Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Young Pacific Islanders in Negotiations on the Outcomes Document of the #WCY2014


Opening Ceremony of the #WCY2014
An ongoing discourse throughout the World Conference on Youth 2014 (#WCY2014) has been, that “Youth are the leaders of today”. As sincere as this is, I feel obliged to add, that the only way young people can be the leaders of today is if these leadership roles become available.
This train of thought leads me to a few questions.
Are our current leaders prepared to allow young people the opportunity to become leaders of today, or is this mere tokenism?
Are our current leaders ready to fully embrace the wholeness of youth, in all our innovativeness, energy, spirit and idealisms? 
And are our current leaders brave enough to be the generation that ‘bit the bullet’ and made way for inclusive youth- led leadership?
Surely platforms such as the World Conference on Youth are a positive indicator of this aspiration right?
I wish I had the answers, but I don’t.
However, what I do know is that the #WCY2014 must push for the mainstreaming of a united, solidified, holistic stance on global youth ambition.
15 years ago the United Nations General Assembly, with over 180 countries, agreed to pursue a set of 8 goals that would be known as the Millennium Development Goals. The MDGs, as they came to be known, was an international framework for development with a 15- year life span.
In 2015, a brand new global development framework needs to succeed the MDGs and address whatever gaps remain. While the engagement of Youth in development has increased somewhat since 2000, it must be acknowledged that challenges still remain in addressing the development of young people.
The premise of the #WCY2014 is the mainstreaming of Youth in the post- 2015 development agenda. What does this mean?
Simply- ensuring that the post-2015 development agenda not follow the same route as the formulation of the MDGs in 2000, but instead include young people in consultations, and partner with them in order to bring about inclusive developments.
After the #WCY2014, an outcomes document known as the Colombo Declaration or Colombo Youth Action Plan, is expected to be put together.
This document should be able to identify innovative approaches for young people to effectively contribute to the post- 2015 development agenda and its implementation, as well as, outline permanent youth engagement mechanisms that ensures consistent follow- up with young people in order to further boost their participation and partnership at the national, regional and international levels.
The Colombo Declaration is expected to set the foundation for increased intergenerational dialogue to strengthen youth participation in development, increase commitments to youth policies with effective participation of young people, increase efforts to strengthen and boost the establishment of national youth councils, increase the investment and resources allocated for youth development and participation at the national, regional and global level, and list out the priorities of youth for the post- 2015 development agenda.
A large part of what goes into the Colombo Declaration is determined by discussions around the themes and foundations of the Conference. These discussions are collated by the facilitators of these discussions and presented at the negotiation sessions by their youth representatives.
These negotiations are also attended by National Delegates.

Samoan National Delegate During Negotiations
I caught up with Papua New Guinea’s National Delegate, Arianne Kassman, who was present at the 3 days of negotiations.
For Ms. Kassman, this whole ‘negotiation’ experience was something very new to her.
“It was such a great learning opportunity and a great moment to a be part of.”
She also thought that opportunities like these were what more young people need to be exposed to.
“This negotiation process was a great indication of how young people can actively participate in decision making and we simply need more safe spaces like these created.”
She did however admit, that it was not all-smooth sailing.
“I did find a few things confusing, in the beginning the process was not very clear which caused a lot of anxiety, not only for me, but for my colleagues from Samoa and Fiji as well.”
“Inevitably however, we finally got the hang of things and as we got more comfortable in our roles as negotiators, our voices confidently started filling the room. It was empowering.”
Ms. Kassman continued, that although she lacked experience in the field of negotiations, what she and her fellow Pacific Islanders didn’t lack was heart and a sense of purpose
“Climate Change is one of the most important issues we are bringing forward at this conference. The realities of Climate Change in our homes cannot be ignored, and as young people and caretakers of this planet, it is our duty to ensure that we do what we must to mainstream climate change adaptation and mitigation, as well as disaster risk reduction into any and all post- 2015 development agendas.”
Krishneil Narayan, Youth Policy Advisor of the Fiji Government echoed these sentiments, stressing that it is vital Pacific Island youth issues be reflected in the outcomes document of the #WCY2014.
“This is a global youth conference, and as such, the delegates of the Pacific must ensure that issues relevant to us- such as climate change, the inclusion of Small Island Developing States vulnerabilities, and the fast tracking of mechanisms, to ensure effective implementation of the outcomes document, be established.”
“Inevitably, climate change must find its way into a high priority stance in the Colombo Declaration.“

Sea level rise in Kiribati, an Island Nation in the Pacific
As an observer of the 3-day negotiation process, I must acknowledge the courage and spirit of our Pacific Island National Delegates. The outstanding contributions they made to the negotiations was a great reminder that many assumptions about young people, especially young Pacific Islanders, must be unlinked.
In a global society where heavy emphasis is placed on extroversion and have somehow become a yardstick of measuring ones ability to lead, I take my hats off to these young Pacific Islanders, who shamelessly sat comfortably and confidently, on the other end of the leadership spectrum, where introversion was not only welcomed but offered an alternative approach to leadership.
Just because they were quiet at times, it didn’t mean they didn’t have anything to say. They did, and when they were given the opportunity to say something, they strongly voiced the concerns of youth in the Pacific, in an attempt to get these issues reflected in the outcomes document.
The pacific youth negotiators at the #WCY2014 fully recognised the importance of ensuring their authentic truths were well represented at the Conference. They understood that it was imperative climate change be made priority in the outcomes document, simply because they wanted a stake in the futures they deserve.
That was their duty, that was their right and for that moment in time, that was their calling!
Pacific Delegates with the Chairman of Negotiations after Day 2

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