Speaking Truth to Power - YouthUpUN at HRC 41

Speaking Truth to Power - YouthUpUN at HRC 41

July 31, 2019

Speaking Truth to Power - YouthUpUN at HRC 41


At the end of June, CHOICE took the YouthUpUN campaign to the 41st session of the UN Human Rights Council to campaign for meaningful youth participation. 


  CHOICE Youth Advocates with Danish Youth Delegates Marie My Warborg Larsen and Anja Søndergaard.



At the first week of the 41st session of the Human Rights Council, CHOICE stepped into the next phase of our YouthUpUN campaign. The aim of YouthUpUN is to have people in power recognise the power of young people and the importance of including us in decision-making processes. We want to set in place a structure whereby young people are not guests at the Human Rights Council, but are an integral part of the building blocks that shape resolutions. There should be a permanent space for young people, and we believe this can be achieved by encouraging countries to implement a formalised youth model at the HRC. 


We did this by meeting with delegates from 12 different countries to promote YouthUpUN and discuss with them the significance of the campaign. The countries we met with were; Austria, Slovenia, Mexico, UK, Sweden, Italy, Uruguay, Rwanda, Canada, Australia, Panama, and the Czech Republic. We explained that, without a physical youth presence at the Human Rights Council to talk about the issues that affect them, youth human rights will not be centralised or prioritised in resolutions, and will continue to be excluded. The SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) are intrinsically linked to Human Rights, and vow to ‘leave no one behind’, but that is what is happening to youth around the world and in the HRC. 


YouthUpUN came about as a response to the lack of youth presence at the UN Human Rights Council. At the HRC there is a lack of young people, not only in physical presence, but also in policy (see our factsheet for more information). Considering how many HRC resolutions affect youth; such as Violence against Women, Discrimination against Women, Labour Laws, Military Conscription and Climate Change, there needs to be a larger focus on youth. Otherwise, our human rights are not protected. 


Young people face high amounts of discrimination when it comes to adequate sexual healthcare. Due to the belief that young people should not be sexually active, they are often discriminated against and shamed for seeking services related to their sexual health (see our factsheet for more information). If Human Rights Council resolutions do not mention youth, there are no provisions to protect them. In this case, if there was direct mention to youth in a resolution that tackled (sexual) health, there would be systems in place that could officially tackle discrimination against young people and the consequences they suffer as a result. Recognition of youth human rights issues and action through resolutions can only help young people to prosper. 


CHOICE believes that having more young people at the UN Human Rights Council will lead to more youth inclusive resolutions, as youth can speak for themselves and can push for progress on the issues that affect them. However, there is a lack of opportunity for young people at the HRC currently. While there were young people present during the 41st session, they were very rarely holding positions that people listened to. They were interns and CSO staff. They had very little voice and very little allocated time to publicly tackle issues of youth human rights. One of the few exceptions to this rule was the Danish Youth Delegates; Marie My Warborg Larsen and Anja Søndergaard (pictured above), who gave a speech in front of all Human Rights Council members. 


The next steps for YouthUpUN are to hold a discussion in September with some of the delegates we met with, at the 42nd session of the Human Rights Council. Here we will discuss what they can do to implement a youth model, and to negotiate a commitment to the cause from them. If you want to help us, contact your country’s delegation on social media and let them know that you support YouthUpUN, and you strongly urge them too as well. 


To read more on our campaign, please click the link.