Delegate: Ms. Elafi (23 years)
1. Ms. Elafi (Netherlands), speaking as the youth representative in her delegation, said that both the United Nations and young people could benefit from a close working relationship through meaningful youth participation. Youth from all over the world had gathered recently in Dakar, Senegal, for the fourth session of the World Youth Forum of the United Nations system, which had adopted the Dakar Youth Empowerment Strategy. That document identified new opportunities for youth empowerment and recommendations for fighting the threats they faced, including unemployment, environmental degradation, diseases like HIV/AIDS, poverty, armed conflict, illiteracy, intolerance and discrimination. The future of the World Youth Forum had also been discussed. Her Government was eager to enhance the value of such gatherings, which provided an opportunity for youth from all over the world to interact and learn from other nations. They also provided a framework for a collective international voice of youth. One of the most important purposes of the Forum was to look beyond regional problems to global issues, in an attempt to narrow the gaps between regions. In order to increase the effectiveness of the World Youth Forum, in the future it should be based on a transparent structure and a broad representative process.
2. In order for the Dakar recommendations to be implemented, young people needed assistance from Governments and United Nations agencies. Governments should make a commitment to include youth in their official delegations to the General Assembly and other international meetings. The United Nations system must be accessible to young people, especially those from developing countries. States should be encouraged to provide sufficient funding for youth activities by contributing to the United Nations Youth Fund.
3. Lastly, referring to the impact of the 11 September attacks, she recalled that 2001 had been proclaimed the United Nations Year of Dialogue among Civilizations. She commended those Governments which had made it their aim to encourage intercultural dialogue and openly embrace cultural diversity and pluralism. That would help fight intolerance of the kind experienced the world over in recent weeks in the form of a backlash against, for example, Arabs and Muslims. It was terrifying that some people were unable to identify the recent attacks on the United States for what they were: acts of terror by extremists who did not represent true Islam or the Arab people. It had been heartening to her personally, as a Dutch Moroccan, to see many leading politicians in her own country and elsewhere take a clear stand against such a backlash.
4. Tolerance and understanding could be stimulated through intercultural learning and the international involvement of young people in particular. They could help eradicate misconceptions and create a society in which diversity was valued. The international community must commit itself to ensuring that the battle against terrorism did not widen the gap among people of different countries, nationalities and religions, as well as between majorities and minorities within individual countries.
UN Doc.: A/C.3/56/SR.5