Speaking to the world

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.

unesco/ foto : Thierry Rambaud

Read more and watch videos on our thoughts about the Youth Forum from this post by Martina Castigliani, an inspiring youth blogger.

http://earthands.wordpress.com/2011/11/03/the-youth-report-at-the-unesco-general-conference/

I will also attach my speech from Tuesday here:

Education Commission, Tuesday 1st October, Speech By Miika Tomi

Monsieur le Président

Les excellences,

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!

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The day that the world will remember

In yesterday’s meeting UNESCO decided clearly to admit Palestine as its full member. 173 countries taking part in the voting, 107 were in favour, 14 voted against and 52 abstained. Two-thirds majority was easily obtained. The atmosphere during the roll call voting was something I have never experienced in my life before. Every single person was following the vote with the understanding of the implications to the world politics. For a while UNESCO certainly was at the very stage of world’s attention.

U.S., Israel and Canada opposed fiercely and explained later that this was not the right time to push forward the candidacy, as the UN membership talks were still ongoing in New York. EU could not come up with a common stance as some abstained, some voted against and some in favour. Finland, Austria, France and Norway were among the EU supporters as Germany opposed.

              The Palestinian Foreign Minister addresses the General Conference.

U.S. and Israel might well cut their funding to UNESCO. U.S. pays a share of 22 % of UNESCO’s budget and this decision will naturally have severe implications to the organization’s work if carried through. For the American administration this was a question of Obama’s re-election but what consequences it will have to the peace process in Middle East will be seen in the future. As UK stated that the Palestinians have with this vote sent a clear message to the international community that the peace process must be speeded up.

I and my collegue Nasma addressed the General Conference on the final report of the Youth Forum. I will post this speech as it will be uploaded in Youtube and translated in English (as Nasma bravely used French, English and Arabic).

You can find the final report in English here:

http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0021/002134/213427e.pdf

P.S. This blog just passed 1500 views. Not bad for existing only for two weeks.

UNESCO’s first impression

The 36th session of the UNESCO General Conference has been opened today. All the 193 member states appear to be present and the hallways of UNESCO are packed with ambassadors and ministers. The beauty of the national dresses is stunning as not all countries are accustomed in wearing the western suits. The chairman of the General Conference (GC) proved UNESCO to be a true cultural organization by delivering a large part of his speech by singing. Other planned musical performances followed. Director-General Irina Bokova also gave a great speech and talked lengthily about the Youth Forum at the opening ceremony.

The question of the Palestinian membership seems to be in the minds of the delegates in a way that takes focus away on the other issues in the agenda. We also discussed the affair in the Nordic cooperation meeting in the morning and it still remains unclear when and if the issue comes on the floor. As this is a highly political issue the outcome has sever implications on the future trajectory of UNESCO’s activities. I will remain seized on this matter as the UN jargon says.

I will meet with the UNESCO staff tomorrow to receive more information about the details on addressing the different committees on the results of the Youth Forum. The main speech to the GC will take place on Monday the 31st of October. This will be e very exciting opportunity to speak to hundreds of statesmen and ambassadors directly.

Big part of the conference is also to meet new interesting people and engage in fascinating conversations. It has been extremely inspiring to hear a story of a young woman who lived through the Tunisian revolution, to meet with representatives of NGO’s to hear more on their global projects and to see young and older people who have decided to act upon what they feel is right. It is absolutely amazing what a human being can do when setting her mind into it.

Greetings from Paris!

Check out the video from today to get an idea of the conference:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7cDU1idYNdU&feature=player_embedded