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