Archive for April, 2005

Excluding the Peoples

April 21st, 2005

The last few days of CSD13 have been both energetic, inspiring, and at the same time, incredibly frustrating. On Thursday and Friday, governments gave their inputs on the draft text of decisions from CSD13. A number of times sessions were delayed for hours because the negotiating blocks, EU and G77, needed longer to coordinate their positions — at least this is what we were told. The whole process seemed incredibly disorganised. Eventually, we had a draft document that included positions of all of the countries — no negotiations, just everyone’s input. It was a long text, but included a number of points the youth caucus had been fighting for. The next morning rumours were spreading like wildfire that something of a coup was underway. The JUSCANZ group (Japan, US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and some others) was going to push for a completely new draft text. G77 fell in line, leaving the EU isolated being the only block that still wanted to negotiate the draft that included everyones input. They were left with no choice, and reluctantly agreed to accept the proposal of a completely new draft. It was clearly a stitch-up and had been decided in advance, blatantly obvious from the fact that the chair promissed that a whole new draft would be ready in under an hour. Time only for some minor tweaks to a document that had already been prepared.

The new text arrived, and immediately the negotiating blocks went into their respective coordinating meetings, and so the civil society groups had been effectively excluded from the process. The only way we can get our points in to the text is if a country proposes our points, and once the coordination has happened it’s impossible to feed out points in through the big negotiating blocks. The chair said that he wanted the negotiations to be finished in the afternoon session (only three hours) — everyone knew that would be impossible, but it seemed to be a coordinated attempt to seal the process with a text that had been controlled by the chair with very little input from civil society or even from countries.

The second “chairman’s text” included more reflection of the governmental and civil society input than the first had, so in some ways that was a relief, but again we were left wondering just how much we have to fight just to have our voices heard in a supposedly participatory process. There were also some key points for the youth caucus that had been left out, for example a point we have been lobbying for about the role of youth organisations in non-formal peer-to-peer education, vital in empowering young people for example in combatting HIV-AIDS:

Recognising that youth organisations have a unique role, through their strong capacity, in non-formal and peer to peer education to educate communities on sustainable development and practical sustainable life-skills.

Canada, Mexico, Norway, the European Union, the USA, and a number of other countries were all in support of our point. But they had been pushed to the wall by all the delays, and none of them wanted to be the ‘bad’ country who was trying to introduce major new points into the text. They all said they would support our point if another country introduced it, but that they couldn’t introduce it themselves. Catch 22.

As expected the negotiations didn’t finish on Tuesday night, but the process had unfolded in such a way as to make it almost impossible for us to introduce new, important points that had been missed.

We regrouped on Wednesday morning, and compared the current state of the draft text to our key points. Here are the specific issues we decided to try to keep pushing in our lobbying:

2. (i) Youth organisations have a unique role, through non-formal education, to provide communities with practical sustainable life-skills on water, sanitation and human settlement issues.

2. (f) …a conducive international policy environment, including trade liberalization the removal of unfair subsidies and taxes
…technical cooperation and capacity building, formal and non formal education and technology transfer…

3. D (u) (vi) …and micro-credit facilities accessible to all, especially women and youth;

3. E (v) …implement transparent and participatory monitoring to ensure…

3. E (v) (ii) Providing guidelines on transparent and participatory monitoring…

(We changed the point about non-formal education because we found out the G77 would oppose the phrase ‘peer to peer’.)

Along side the lobbying, we also began preparations for the ministerial level ‘Multi Stakeholder Dialogue’, which is where each major group, including Youth, gets to make a 3-4 minute statement, and then (in theory) there is an interactive dialogue between the civil society groups and the ministers. That is happening later this afternoon. More updates coming…

Youth Caucus Statement on CSD13 Draft Decisions

April 15th, 2005

We were up late last night. The youth caucus spent the afternoon reviewing the draft decisions from CSD13 and it’s not great at the moment. For one there are no time frames, and very few specifics as to how the goals on water, sanitation and human settlements would be achieved. That’s what we’re supposed to be here for. As well as pulling the text apart, and writing out what we see as being the key points that are missing from the text, a small group worked late into the night drafting a statment for this morning’s opening session. We tried really hard to get all of the points we saw as important to be changed into the statement, but this morning we timed it with emmanual, who read the statement, and we had to make some fairly drastic cuts to get it within the time limit. That was a shame — we had so much to say, and not enough time to make our important points. (Also, in the last minute editing, some points we had agreed were important got cut by mistake.) We distributed the statement, and the longer document of all our lobbying points on the text, to all the governments and have been lobbying much of the day. The statement went across quite well, and we found our points in line with a number of the other Major Group statements. The NGOs’ statement was especially hard-hitting, criticising the lack of specific mechanisms and commitments by governments. It’s a shame we didn’t manage to make our statement stronger, but there’s a limit to what you can do at 4am

