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We are glad to inform you that after our pleasant experience with the Italian blog, the IIMA Human Rights Office has decided to open a new blog in English.

On this blog, you may follow our main activities with the United Nations and its mechanisms for the protection and promotion of human rights, as well as news from the UN bodies and IIMA offices in different countries related to the right to education.

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Have a great time reading!


Our Side-Event on Youth Empowerment.

On Tuesday, March 11th, Room XXVII in Palais des Nations turned into a forum for ideas and hope.
“Youth Empowerment through Human Rights” was the headline of the Side-Event IIMA and VIDES International, with the Permanent Mission of Uruguay, organized during the 25th session of the Human Rights Council. The event gave the floor to young people.
Co-sponsored by OHCHR and by 25 Permanent Missions, the Side-Event represented the last step on a long road: the interaction with the reality for young people; the Side-Event in June 2011 on “Young volunteers and Human Rights” and the event in June 2013 on “Youth Empowerment, which strategies?”; the ILO resolution adopted at the 101st International Labour Conference in June 2012; the Expert meeting on the human rights of youth organized by the OHCHR in July 2013; IIMA and VIDES crowd sourcing in Latin America to gather experiences directly on the field, and the meetings with several Permanent Missions in Geneva to raise awareness about youth and to promote the Side-Event and ask for sponsorship.

Prior to the Side Event, in order to train the young people who took part in the panel, a training course was held in IIMA Office in Geneva, enabling them to effectively share their personal experiences from the field and to inform them of the context in which they were speaking.

Thiago, of Belo Horizonte, Brazil, is a Physiotherapist and is currently a 4th year student of Medicine in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He is a VIDES Volunteer and is the founder and coordinator of Project “CONVIVIR: Brazil and Argentina” in Buenos-Aires, which is based on the concept of humanizing medical students through volunteerism, to provide broad experience of different practices with peoples. Laura, a young girl from United States, had a service period first in Rwanda first and then Uganda, working with orphans and children in difficult situations. Johny belongs to the indigenous community of Bribri in Talamanca, a Province of Limon in Costa Rica. He is a high school student, working as a farmer and is a volunteer in the Costa Rican Red Cross. He defends the principles and values of Bribri culture, promoting respect for and pride in the indigenous identity, especially among young people, working with them to encourage involvement in social action for the community to realize the rights of young people. Simon- Pierre Escudero was raised in a small town in France. He spent 6 months as a volunteer in civil service in socially disadvantaged areas of France. Following this, he spent several months in Central America investigating the situation of children living in the streets and indigenous peoples. From his research in the field and an internship at the IIMA  and VIDES Human Rights office in Geneva, a new NGO project was born. This newly formed civil partnership aims to promote and protect the rights of children in street situations.

H.E. Laura Dupuy, Ambassador of Uruguay and moderator of the event, emphasised the essential role of young people as initiators of  progress in the society, as “vehicles of a positive change”.
After the speeches from the young panellists, two experts were asked to trace guidelines for the debate as influential voices on the issue. Jorge Cardona, Professor of International Law and member of the Committee on the Rights of the Child and of the Commission of Experts of the Ibero-American Convention on the Rights of Youth, made an overview of the situation so far. He stated that the youth have the same rights as any other; there are no specific rights. However, he emphasized that young people have a special situation, as young people, in terms of realising their rights. “Young people have specific barriers to the enjoyment of their rights. The question is should, barriers be put up because they are young people? There are problems of violence, healthcare problems, the problems of political participation and a social commitment”.
ImmaGuerras-Delgado, OHCHR Child and Youth Rights Advisor, discussed the great potential of young people in our society: “Recently, we have seen international protest from young people leading to significant changes in several places, yet their right to peaceful protest is not always respected”.

Following this, a debate was held. Most of the Permanent Missions attending the event took the floor, expressing their appreciation for the aims of the event and reporting about the actions taken by their Governments for the benefit of youth.
Austria took the floor as first: “I wanted to talk about participation. Within the UN framework, we recognise that this is a key point in promoting fairer societies, it is important to highlight that states have to create a legal framework with budgetary backing to ensure young people can participate. We have lowered the voting age to 16, and are the only country in the EU to have done so, because we wanted to have formal youth engagement in the political process. We also have national and European projects on this issue”.
Italy underlined the effects of economical crisis on youth, accentuating the role of young people as a resource. While Guatemala stressed the accent on the efforts made by the government in promoting the youth issue in the region, Maldives delegate reaffirmed the need for an effective empowerment of young generations.
More than 55 per cent of the population in Burkina Faso is young, whereas illiteracy rate is very high: “The question is, how can we communicate the message to this group that they do have a place in their country and that they can work on their skills to be able to contribute to it?”, the Country delegate asked, wishing for the adoption of international instruments to increase occasions for young people.
If Tunisia stated that their approach is not simply looking as youth as a vulnerable group, but also from a point of view in which seeing their potential for action, Morocco announced that after the events of the Arab Spring, a meeting was held in Casablanca in 2012 with a view to creating a consultative council for youth.
While the Ambassador of Paraguay was grateful because the panellists had reminded him of his earlier years, the young delegate of Palestine didn’t hide her enthusiasm: “It is a pleasure to see such a wonderful turnout and hear inspiring presentations, we are proud to be sponsors. We cannot overstate the importance of this issue. Youth are the main catalysts and changers in society; yet often find their rights trampled upon and potential untapped. Rising expectations from access to information and education has caused frustration in the world youth. Initiatives such as this one should be multiplied, promoting the youth in society for a human rights society”.
Finally, the Ambassador of Costa Rica expressed the support of Costa Rican government to youth issues: “No doubt there is a challenge when it comes to approaching this issue of youth.I think the best way to empower youth is to fully implement the Convention on the Rights of the Child and in teaching children about their rights. In this way we can create empowered generations”.

It was a constructive dialogue, through experiences sharing and new visions, in a perfect mix of political and human aspect. “It is the first time we see so many Permanent Missions involved and participating in a Side-Event”. Enthusiastic words were going round and the event had a positive echo as a result: talking about empowering youth through young people, addressing a distinguished audience of States and Civil Society. Young people are the actors who can take decisions and can push governments to take effective actions. During our Side-Event, formal policy combined to daily life.
Whil this side event has been a goal in itself, it is going to be also a starting point of the new process , a step further towards a new point of view and new awareness.
Now it is time for action. While it is good that some delegations have recently initiated youth issues in the Human Rights Council, meaning that a seed has been planted.
Now it is time to think about what is next, about the possible ways forward, shaping the coming progress, be it a cross-regional statement, a panel on the issue or a resolution at HRC level. The aim is to provide young people with all the necessary instruments to actively participate in society.
Young people want their voice to be heard, they want to leave their mark, and this point is illustrated by our flyer, recognised as “the best flyer” at the Council; and a flyer produced by one of our young volunteers.

“If you have no voice, SCREAM.
If you have no legs, RUN.
If you have no hope, INVENT.”

That we are young means we have the most to lose by standing idle.

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