The year 2012 was an important year in the history of gender policy. That was the first time in history that over 50 per cent of the world’s population was under 30 years old.
This year, I have held the position of UN Youth Delegate of Finland, which has offered me an excellent perspective on how young people are able to influence the world. As my term comes to a close, I can tell you that I have both good and bad news on this subject.
Let’s start with the good.
At the end of September, I was able to participate in the UN General Assembly’s high-level week as a member of Finland’s official delegation. The political leaders of the whole world come to the UN for the high-level week. That is why it was great to see how many issues relating to young people were discussed during the week, including the publication of the first UN Youth Strategy.
It is also a very positive improvement that young people have climbed a great deal higher on the list of Finland’s priorities in the last ten years. This was the first time that the importance of including young people was even mentioned in the national address of the President of the Republic! Finland has also taken an active role in promoting the UN Security Council Resolution 2250. The resolution in question – Youth, Peace and Security – is an important tool for promoting the interests of young people as the Security Council Resolution is binding for member states. Finland is also among the first countries to work on an implementation plan for the resolution which was adopted in 2015. The civic society and youth organisations in particular are well catered for in this process, as consultations done by youth organisations create a basis for the upcoming implementation plan. Finland has also gained a lot of positive visibility in the UN, and with good reason. So, we are going in the right direction.
And then on to the bad news.
Despite our historically high numbers, our opportunities to take part in world politics are unfortunately quite limited. Up to 73 per cent of all countries limit young people’s opportunities to run for public office. So, it is no wonder that less than two per cent of all members of parliament in the world are under the age of 30.
On a global level, youth participation is not seen as important. Even though the topic is discussed a lot more than previously, few concrete steps are usually taken. When people talk about young people, it is not actually the young people speaking. I have lost count of how many times during my time at the UN I was listening to a speech about young people, and the average age of the speakers was over 60. The space offered to young people at the UN is very narrow, and the institutes representing young people are chronically under-resourced.
One huge step forward in generation policy at UN level is the recently published report on Youth and Human Rights by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, which identifies challenges that young people face and obstacles to the realisation of their human rights. The Finnish Youth Co-operation Allianssi has long cooperated with our umbrella organisation European Youth Forum in carrying out advocacy work. The UN report proposes some concrete measures for how young people can be taken into account more in the human rights mechanisms. Before the recommendations can take shape, however, action is required from the governments and the UN Human Rights Council.
For this reason, it is important that we young people continue to emphasise the importance of generation policy through our own actions both in Finland and abroad. In Finland, the election next spring is an excellent opportunity to highlight the importance of young people and generation policy within foreign policy. Here are a few concrete suggestions:
- Extend the office of the UN Youth Representative to UN Youth, a larger organisation similar to UN Women.
- Create an international mechanism that focuses on the rights of young people.
- Make it a priority of development policy to enable youth participation.
If you are interested in international advocacy work, keep an eye out for Allianssi’s international youth policy group, which will soon be accepting applications. The search for Finland’s next UN Youth Delegate will also begin in the next few months!
UN Youth Delegate of Finland