Anyway, here is the statement, and the lobbying points

Time to Lobby

April 15th, 2005

For the last three days, governments, NGOs and other civil society groups have been presenting their positions on Water, Sanitation and Human Settlements. Some of the dialogue has been quite interesting, and also for the first time in a number of years there hasn’t been a specific slot allocated to the Major Groups’ (civil society) statements. There’s been a mixed response to this. The chairs of the plennary sessions have both been quite good at doing what they promissed, and including Major Group responses and comments along with the governments’ statements. On the other hand, this sets a bit of a precedent for future years, and a number of people are concerned that if the chairs of the sessions at future CSDs want, they could easily now exclude civil society input. That would be a huge step backwards, and something we have to avoid.

In terms of the actual issues, I’m finding it rather difficult not having much experience dealing with water, sanitation and human settlements — very much development oriented topics — a long way from the climate change, energy, and environmental justice issues I spent most of my time in Johannesburg fighting for. That said, it’s been useful to be able to really focus my time on supporting everyone else in the youth caucus (many of who know much more than me about these issues) pass on the knowledge I’ve aquired over the last three years, especially to Neela and Elissa who are both representing youth on the official government delegations for the UK and Canada this year.

I’ve also had some really useful conversations with people in the UN Youth Unit about youth involvement in the UN, especially the run up to the Millenium +5 summit in September focussing on the Millenium Development Goals (the theme for Global Village) and also the 60th General Assembly in October. More about that another time.

The draft of the decisions for the CSD was released this morning, and we spent all day going through the document, which was remarkably short; the length alone made me really question how it can possibly represent a plan to sort out three such huge issues. Government delegations and the other Major Groups also spent all day pouring over the document, comparing notes, and looking at how much of what we’ve been calling for made it into the first draft.

I’ll post the Youth Caucus key points first thing tomorrow, but here are a few interesting points to note…

A rights-based approach to water provision is in there. This is something we’re going to have to fight like crazy to keep — many of the governments are against an international agreement that has any language in that could be interpreted as giving people the right to water. It sounds incredible, but it’s true, since the right to water would put some serious brakes on the current privatisation trend, and (potentially) create some issues where water supplies exist across national boundaries. This whole process is supposed to be about cooperating to solve the world’s problems, but in reality the governments do nothing more than stick up for their own best interests.

There is almost no mention of the cross-cutting issues that we’re supposed to be taking into account when looking at all of the themes addressed by CSD. It’s sad, but every year in the youth caucus we seem to be one of the few groups standing up and drawing the governments’ attention to the hugely unsustainable impacts of militarisation. Nowhere could this be more apparent than in the areas of water, sanitation and human settlements, all of which are devistated by war. With climate change, I keep explaining to people how it doesn’t matter what progress we make in a number of the world’s more pressing issues, such as access to safe drinking water, if we don’t start dealing with climate change, but the very same analysis is true of conflict — peace is sustainable, and we’ll be making that point tomorrow.

That brings me nicely onto what’s happening next (although I’ve been writing rather aimlessly because it’s late!) Today we assembled all of the key points we think are missing from the draft decision paper, and tomorrow we have the opportunity to make a brief statement to the governments. Emmanuel from Ghana will make the statement (he’s one of the few representatives from the global south here, thanks to some funding we managed to get to at least have a slightly more representative youth caucus.) We will be focussing on some of the issues I just mentioned, and also putting forward some specific changes we’d like to see in the text.

From then on it’s serious lobbying to get support for our points from as many of the government representatives as possible. If we can get a government to put changes into the final decision document for us (since we can’t input the changes directly, unfortunately) then maybe we can get the commitments from governments to be a bit more progressive. That, and fight to keep the good stuff that’s in there already, which some governments, especially the US, will without doubt try to water down or remove entirely.

So that’s my overview of where things are now. Neela is doing a great job on the UK delegation — although the civil society reps on the UK delegation don’t have as much input as on some other government delegations from what I can tell. It’s great having her here, and having that connection between the Youth Caucus and the UK government.

