Wednesday started off the first day for SustainUS agents of change at the UN CSocD. For me it was also my first time attending a UN event. There was a lot to absorb throughout the sessions during the day, and I gladly took to being a sponge. In reflection of the day my greatest insight was in understanding the role of youth in the UN.
There are a number of different ways in which youth end up at these commissions. There are those of us like SustainUS who come in representation of NGO’s. Then there are youth delegates from other countries. The EU seems to have the majority of youth representatives here. I’ve learned that in the EU it is quite common for youth to be involved in delegations on the national level; thus, it seems that the transitions to bring youth representatives from the country to UN commissions is a bit smoother.
Interestingly the US does not have a youth representative. The SustainUS agents have been chatting a bit about why this is and how we would go about changing that. It seems that continual lobbying over the years for a youth delegate has been a good start. Hopefully this will persist and eventually a US delegate could become the norm. We also talked about the intricacies of how this would work. When a nation sends a youth delegate that delegate is obligated to represent the country’s views. When we look at the US position on things like sustainability it’s interesting to think about how a youth delegate would have to handle it. It would definitely be different compared to the SustainUS position from representing an NGO perspective.
So we have all these different youth here. We all have different positions to represent and there is even a variance in how we can intervene. Official youth delegates brought by their country are allowed into closed sessions and have access to certain documents. The variance in roles puts youth in an interesting position here at the commission. We all have the commonality of representing youth; however, we are not necessarily set up to work together. Michael has talked a bit about how this varies with the CSD where there is an official youth caucus. This allows youth at CSD to strategize, collaborate, and draft statements from the youth perspective. I have thus found myself wondering how it is best for the youth here to be working together. Some of us have also been talking about how beneficial a youth caucus could be and how that would even be initiated. This may be something that we start to actively pursue in our time here in hopes of making next year easier for youth in that regard.
Sorting this all out and finding out the reality of youth at the UN has been really fascinating for me. The importance of the youth perspective is so valuable. The need for youth at the UN is clear to me- we are the future, our voices should be present in this arena. I am excited to see how the youth here will progress. Networking has gotten us far. Despite our different roles there has been sharing of documents and thoughts amongst the youth. Those who are able to have influence by representing a nation seem open to hearing the perspective of fellow youth. All these things have been exciting and I think we all look forward to exploring how we will be able to work together to represent the youth perspective.
So it's the end of day 2 of CSocD and so far I've been having a great time in the whirrrlwind of information and activity crammed into the basement (and cafeteria) of the UN.
So the UN is amazing, but we've learned it's also human -- clogged toilets, Aramark food (they cater my cafe at school too), and so forth :). It's amazing humanity as well though.
Today I spent the morning networking with EU youth representatives-- we are trying to work with them to have a stronger youth voice and they have been very generous in sharing their information with us so far.
After lunch, I attended the NGO briefing by Germany on behalf of the EU. It was interesting to hear about their campaigns (their idea is 'a social Europe will lead to a social world'), particularly their youth summit that brings together youth from all over Europe to discuss important issues. It seems odd and unfair that at CSocD youth issues are frequently discussed and there are a few dozen youth present, but no youth will vote on the policies that will not only shape their present but the future as well.
The afternoon was also time for q&a with a panel on labor force and migration, and I was able to ask a real question directed at the panel!! I sat in the real seat with a real microphone (that i wasn't sure how to work), and very nervously asked how the economist present (he was in favor of growth by responsible corporations) how youth migrant workers (both within and between countries) could be protected within free-market policies and how corporations could be held responsible for their actions. Luckily I got my question answered :) (with corporate social responsibility!)
OK time to make our policy!
More to come!
Sustainability, it's like woah.