From the floor, a lot of questions and proposal were raised about the involvement of the youth in the work of the General Assembly especially ahead of the Conference of Rio+20. Next year, the United Nations will convey a summit on sustainable development after 20 years from the Conference on Environment and Development. The role of the civil society will mark a milestone in the upcoming summit and youth organizations will represent the new generation who will face the challenges and the opportunities of the upcoming scenario.
|(Left to right) Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury, Senior Special Advisor to the President; Mrs. Hanifa Mezoui, Special Coordinator on Third Committee and Civil Society; H. E. Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, President of the 66th session of the General Assembly of the United Nations; H. E. Mr. Mutlaq Al-Qahtani, Chef de Cabinet and HE Mr. Tariq Al-Ansari Deputy Chef de Cabinet.
During the dialogue, youth organizations have expressed their dissatisfaction of feeling under-represented and not always listened at the UN. Youth is a crucial topic. Maybe for the first time in the UN history, the Organization faces an issue, or a cluster of issues, which goes beyond the old divisions between the North and the South of the world. Young people from the most developed economies are threatened by economic decline, uncertainty and high unemployment, while the youth of the developing countries, as it has been seen in cases like in the Arab Spring, demand democratic reform, transparency and a better use of the wealth. Contact points might be many. Another hot topic raised at the meeting was the Advancement of Women and the preparation for the next Commission on Status of Women. A young woman made the proposal of a new Beijing Conference. Many questions were raised on the access of NGOs to the work of the General Assembly.
There was also a proposal to be held a High Level meeting on "freedom of expression", which is also part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19. In contrary to that "freedom of religion" and "interfaith dialogues" have been greatly promoting on a regular bases and reached its peak through annual programs and several conferences and briefings. Yet, this is not the case for "freedom of expression", which with everything, starts, will start once "freedom of expression" is granted and protected equally worldwide each and every corner of the world.
Photo Credits: Lightmillennium.Org
Overall, the dialogue between the UN and the civil society faces several issues. On one hand, the UN is still facing the new concept of direct accountability of its decision-making process, which raises a problem of publicly displaying that process and be ready to interact with advocates and activists. Most member states have still a limited, if not negative, concept of civil society as an actor separated from the Government. On the other hand, there has been a proliferation of NGOs. Some of them bring worldwide structures and global concerns, while others have limited capacities and are linked to limited issues, if not local. Both sides are aware of those problems, and are willing to come together and intensify the mutual understanding.
In the view of creating a common strategy on how to shape the dialogue UN-civil society, Al-Nasser and his office commit themselves to tailor a role of facilitation, which will definitely help bridge the gap especially with those members who have been traditionally reluctant to engage with the non-governmental sector. As the NGO coordinator said at the end, there is less than a year left to the end of Al-Nasser's mandate. With the UN's biblical concept of time, this is a very limited timeframe, but the attempt will mark an irreversible path that the following Presidents will find difficult to overthrow.
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-Posted and updated on October 6, 2011.