Youth Voices at the UN: Experiencing the first Interactive Youth Dialogue
By Veerle Dams, Advocacy Coordinator at CHOICE for Youth & Sexuality
On Monday 13th March 2023, an Interactive Youth Dialogue took place within the CSW67 program. This was the first time (ever!) youth had a formalized session within this important advocacy process. I got the opportunity to deliver a statement about the issues that young people face in relation to the priority theme as well as in their meaningful participation at the CSW.
I was very excited to be able to speak at this event, for which many youth advocates before me have fought to become a reality. The session emphasized that young people are a powerful force in driving social change. They have valuable insights, technical knowledge, innovative ideas, and the passion needed to create a better world. But even more important: they have the fundamental right to co-decide on issues that concern them.
However, the session didn’t feel interactive (it was more an endless stream of statement ‘vomiting’), and it was unclear what was being done with the input, leaving much to improve on the strategic value of the discussion and the meaningfulness of it. To create more meaningful and inclusive spaces at the UN, where youth voices are truly heard, valued and incorporated in the outcome document, we will be providing feedback to the Bureau on behalf of the Young Feminist Caucus.
You can read my final statement here:
As an independent youth representative, I would like to raise attention to the following four points:
- First, I want to speak about the importance of accessibility. In a world that heavily relies on technology, accessibility to technological devices, internet and data for all girls, adolescents and youth becomes key for ensuring their meaningful participation.
- Secondly, I want to emphasize the need for safety. Young women and girls in all their diversity are exposed to sexual and gender-based violence on a daily basis. This is the reason why we call for adding language on technology-facilitated sexual & gender-based violence in the agreed conclusions, as lacking this language would impose a barrier to denounce these issues.
- All of this brings me to my third point, which is digital content.
- We need access to comprehensive sexuality education, including accurate, transparent information about sexual and reproductive health and rights. Information is power, and information about sexual and reproductive health and rights means power over our own bodies.
- Lastly, for digital literacy, it is important to actively fight misinformation and disinformation which is currently predominant on the internet and reinforces itself, through algorithms. This concerns us, because algorithms create echochambers in which misinformation repeats itself like echoes, coming over and over again to youth.
- Finally, I would like to emphasize the need for more formal spaces within the CSW for youth. I call upon states to meaningfully include youth in delegations, as I am concerned about all the empty chairs in this room.
I have spent all weekend with youth, the ones who were lucky enough to overcome visa and funding barriers as they are mostly here on a voluntary basis. Youth advocates are hidden away trying to make the best out of informal CSW spaces but still feeling unheard and excluded. We do not want youth advocates ending up with Agreed Conclusions that do not reflect their rights and needs. We trust we will see the global youth and adolescent recommendations reflected in the text, and that MS will do everything they can to not water down language on girls, especially not in the context of their participation and decision-making, as well as language mentioning youth in all their diversity, so that we don’t forget that youth is a diverse group of people, who make up the majority of the population in the world!