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Mobilising the global youth movement #ForYouthRights

14/11/2019

How can youth organisations worldwide work more and better together for youth rights? How can young people all over the world take the lead, speak up, and take action?

These are some of the questions we asked ourselves during last week’s “Mobilising the global youth movement #ForYouthRights” event, organised by the European Youth Forum in cooperation with the International Coordination Meeting (ICMYO) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

The meeting took place in Geneva and brought together more than 20 youth representatives (from regional youth platforms and international youth non-governmental organisations) and OHCHR officers working at national, regional and global level. The objective was to provide a space for youth organisations to:

  • Become more engaged in the youth rights debate, and in advocacy efforts for youth rights globally.

  • Start cooperating among each other, as a first step towards creating a “global movement” for youth rights.

  • Build a connection between youth organisations and human rights stakeholders in the UN, to work more and better together.

To achieve this, participants discussed the challenges faced by young people in accessing their rights, shared their respective experience advocating for youth rights, and started planning joint next steps.

Youth rights & rights-based approach

Whether it comes to entering the labour market, finding a quality job, accessing quality education, healthcare, or social protection, it’s no mystery that young people’s path to adulthood and independence is full of obstacles.

While challenges may be different depending on the specific context, all participants agreed that no youth policy can be truly effective if not rights-based. Shifting the narrative from needs to rights, both in the way institutions talk about young people and in the way youth organisations advocate, is key to advancing youth rights at all levels.

International human rights frameworks

So, what to do when far too many young people are living without access to their rights? One option is to make use of international human rights frameworks.

Participants recognised that engaging with the UN human rights system can help mainstreaming the rights of young people. However, the lack of a specific international instrument on youth, makes it difficult for youth rights to get the visibility they deserve. Moreover, participants pointed out that these international mechanisms often seem detached from the reality of young people and youth organisations. The need for these tools to be revised to become more accessible, and truly support advocacy efforts at local and national level was highlighted.

Moreover, the 2018 UN Youth Strategy and its recognition of young people as rights holders was identified as an important stepping stone. Efforts should now be made to ensure that this Strategy truly targets young people around the world, complements existing regional and national frameworks, and promotes greater and more meaningful participation of young people.

What’s next?

Participants called on institutions to play their part. Not only a stronger focus on youth policy is needed, but better ways to support and involve youth organisations in policy making must be found. Advancing youth rights should be “by youth” rather than just “for and with youth”: if investments in youth organisations are not made, if they don’t have the resources to be self-sustained, their participation in policy making cannot be truly meaningful.

Lastly, it was highlighted how cooperation between youth organisations working in different regions and at different levels, as well as with key partners such as OHCHR officers, must be strengthened. To this end, from campaigns to events, from peer learning to global advocacy, participants started working together on joint action plans for future cooperation. At the Youth Forum, we see this as a promising start and we will continue to promote spaces for youth organisations to work together and keep building a truly global youth movement #foryouthrights.

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