself as the Chief Representative from a non-profit on ageing at the conference, came up to us and shared her gratitude. She told us the importance of what we were doing and to never stop asking questions and searching for solutions. It was a great final note to what was an unforgettable week, and I hope that this coming year until the next Session of CSocD is even more productive than this past one.
Thank you to SustainUS, to the UN Commission on Social Development, and to my fellow youth delegates for enriching me in ways that I can’t even begin to explain.
- Created on Wednesday, 13 February 2013 15:27
- Last Updated on Wednesday, 13 February 2013 15:27
- Written by Adam Greenberg
This blog was originally posted on the Huffington Post.
The fossil fuel industry is getting uneasy.
The climate movement is growing by leaps and bounds, as more and more people (80 percent of Americans) connect the dots and begin to understand the nature of the threat. A massive fossil fuel divestment campaign has reached cities, churches, and over 200 colleges and universities in just a few months. The Keystone XL pipeline and other tar sands proposals are drawing increasing opposition, and will be the target of a historic rally this February. The pressure is building as America looks for meaningful climate action.
We're starting to sense more defensiveness as the fossil fuel industry and its allies try to write off the growing movement. They alternate from calling us naïve and misinformed hippies to crafty political insiders and special interest lobbyists.
I was at the rally in Portland, Maine last Saturday, where some 1,500 people gathered to protest a proposal to pipe tar sands oil through New England. John Quinn, Executive Director of the New England Petroleum Council, which represents the oil industry, had this to say about the protesters:
''They intend to demonize oil sands because it's a direct threat to wind power.''
Not quite, Mr. Quinn. We intend to expose oil sands because it's a direct threat to humanity.
Having followed the fossil fuel industry's well-funded manipulation of America for some time, I'm willing to bet that this quote represents yet another attempt to mislead the public into acting against their own best interest for the sake of some of the richest people in history. But maybe, just maybe, they are genuinely that misinformed and out of touch with reality.
Let's clear something up right now:
Those people filling the streets? We're not lobbyists. Most of us aren't even activists. We are citizens, landowners, business owners, doctors, lawyers, teachers, students, religious leaders, congregation members, elected officials, scientists, mothers, fathers, and youth. We are not an activist movement -- we are people who have been forced into action to protect our future.
And make no mistake, that is exactly what's on the line, with climate change, and with the precedent set by these pipelines. As NASA scientist James Hansen famously declared, exploiting the tar sands would be "game over for the climate."
The truth is, the fossil fuel industry has become America's greatest threat. The richest industry in the history of money (ExxonMobil just surpassed Apple as the most profitable company in the world, and the Koch brothers are worth more than the GDP of 48 countries) it spends hundreds of millions of dollars per year to manipulate our democracy and mislead the public. It's corporate welfare in the form of subsidiescosts taxpayers billions of dollars every year.
While once vital to our country's growth, the industry now works against our national interests, evicting homeowners, endangering Americans, and dragging our nation backwards by stifling smart growth, while countries like China, South Korea, and Germany take the lead in innovation, production, and the race to the green economy. The fossil fuel industry is a fossil itself, a relic of a bygone era, and one that is now fundamentally un-American.
At last, a powerful movement is rising up to stop them. We're not a movement of radicals. To me, the radicals are the ones who are fundamentally changing the chemical structure of our atmosphere and endangering humanity. We're not a movement of lobbyists. We are none of these things they try to label us.
We're people who want a decent future for our children and future generations. Nothing more, nothing less. That future depends on mobilizing like never before, and we're rising to the challenge, using a diversity of tactics from divestment to non-violent civil disobedience.
The climate movement is the civil rights movement of the planet, and it's about to explode. Wise politicians will read the writing on the wall and start distancing themselves as fast as possible from this industry gone rogue. Leaders will become champions of climate action, or lose their positions to those who will lead.
I'll end this with a message to the John Quinns, the fossil fuel executives, even the Koch brothers. Please understand this:
It's nothing personal. Truly, it's not. It's just that your industry is destroying our chance at a livable future, and we're not going to let that happen.
History will judge us on how we respond to this moment, the greatest challenge in the history of humanity. America should lead. Our legacy depends on it.
Our commitment to this runs deeper than you can understand. Our dedication goes beyond presidential speeches, beyond legislation, beyond greenwashing, half-measures, and false solutions. We are in this for the long haul. We won't be bullied or drowned out, no matter how much money you spend to try to stop us. We're doing this for our future, for our children and yours. We have no other choice. This is a moral and a survival imperative, and we will not stop.
Even if you don't thank us, your children surely will.
- Created on Tuesday, 12 February 2013 19:23
- Last Updated on Tuesday, 12 February 2013 19:26
- Written by CSocD AoC
Today the SustainUS CSocD Agents of Change delegation got the opportunity to deliver a statement to the country representatives at the UN Commission on Social Development in New York. They also supplemented the statement with this awesome infographic on the points they are calling for more attention around.
