At CSW 63, youth ask for increased investment, accountability and seat at decision-making tables

Date: Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Youth called on policy-makers to make commitments to gender equality and empowering youth at the  “Take the Hot Seat: A High-level Intergenerational Dialogue”. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown
Youth called on policy-makers to make commitments to gender equality and empowering youth at the “Take the Hot Seat: A High-level Intergenerational Dialogue”. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown

At a side event during the 63rd session of the Commission on the Status of Women, youth leaders from 100 countries urged political leaders and senior UN officials to make strong commitments that safeguard and improve access to social protection, public services and sustainable infrastructure for women and girls, including young women and girls, worldwide. Equally important, they said, was to engage young people in shaping the solutions that affect their lives.

At the “Take the Hot Seat: A High-level Intergenerational Dialogue” event, organized by UN Women, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Youth and youth partner organizations, youth participants presented a set of “common minimum standards” that emerged from the pre-CSW Youth Forum on 9 March. They posed questions to policy makers and Heads of State on how they propose to engage youth in policy discussions, improve social protection and public services for survivors of violence, and how they can ensure youth leadership in the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which will mark its 25th anniversary in 2020.

“We are here to ensure that our voices as young people are at the centre of conversations,” said Olaoluwa Abagun, founder of Girl Pride Circle, and moderator of the intergenerational dialogue.

The “Common Minimum Standards”, generated through discussion with over 500 young people from all over the world, represent the united voice of youth in demanding young people’s access to universal, rights-based social protection, public services and gender-sensitive infrastructure. 

The Common Minimum standards call for:

  • Substantially increased investment in social protection, public services and sustainable infrastructure, ensuring effective linkages and synergies;
  • Taking an integrated and holistic approach to social protection, as schemes are often short-term and change with political administrations, stifling progress;
  • Ensuring that social protection systems, public services and sustainable infrastructure are universal, rights-based and fully provided to all young people regardless of gender, race, ethnic or social origin, religion, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity and;
  • These systems address the complexity of the challenges that young people face today and incorporate a gender transformative approach that actively seeks to disrupt unequal gender norms and power inequalities, making sure that no one is left behind.

Geraldine Byrne Nason, Permanent Representative of Ireland and currently chairing the CSW, introduced the Common Minimum Standards during her introductory remarks to the CSW, calling on all governments to not only read them, but to bring them into policy discussions and negotiations.

“Your right is the right to challenge, and you do that in the common minimum standards, and I’m getting that message as chair,” said Ms. Byrne Nason during her turn on the “hot seat”. She encouraged youth participants to talk to their respective governments attending CSW63 and share the Minimum Standards with them before the final negotiations. “Your voice is your power,” she added.

During the Intergenerational Dialogue, youth called for concrete commitments from policy-makers on youth-related issues and the inclusion of young people in all levels of decision making.

Adriana Salvatierra, President of the Senate in Bolivia, highlighted Bolivia’s work to get more young people in politics, including by lowering the minimum age for candidates to 18 years, and the creation of political youth councils in municipalities.

“Having young people in public policy is not just an ideology,” said Ms. Salvatierra, the youngest to hold the position of President of the Senate in Bolivia. “My country understands that to build human rights and progress is a political decision.”

The policy-maker, representing Member State, UN agencies and the Commission on the Status of Women emphasized the critical importance of hearing youth voices, and pledged to make youth voices heard in decision-making.

“You are not part of the future, you are part of the present...You need to participate. You need to have your voices heard,” said Marta Lucía Ramírez, Vice President of the Republic of Colombia.

Deputy Executive Director of UN AIDS Gunilla Carlsson, spoke about UN AIDS work in changing harmful norms and practices and supporting youth participation in decision-making and community response. UN AIDS committed to building and strengthening partnerships for youth empowerment.

Ms. Carlsson also highlighted the importance of including the voices of those most marginalized and vulnerable into these discussions. 

“You are the first SDG generation. I dare you to be brave, not only for yourselves, but to speak up for those who cannot be heard or seen,” she said. “You are the generation that can make sure that we are leaving no one behind”.

Jayathma Wickramanayake, United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, also spoke about understanding the diversity among young people, and giving space for young women and men with diverse needs and an opportunity to speak up.

“We need to have targeted investments and targeted interventions to make sure those young people that are the most marginalized are included,” said Ms. Wickramanayake. “If there is no space at the table, we have to make our tables bigger and move our chairs and create space so the voices that were not heard before can be heard now.”

With the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action approaching, UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka emphasized the role of youth in leading the way forward in implementing the Platform.

“When we celebrate 25 years, my commitment to you is that you will be there,” said Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka. “You will speak for yourselves. You will tell us what you want and the future you want.”