Delegate: Mr. Friis-Nielsen
Mr. Friis-Nielsen (Denmark): As the representative of the Danish Youth Council and as a Youth Representative in the Danish delegation to the General Assembly, I am very pleased to speak at this plenary meeting.
“Why does youth always have to become older before it is allowed to deal with the problems concerning youth?”
That reflection was made by Danish author Carl Scharnberg. The following quotation is from the general exchange of views of Heads of State at the World Summit for Social Development. Listen carefully:
“No nation can ignore its youth, which is a human resource for sustainable development.”
This year — the fiftieth anniversary of the United Nations — we also celebrate the tenth anniversary of International Youth Year, held in 1985. Since then youth issues have become even more crucial, affecting not only a small group but an important and rapidly growing part of the world population. Today there are more than 1.03 billion people between the ages of 15 and 24. If we assess the condition of the youth of today, we see that throughout the world young people very often find themselves stigmatized as a vulnerable group, as an object exposed to a variety of problems. But young people are not merely an object; they are subjects — the subjects of the future. The world community needs a new approach to young people. We need action, and we need it now.
This new approach and plan of action will take its first leap forward through the draft World Programme of Action for Youth, which we hope will be adopted tomorrow. With youth on the agenda of the General Assembly, no one can reasonably ignore the importance of this topic.
However, reading the draft World Programme of Action for Youth confirms that youth is still put in a biased and traditional position. The section of the programme on “Development setting” states that
“Young people in all countries are both a major human resource for development and key agents for social change, economic development and technological innovation.”(E/1995/123, para. 12)
But this philosophy is not reflected throughout the document. In fact, it is almost absent in the final draft document, superseded by a rather paternalistic attitude. Has the draft World Programme of Action for Youth become a document on youth based on the premises of the elders?
For a solution to the problems discussed in the document, young people must be recognized as an asset and as genuine partners in the decision-making processes — as subjects of their own lives, not objects. Where is the youth spirit in the document — the spirit that proposes new ideas, new thoughts, new visions, new impetus and actions that will make the youth programme the tool it is meant to be? I search for this youth spirit —and I still long to find it.
The draft World Programme of Action for Youth has not become what we hoped it would; it has become a hammer without a handle, but it is the only tool we have. So let us act and create the handle in the process.
A Danish slogan once said that, “action is the best expression of opinion”. Hence, to turn opinion into action here today, a full and visionary implementation of the draft World Programme of Action for Youth is the keyword. We would therefore like to propose the following six steps of action.
Action One is this: think globally, act locally. These words have been a key concept in talking about sustainable development. But thinking globally and acting locally is just as central when talking about citizen participation in the work for human rights, social development and decision-making processes. Thus, to [*21*] make young people become responsible citizens in society, Governments should establish the structures and platforms needed to ensure youth’s participation in decision-making processes and, furthermore, to ensure cooperation between youth, independent youth organizations and governmental bodies. To put it in other words, there is a fundamental need for all countries to create or improve a national youth policy, one that allows young people to participate actively.
To come to Action Two, the draft World Programme of Action for Youth must be integrated into national youth policy. This integration needs to be initiated immediately. Thus, the United Nations should establish structures to ensure and improve cooperation between national youth bodies, governmental structures and the United Nations system.
Next, Action Three. The United Nations and Member States should ensure the continued work of the World Youth Forum and the participation of international youth organizations on an equal basis. The World Youth Forum can be seen as one of the basic tools for the process of implementation of the draft World Programme of Action for Youth. Hence the United Nations and Member States should ensure the financial support and funding of the Forum.
Now to Action Four. To ensure the implementation of the programme I recommend that the General Assembly designate the United Nations youth unit as the secretariat for this process. But for this to work successfully, there is an emerging need for a strengthened youth unit, renewed with a strong and visible presence of young people and enhanced cooperation with international youth non-governmental organizations. In conjunction with this, I urge the United Nations to ensure the continued financial funding of the youth unit.
Regarding Action Five, Young volunteers from international youth organizations should be sponsored to work directly on the implementation of the draft World Programme of Action for Youth. Member States are urged to provide financial and moral support for such youth volunteers.
Finally, Action Six. This General Assembly is celebrating the tenth anniversary of International Youth Year and has put youth on the agenda. But very few Governments have even thought about delegating youth to the General Assembly. This is an embarrassing disregard of the key persons. As a youth delegate to the General Assembly, it is therefore very important to me to encourage every Member State to include youth delegates in their future delegations to the United Nations General Assembly and relevant United Nations bodies. This would be an honourable action — an opinion turned into action.
Today we live in a world of interdependence —called by some “the Global Village”. Any youth issue is closely connected to the sustainable social development of the world. This interdependence was clearly stated at the World Summit for Social Development. Thus the full and visionary follow-up on, and implementation of, the commitment made at the Summit is fundamental to future prosperity, not only for the youth of today, but for all world citizens.
The Danish author and Nobel Prize winner Johannes V. Jensen once said: “Youth is facing a double battle: thefight against itself and the fight against its elders. The latter is the toughest”. May this quotation soon be history.
The youth of the world is ready to assume responsibility and take part in the work for world social development. Action is our best expression of opinion. Our focus is action; our time is now.
UN Doc.: A/50/PV.42