Delegate: Ms. Jākobsone
Ms. Jākobsone (Latvia): As this is the first time that a youth representative from Latvia has addressed the General Assembly, I should like to express my appreciation for this honour, especially on such an occasion as the special commemorative meeting to mark the tenth anniversary of International Youth Year. Following the adoption at the forty-ninth session of the General Assembly of resolutions 49/152 and 49/154, the Latvian Government decided to include a youth representative in its official delegation to this session of the General Assembly. It is a great honour and pleasure for me to represent Latvia here.
I should like to address the General Assembly on a topic that is quite timely for the United Nations: tolerance. This is the United Nations Year for Tolerance. Tolerance is something that we all need in our everyday lives, something that makes our personalities free and allows us to be independent in our understanding of the world. In this context, I should like to address the issue of tolerance from the perspective of youth.
I am 19 years old. This means that I am no longer a child. I am no longer a school girl who plays with her dolls in the playground. I am old enough to make decisions on my own: vote, get married, travel on my own. I am responsible for myself, but not for the things that are happening all around the world. However, there are things I can influence to make my life, and other people’s lives, better.
But what do we understand by the word “better”? For each person, it has a different meaning, based on our individual values rather than on our colour, age, gender, religion, language, culture or nationality. Tolerance begins by listening to different opinions and by trying to understand where they come from.
There is a popular drawing that depicts children holding hands around the globe. It shows that children do not see the differences in colour, gender or nationality, but accept everyone. The differences begin to grow only as children become older. We should learn a lesson from the very young and treat other persons as individuals first, leaving their superficial differences in second place. We have to treat the world in which we live as the best, and only, world we have. We should try to unite the world, not drive it apart. We have to accept that there is enough space in the world for everybody, and that there will continue to be, if we stand for peace — peace between nature and human beings, among nations, countries, peoples, neighbours, relatives and families. Peace can be reached only through tolerance. But who is thinking of tolerance now, and who will bring it to the world? I think that we cannot wait for future generations to bring peace; we have to act now.
The future belongs to youth. The young have always had the task of breaking with the old and bringing in new ways. While this has not always worked, we should at least try. Youth are the next politicians, business people, parents, teachers, scientists, writers and presidents. They will determine the course of the years to come. Those of us who are still quite young are already thinking about what sort of world we are going to live in, have our families in, bring up our children in. [*8*]
The world is getting more complicated every day: new machines, computers, guns, chemicals. In many parts of the world, the standard of living is getting higher, but is life really getting better? I am not certain that it is. The world is getting more polluted and more dangerous; wars are still being waged. Why? If people are getting cleverer everyday, why do they not understand each other?
I believe that it is our nature to take. We have to learn how to give. Tolerance grows only through education. It is very important to understand this so that we may change the circumstances in which we live. The legacy of our parents was that of a different world, a world governed by the cold war, and we cannot blame them for it. But we must be aware of what we need to learn to change the world. The education we need to truly become tolerant is not just what our parents and teachers can give; it includes meeting people, travelling, participating in cultural and educational exchanges. We do not have to agree with the thinking of everyone we encounter. We just have to try to accept that people do not always think alike.
One of the routes to tolerance is through the campaign “All different — all equal”. It is essential to accept others as they are, without trying to change them, because we can live only our own lives, nobody else’s. But there are limits to tolerance. There is a narrow line between interfering —most likely in a well-meaning way — and tolerance. Which is the most honest way? The answer lies within each of us. We have to listen to our hearts.
The United Nations is a place where people from around the world can meet and share their views. For now, it is like a card game. If we want to win, we do not show other players our cards. And if we show our cards, we do so only if we are sure that the other player is on our side. We do not lay down all our cards together, because there is always a possibility that someone is keeping something up their sleeve, and then the others lose. What are we playing for? For nothing less than our future.
I understand that people are not always good, with pure intentions, though I wish I could think so. Nevertheless, what if we take the risk of showing our cards and discover that people are the same everywhere — the same living, breathing human beings, people who are basically good despite their flaws? While we probably will not be ready for such a step in this millennium, I would like to think that the third millennium will be the one in which we achieve understanding.
I think the role of youth in this process is so important because we are old enough to know the rules, yet brave — or inexperienced — enough not to follow them. Let us change something in our lives every day, starting with small steps, thinking about our actions, giving someone an unexpected smile from the heart, saying — or withholding — the one word that can change someone’s day. We need children’s and youth assemblies to unite people from around the globe. Such assemblies would serve to share and dream about what is best in the world instead of worrying about the problems in our countries.
I think that small things are so important in our lives; sometimes a favourite book, a friend, family, or even a flower on a different planet — as in Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince— can be more important to our world than economics and politics.
This is the understanding we need to bring peace and tolerance to our planet.
UN Doc.: A/50/PV.42