Statement delivered at the UN Commission on Social Development 2/12/13:
Distinguished members and government officials,
We are here as youth, representing one billion of the world’s population. We must note that we are here out of our own volition, not as part of a UN-sanctioned youth delegation, and we fear that our voices are not always present in these conversations. Our objectives are not only to speak up as the voice of the youth, but also to call for a change in the approaches that have been taken by this Commission.
We have been talking about a people-centered development agenda as being a critical aspect of our role here - this means that we must not only try to imagine new ways forward, but analyze and address the root problems that marginalize people.
The dialogue that has dominated discussion so far has not addressed the core issues that we see to be the most relevant to the work of this commission, namely the quality of education, youth unemployment and migration.
We call for policies that increase access to primary and secondary education, training activities, access to the Internet, and basic services, which must be at the core of any effort to decrease unemployment and promote youth prosperity.
We call for the design of a set of youth-sensitive indicators, incorporated into the design of future SDGs that recognized non-formal education, public access to information, social entrepreneurship and full and active participation of young people in policymaking processes related to governance. We must ensure that education and participation allows youth to define their own circumstances, and not let their circumstances define them. Education is the tool of empowerment, and while it is imperative that school curricula provide language, math and science foundations for students, we can innovate within the educational system in a manner that will expedite economic progress and empower the next generation of community leaders.
Governments, NGOs and other actors should invest in teacher training methods that go beyond the human capital aspect of educational institutions. By training educators to teach community organizing, project development and group management skills in the classroom, we can provide more youth with the tools they need to be community leaders and spur economic progress at the local level. Not only global markets, but new and improving democratic systems require young people who can think critically and creatively. We believe that by helping to support and develop the whole person we can both engage young people in their learning and help them to gain the abstract skills and technological abilities necessary for the tasks of the 21st century workforce and democratic citizenship.
We are hopeful that the outcome of this Commission will take into account the importance of innovative quality education for youth that prepares them to decide their own futures.
As youth exit the world of education and enter the world of work, they are facing a dearth of opportunities. The global youth unemployment rate stood at 12.6% in 2010, according to the ILO. The chances for securing employment are even slimmer for female youth.This is a contributing factor to the reality of young women being trafficked into sex work or forced labor with no pay and brutal work conditions. It is important for leaders to see the informal economy as not only a scourge on their balance sheets, but as a cycle of labor imprisonment for people who don’t have a way out.
Part of the purpose of this Commission is to discuss not only decreasing unemployment, but recognizing the need for full and decent employment for those in the workforce. We recognize the need for jobs with which we can support ourselves and our families. The ability to participate fully and freely in the social and political life of a community is a necessary standard for citizen political participation, and economic marginalization limits this ability. Upholding the needs of development in democratic societies must require the unrestricted right of the workforce to mobilize themselves. The right of workers to control the conditions of their labor is well established in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and yet it is still not met, in either formal or informal economies.
In discussing a rights-based and human-centered approach to development our discussions here have merely touched on the interrelationship of international migration to the theme of “Empowerment and decent work.” We need to recognize the millions of unauthorized migrants and displaced people, especially the youth among them. They face discrimination, inequalities, lack of social protection, barriers to social integration, exploitation and poor living conditions. Unauthorized migrants specifically are routinely denied access to basic human rights laid out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, including:
-The right of full equality at a fair public trial
-the right to asylum
-the right to freedom of movement
-the right to Social Security
-the right to equal pay for equal work
-the right to recognition everywhere as a person under the law
Depriving people of their human rights marginalizes them within larger society and prevents people from any real public participation. 12.6 million young people are currently displaced by violent conflict. The delegates representing the Southern African Development Commission and the Caribbean Community touched on the issue of climate change in their regions, and we would like to reiterate that dramatic weather events, droughts and floods caused by climate change are a major cause of migration and displacement; over 45 million people were displaced by weather events alone in 2010. Climate change not only affects the economies of developing countries, but those displaced by the effects of climate change.
Economic factors such as low wages, unemployment and labor conditions are another leading cause for migration. According to the ILO, in 2010 there were 214 million international migrants, where almost half of the international migrants were women. Due to the economic struggles that family’s face they are lead to migrate to other countries that have better standard wages and labor conditions, yet once there, they are stripped from their human rights, as they are unauthorized migrants. In 2011, 11.1 million unauthorized migrants were accounted for in the US alone. How can they become involved in processes of change when they are prevented from participating in it?
We have been discussing the creation of positive environments for people to empower themselves; access to rights is the most fundamental basis for empowerment. If we are going to discuss full employment and decent work for all, we must include those who are unauthorized or displaced. Human rights are human rights regardless of who or where a person is, and we must seek to ensure that unauthorized people have access to them.
Change is about working together to pursue a common goal. We want to promote change and create a sustainable environment not only for the billions of youth, but for the next generations that follow us. It is important that youth voices are included in the creation of the post-2015 development agenda. As stated by the German UN Youth delegates, “strive to be our partners” so we can all take collective action for a better tomorrow. We are agents of change.