Here is the draft chairman’s text in full (hold on to your browsers, it’s a few pages…)

CSD13 Wednesday Report

April 14th, 2005

Neela’s report from Wednesday…

Day Three.
The United Nations in New York.
UK Youth Delegate at the Commission for Sustainable Development.

It’s 8 O’clock and I’m just back at the hotel cooking some dinner. MTV is on, but i haven’t yet seen any music for adverts so I’m a little confused. Tonight there isn’t any Youth Caucus work to do because we are awaiting the chair’s draft of the text. By 9am tomorrow morning there will be a draft document that will be a compromise about all the statements that goverments and civil society have made over the last few days. The days of talking about possible policies are over and we now enter into a phase of negotiation. Tomorrow everybody will be reading through the chair’s draft to see if their views are represented. If views and policies are not included then it is time to lobby governments and make them bring the issue up in negotiation. For example, if there is no mention of the importance of peer to peer education in the effort to educate about sanitation then the Youth Caucus will be lobbying different governments, asking them the push for it’s inclusion.

This whole process is going to be fastinating to be a part of. The Youth Caucus are meeting at 9 to start working through the text and working out how we feel about it. The text will all be writen in offical language, and we will help each other understand exactly what it all means. This is why it is so important to have lots of youth in the Youth Caucus because everyone has different skills and can help in different ways.

This is something that i have been thinking about a lot in the last few days: the representation within the youth caucus. Very few governements actually have a position for a youth delegate on their delegation, and these are mostly from developed countries. Germany and the Netherlands are particually progressive and have two youth delegates. The US doesn’t have one but lots of young people from the States still join the Youth Caucus by representing different youth groups. It is particually easy (and cheaper) for US youth to get involved. This means that the Youth Caucus mainly has input from developed countries in the northern hemisphere. It is therefore understandable that our knowledge about how youth around the world feel about issues like water, sanitation and settlements is limited. I am sure that the Youth Cuacus would be greatly benifit if there were young people from developed and undeveloped countries. One idea has been to ask governement who already have youth delegates to pay for a youth delegate from another country. This is something i will be asking the UK government about tomorrow if i get time. Although, they don’t even pay for me to attend: this is up to my youth group to organise. If the UK government won’t consider this option, then i will ask them to remind all other countries that various resolutions have been passed stating the importance of Youth Representation in the UN.

I was meant to have a brief meeting with one of the UK team today, but it didn’t materialise. So instead I found a computer and wrote up some points and questions that i would like to know about. Because i am the first ever Youth Delegate that the UK has allowed to attend this event, i want to make sure that i know WHY I am here, in their eyes, and what i can do to make sure the role exists for other young people. Some of the questions i wrote about were:

1) What role does the UK see it’s Youth delegate playing at CSD13 (commission for sustainable development) and beyond?
2) How can a mentoring system be set up to support the other young people who will be youth delegates.
3) Can the UK put pressure on other governements to bring a youth delegate, and support them in doing so where possible?

I also made it clear that it would be a great shame if the role of ‘youth delegate’ became merely tokenistic. Hopefully they will realise that this is not why i came to New York! Despite this missed meeting, i spoke to some of the other UK delegates and am beginning to feel a little more comfortable talking to them about my feelings. It is easy to feel like you are the only person who doesn’t always understand what is going on: but for many adults this is their first UN experience as well. Then it was lunch time, and i got a little lost. I turned a corner from the escalators and there were people lining the walls of the corridor. I asked why everyone was waiting, and someone pointed at Bill Clinton strolling towards us with his entourage. For me it was like seeing something out of madame tusaudes come alive: those wax models are very accurate. And then he turned a corner and he was gone. Lunch time! I find out the Britney Spears is pregnant.

The afternoon sessions were all about the issues that link water, sanitation and settlements together. For example: the effects of warfare on young people around the world. The use of radioactive weapons can damages water resources for generations to come, destabilise ecological and social systems. Human settelments are also greatly effected by this footprint of warfare. These are the kinds of issue that the Youth Cuacus will hope to find mentioned in the chair’s text tomorrow. We made an intervention about the interlinking issues that we think are most important, and hopefully the chair will have taken note of them. I then went to a meeting run by the UN Youth Unit (youth@un.org). They support governments in getting youth involvement. Just for the record: the UK is planning on taking three youth delegates to the General Assembly conference in October. So if you are interested, then check out the website: http://www.unysa-uk.org

Paris and Nicole Hilton are currently on TV using baby orangutangs to advertise Burger King. Apparently it’s becasue they are an endangered species (the oranutangs not the Hiltons, sadly), and they want to promote the cause. Nice to know that youth around the world are doing their bit! Watching their lifestyle of luxury and playgrounds is slightly sickening when you have just spent the whole day wondering why millions of kids still don’t have access to clean water. I wish it were greed that was endangered.

