My colleague Nasma Dasser from Switzerland and I have now had the honour to hold speeches to the 195 Member States of UNESCO on seven official occasions in all the Commissions and the plenary of the 36th General Conference. We were the first people ever in history to have the chance to address all the Committees on the results of the Youth Forum. I especially enjoyed the Education Committee, since UNESCO is the educational organization of the world and this committee the place to have that debate. Both of us represent world’s youth, which counts up to half of the world’s population. That is quite a task and responsibility.
We have talked a lot about better access to quality public education, the importance of sustainable development, enhancing youth participation, gender-equality, youth-led student democracy, making youth as UNESCO’s global priority and regarding young people as co-decision-makers. You can read the recommendations in detail at the end of my previous post.
In all committees we have been welcomed in such a positive way that no one could imagine. The debate in PRX and EDU for example completely evolved around the Youth Forum and the recommendations were cheerfully accepted. Our speech at the plenary was personally thanked by the Director General Irina Bokova and many more. With the difficult situation in the global economy and UNESCO’s budget perspectives the important work is to secure the tools to implement the positive atmosphere into real action.
Read more and watch videos on our thoughts about the Youth Forum from this post by Martina Castigliani, an inspiring youth blogger.
I will also attach my speech from Tuesday here:
Education Commission, Tuesday 1st October, Speech By Miika Tomi
Monsieur le Président
Mesdames et Messieurs,
Today, we have the honour and pleasure to represent the voice of young people at the General Conference. My self Miika Tomi and Nasma Dasser, who is currently attending a parallel session, have been elected to represent the Final Report of the 7th UNESCO Youth Forum. The Forum was held from 17 to 20th October 2011 bringing together 211 delegates from 127 Member States around the world.
It is one of the world’s highest-level formal decision-making body for the youth and as a result we came up with 18 concrete proposals and 11 of them deal directly with education. I have been told that this commission could be interested in hearing more about them. Therefore I will take the courage to discuss access to education, gender-equality, youth-led student democracy and new learning methods to tackle the youth employment more in detail. As the youth count up to half of world’s population I hope that our recommendations will receive the weight they deserve.
Firstly, we urge Member States to ensure access to equal quality public education as a basic human right and to ensure free, universal and mandatory education to secondary level, especially in rural areas. As you might notice, we don’t settle with only the primary education but call upon free, universal and mandatory secondary level education. I believe that you are in this room for a reason and understand the necessity for this cause.
We, the youth, believe that in order to have a complete education we need access not only to quality formal education but also non-formal education. We request new approaches to be adopted in learning methods. Learning should more often be human rights-based, informal, intercultural, value-based, and civic education. E-learning is a tool that we need to better utilize as more free knowledge is available and youth have better access to it through Internet. The role of sport and arts education must be also recognized as key elements to prevent violence and to promote a culture of peace.
Secondly, we stress the importance of gender equality. We strongly request Member States to ensure women’s and girls’ empowerment, and also encourage gender equality in acquiring essential life skills, as well as including literacy and sex education. The world cannot waste half of its potential by excluding females from right to education, work and life. In Finland 56 % of the PhD students are women and for their intellectual capacity rightly so.
Thirdly, we believe that ensuring that all students at all ages must have the right to participate in youth-led student democracy at both local and national levels. Young people learn to be active or passive at an early age. Through student run school democracy they can learn to become active citizens and responsible men and women in their communities.
Lastly, In response to employment challenges, we strongly encourage Member States to expand the scope of education by including entrepreneurial skills and training opportunities, and intergenerational partnerships for youth aligned to rapidly changing labor market needs, particularly in non-traditional fields, such as e-learning. My generation is very capable of taking the initiative into its own hands as we have all read from the news. We can teach them to direct that energy in a positive manner into the construction of the society. If we fail in this task an unemployed, frustrated and disappointed young person can have a very negative impact in his community.
We are very honored to present you our recommendations, as we both know that UNESCO was the first UN System agency to define and develop specific programs for youth. It has acknowledged the fact that we, young people are assets and integral parts of development processes.
Therefore we are ready to engage in a constructive discussion in order to ensure the implementation of our recommendations and to find together a solution to our world’s unprecedented challenges.
Je vous remercie!
The 7th UNESCO Youth Forum is now over. It consisted of numerous inspirational speeches, stunning examples of how to drive change in the world and how young people get together and come up with a resolution that we agreed on. If you allow me to be frank, the method was not the most democratic and transparent that I have seen in my life but I believe that UNESCO can learn from this process and how the youth themselves must have a bigger role in their own decision-making process.
The final report included demands to expand education and portrayed it as one of the basic human rights. The youth must have a larger role in student democracy and an international declaration on youth rights is needed. The questions of sustainable development must be better addressed and youth participation promoted especially through youth led projects. UNESCO should therefore set the youth as one of the priorities of the organisation. I will provide a link to the complete text of the final report once it is available online.
Personally for me the most stunning moment was when I was elected as the presenter of the final report on behalf of the entire Youth Forum. I will, together with my Swiss colleague Nasma Dasser, present the results of the Youth Forum to the UNESCO General Conference. It will be an exciting moment next week to walk in front of the ministers, kings and ambassadors of the 193 member states of UNESCO. As the UNESCO Youth Forum is the highest-level formal youth decision-making structure in the world and its recent reform has given it more power than ever before, presenting our results brings a great responsibility. There were 210 delegates from 123 countries present at the conference. This fact makes our resolution the most legitimate vision of the world’s youth today.
I will want to keep working to make the process more democratic, transparent, youth-led and clearly defined, as my proposal was adopted to the final report. There is however a lot of work to do so that the legitimacy of the process can become more evident in the future. This was also what I pointed out to the UNESCO Secretary-General, all of the youth delegates and a full room of spectators during my speech at the closing ceremony of the Youth Forum.
It will be extremely exciting next week to see how the UNESCO General Conference will function, if the youth resolutions will be adopted, how the Finnish delegation to UNESCO will seem from inside… not to mention whether the Palestinian membership bid is adopted or not.
I’ll be happy to keep you informed my dear friends as my work has only just begun!