It was a historic moment: the United Nations’ first Forum on Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law. The UN’s Human Rights Council invited spokespeople from all different sectors of civil society, especially those working with and acting in representation of young people.
AYUDH Europe co-organized the youth segment of the event, and members from England, Ireland, Germany and Spain joined young leaders and state delegates from all over the world at the gathering in Geneva, Switzerland.
The Human Rights Council, the responsible body within the United Nations system for the promotion and protection of human rights, succeeded in gathering at this Forum spokespersons from all different sectors of civil society, but especially those working with and acting in representation of young people.
“Strengthening youth participation in public affairs should be a core objective for any society aspiring to inclusiveness, democracy and respectful human rights,” stated Choi Kyonglim, president of the Council, at the beginning of the first session.
The opening remarks introduced the purpose and objectives of the forum, highlighting the urgency for youth engagement in the public sphere. Kyonglim also invited all participants to share best practices and identified challenges and opportunities in their respective countries.
Co-Chairperson Mr. Ahmad Alhendawi, UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy on Youth, also took the chance to present at the Forum the global campaign Not Too Young To Run, aimed at promoting the rights of people between 18 and 30 to run for public office and improving the democratic representation of the younger generation.
The interactive sessions consisted of moderated discussions where a number of recommendations were offered and recurring topics were addressed from different perspectives. For example, delegates addressed the role of youth organizations as platforms for dialogue and progress and the need for legal frameworks to recognize their potential as such. Special emphasis was made on finding practical ways to implement the UN Sustainable Development Goals, a shared responsibility between governments and citizens themselves.
“Politics is not just an abstract concept, politics is about education, healthcare, and the life of society in itself; if youth are part of this life then they are definitely able to make decisions on these important issues,” added Hajer Sharief with the Kofi Annan Organization.
Ultimately, it is the responsibility of groups like AYUDH to create cause-oriented engagement and spaces for real youth representation, as well as to establish the necessary collaborations with public stakeholders. Governments, on their side, need to learn to work not only for young people but also with young people, making institutions appealing and accessible to them.