European youth spreads global needs

A few days ago the ICPD Global Youth Forum took place in Bali, Indonesia, where 1000 young activists from all over the world gathered to propose concrete recommendations to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon related to youth needs worldwide.

Luis Alvarado Martinez, President of AEGEE-Europe,  participated on behalf of AEGEE-Europe, and he answered a few questions to tell us what happened in Bali and why it has been important for AEGEE to be there.

The AEGEEan: What is the ICPD Global Youth Forum? What does it represent?

Luis Alvarado: The United Nations organized an International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, in 1994. One of the results of this conference was the creation of  the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

Around 20,000 delegates from various governments, UN agencies, NGOs, and the media gathered for a discussion of many population issues, including immigration, infant mortality, birth control, family planning, the education of women, education, youth participation and protection for women from unsafe abortion services.

ICPD stands for the International Conference on Population and Development Beyond 2014. The ICPD is an initiative of the UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund) as a follow-up of all the work done from Cairo in 1994 onwards. It is also a preparation conference for the next conference which will happen in 2014 in Cairo again.

The ICPD Beyond 2014 provides a once-in-a-generation chance to define what needs to be done for a more equal, more sustainable world for the 7 billion people – and more – who share it. It identifies progress and achievements towards the goals set out in the landmark International Conference on Population and Development, when 179 governments committed to a 20 year Programme of Action to deliver human rights based development.

Evidence of what has worked and where challenges remain will be collected from governments, civil society organisations and partners using the ICPD Global Survey, civil society consultations and a series of thematic conferences.

The Beyond 2014 Review process will engage world leaders from governments and civil society and create a renewed consensus and global commitment to create a more equal and more sustainable world.

The Global Youth Forum as such is a conference which took place in Bali, Indonesia, gathering around 1000 high level youth leaders to draft concrete recommendations to be sent to the Secretary General of UN, Ban Ki Boon, and to Member States on the policies related and which affect young people.

How is/can AEGEE be involved?

It is necessary that our members can see the whole picture. Europe is only the first step. But there is a whole new and big world outside. This is why it is so important to encourage our members also to get involved and participate on a UN Global Level, taking their expertise and knowledge one step further.

We in AEGEE-Europe already count with an NGO consultative status inside UN. This means that we are often asked to give our input in several topics such as participation, civil society, education etc. But this is not enough. Our members must be more involved in UN activities by participating in the different conferences and initiatives organized throughout the year.

What has been AEGEE role in the conference?

AEGEE participated in the drafting of the final recommendations. It is an extraordinary document. They are the recommendations of the world’s youth towards national governments which tackle topics like Education, Health, Family and Sexuality, Employment, and Participation of Young people.

Even though we had lots of pressure from several national governments during the conference, specially the very religious ones, when drafting recommendations about the right to a safe abortion or against imposed marriages, finally we managed to get all the recommendations to pass through. A great job done by all the youth delegates.

Was there a preparation phase before? And what will be the follow up?

There were a set of consultations before the conference as a preparation phase. Now that the document has been approved, it will be sent to the Secretary General of United Nations, Ban Ki Moon himself. As you know, he has set Youth as one of his permanent priorities for the next years. After this, he will present this document to the General Assembly of the United Nations to be adopted and sent to all Member States.

Why was the participation of AEGEE granted by you and not the LO for the UN or a Policy Officer?

The Global Youth Forum is a high level youth meeting. I got an invitation as President to apply for the Conference. After discussing it with the CD we decided that it was appropriate and necessary for AEGEE to get involved further on the global level and influence even more.

There were very few delegates from Europe compared to the numbers from Africa, Latin America and Asia.

Together with the European Youth Forum and organizations like IFMSA (International Federation for Medical Students Association), EFIL (European Federation for Intercultural Learning), with whom we cooperate often in Brussels , I think we did a great job advocating and pushing for the rights of young Europeans.

Did this trip considerably affect the budget of AEGEE-Europe?

It is the policy of the UNFPA to cover the costs of this kind of events for all delegates, so participation on this event did not have an impact on the AEGEE-Europe budget. If we had needed to cover the costs from AEGEE-Europe budget, we would have declined to participate in spite of how relevant the participation can be. We receive plenty of open calls and we always evaluate the cost/benefits of attending each one of them, in terms of economical and time investment.

Did the participation in the event open up for new opportunities / ideas to develop as AEGEE?

Of course. As you can imagine, being a global platform with activists from all over the world gives you possibility to meet a lot of people and brainstorm about many ideas on future cooperation. After this I definitely see the need of AEGEE to get involved not only on the high European level, but also on a more global scale and United Nations level. There are many things which we can influence, as we did during Bali. If you check the recommendations you will see a lot of influence of AEGEE and the European Youth Forum who advocated very much for the presence in the document on things such as Non-Formal Education (NFE), recognition of the role of civil society and youth organizations, youth guarantees, improvements of education systems, co-management structures in governments and institutions for young people, more accessible and inclusive democratic processes for young people to participate, strengthening and supporting financially the National Youth Councils (NYCs) and International Non-Governmental Youth Organizations (INGYOs) like AEGEE and a very long etc.

The European Youth Delegation was very much prepared and experienced to this kind of consultation/conference. This allowed us to be much more efficient in our ideas and proposals.

Written by Alfredo Sellitti, AEGEE-Salerno