My mandate as the President of the European Youth Forum is slowly coming to an end and this is the time to take stock on where we are on our main mission as a platform and as a youth movement: fighting for the rights of all young people.
A rights based approach to youth policy is something I have been working for ever since I first represented the Finnish Youth Council Allianssi at a Youth Forum event in 2008. As young people we are in no way a homogenous group, but what we have in common is our age and that this makes us more vulnerable. We face a bigger risk of falling into poverty, we have a harder time finding a job and we are often being unfairly treated in the work-place. Further, our generation is facing multiple threats in terms of displacement and on-going conflicts.
The beauty of youth rights is that this is nothing alien to youth activists as it encompasses all the questions we work with on a daily basis. It is the magnificent umbrella encapsulating employment, participation, mobility, education, health care, freedom of speech, anti-discrimination and all the other questions relating to rights that we work on, with and through youth organisations. With over half of the world’s population under the age of 30, youth rights are more relevant than ever.
Some days ago Facebook reminded me of that it was exactly one year ago that we were in Geneva, launching the Second Revised Edition of the International Law on Youth Rights. It was a great moment as the volume spoke about much of what the youth movement has been working on for many years now.
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There we painted a clear picture of the legal gaps and obstacles our generation is facing when trying to access our rights. And since then, a lot has happened.
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Firstly, The UN Security Council adopted a resolution on Youth, Peace and Security (2250), recognising the power young people have in building peace and also highlighting that young people need to have access to their rights in order to be the positive force we can be. I remember when some national youth councils, at the Youth Forumai??i??s Council of Members meeting in 2010 introduced the youth, peace and security concept to the Forum. Now, it has the potential to be a crucial instrument for governments, civil society and international institutions in order to empower young people globally.
Another step taken in the past year was when the UN Human Rights Council, for the first time ever, passed a resolution on Youth and Human Rights. The Resolution called for and was followed by a panel discussion on this topic in September, in which I had the honour of representing young people and exchanging views with government representatives.
The above examples demonstrate that there is clearly a momentum for youth rights. I feel there generally is recognition of both the obstacles our generation is facing and the potential we hold.
But how can we move beyond the talk and the panels and channel this momentum into change for young people globally?
Young people need to be recognised as key actors in international processes that have the potential to affect our everyday lives. We must use such processes to push our message and transform the tools we have in order to improve the lives of all young people on the ground. From the implementation of the resolution on Youth, Peace and Security to the on-going discussions on youth in the UN Human Rights Council, youth organisations play a crucial role in bridging civil society and governmental institutions. Youth rights go hand in hand with sustainable development and the realisation of one is dependent upon the realisation of the other. To reach the ambitious global agenda for sustainable development until 2030, the Sustainable Development Goals, young people must be involved at all levels and all stages.
The youth movement is constantly growing stronger and we need to use our resources, our talent and our unique position to get the message of the realities our generation is facing to the decision makers. I know that we can do it and I am proud and happy to have been given the opportunity to be a part of this struggle.