I hope that these messages are useful. If there is anything in particular you want to know or ask you can email me or post a reply, depending where you are accessing it from. There is always so much to write about that i am willing to focus on the things that you are finding most interesting.

till tomorrow, neela

CSD13 Update from Neela

April 13th, 2005

I’ll post more later, but here’s Neela’s update from Tuesday.

Day Two.
The United Nations in New York.
UK Youth Delegate at the Commission for Sustainable Development.

This morning i entered the UN building at 8.30am. There is a cafe downstairs called Cafe Vienna, and it is where a lot of informal meetings take place. This morning was an NGO (non-governmental organisations) meeting. All the UK NGOs meet every morning to talk about their aims for the day, they co-ordinate with each other about who will attend each meeting. There are so many different events happening everyday that it is impossible to attend them all. The Youth Caucus do the same thing: we split up and attend differnt meetings, and then have feedback sessions when we all come together. This means that every meeting has a youth presence, and the chance for ‘youth’ to speak on important issues. It was agreed yesterday that I would attend the interactive discussions on WATER. Becasue i am an official government delegate I cannot speak on behalf of the Youth Caucus unless the head of my delegation agrees to the points that the Youth Caucus are making. So, today i just sat and listened. ‘Youth and Children’ are one of 9 major groups who have the chance to speak in the UN, so they have a ‘flag’ like all the countries, that they can raise when they want to make a point. In this morning meeting, ‘Youth and Children’ were recognised by the chair to speak and had 2 minutes to make their key points on water. A youth delegate from the US youth group SustainUS spoke very clearly, and also mananged to mention the fact that more youth delegates should be present on government delegations. The US do not have an official youth delegate, and this is the first year that the UK has had one. Tomorrow I have a meeting with someone from the UK government delegation to find out exactly what my role should be. I would also like to find out how i can support other young people who might like to do the job in the future: it would be nice to set up some sort of mentorring system. I know that i would have appreciated the advice of a youth person who has done this before! It can be quite daunting. Luckily, the ‘Youth Caucus’ meets everyday, bringing together other youth from different countries. For most youth delegates there is also a language barrier to cross, as most smaller meetings are conducted in English. I have alot of respect for those young people who are not only learning about the United Nations for the first time, but are also combatting a language barrier. I wish I had continued languages at school.

At lunch i had a quick meeting with a memeber of the UK delegation to ask about the UK’s position on ‘water as a human right’. I had been asked to find this information out by the ‘Youth Caucus’ who are all supportive of this idea. At the moment, there is no clear legal document that states water as a human right. However, it is included in many other human right documents, like the UN Convention on the rights of the child. We had this meeting in the Vienna Cafe which was by this time full of cigarrette smoke. This is an interesting issue! Although there are ‘No Smoking’ signs all around the cafe most delegates and diplomats ignore them, because officially the UN building is on ‘international land’ and therefore US laws apparently don’t apply! I’ll have to check this out. The UN definitly have their own police force though. No NYPD here.

Durring the whole commission there are many side events. These are really good opportunities for me to learn some stuff about specific issues. UNICEF (United Nations International Childrens Emergency Fund) had organised a set of speakers on water, sanitation and hygiene education for schools. Particular attention was paid to the fact that around the world girls miss alot of school classes becasue the sanitation doesn’t cater for their needs. If a girl misses a few days of school every month then this adds up. Children may also spend alot of time collecting water when they could be in school.

I had a quick look in on the afternoon meeting on SETTLEMENTS and congratualted a Youth Caucus member from Ghana on a really good speach. All the speaches are roughly scripted beforhand, often late into the night, but presentation is still really important. He spoke alot about the need to provide young people living in poor areas with good employment opportunities. Micro-credits are one way of letting young people have access to small loans to kickstart their careers.

We had a Youth Caucus meeting to feedback on the day, and then began scripting our points for tomorrow. My role in this is slightly limited, because I am here to speak on behalf of the UK. But it is important for me to listen because i can then feedback the youth points of view to the government. This is what i will be aiming to do at 7.30 tomorrow morning. Tomorrow i will attend my first early morning delegation meeting! So, forgive me for going to sleep now (it’s only 10pm) but it’s been a long day, and the alarm is set for 6am!



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