The 9th Annual UN Student Conference on Human Rights (UNSCHR) will take place on November 29-December 1, 2006. Participants will explore the timely issue of “Migration and Development: Challenges for Human Rights,” as this year’s UNSCHR will follow the High Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development scheduled for September 14-15, 2006, at the beginning of the 61st General Assembly session of the United Nations. The conference also takes place just weeks before International Migrants Day on December 18th.
While all human beings, regardless of their migratory status, are entitled to the rights laid out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1976), too many find themselves in positions where these basic human rights are violated daily. Often unaware of their rights and unable to speak the language of their new country, migrants are particularly vulnerable to human rights abuses and exploitation. To safeguard the rights of migrants, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, which came into effect on July 1, 2003, to provide particular protection to migrants. As of August 1, 2006, 34 States have ratified the treaty.
Because migrant-related issues interrelate with many problems
we face globally today, resolving these issues is crucial
to the achievement of several Millennium Development Goals
(MDGs).1 While “international
migration, despite its breadth and magnitude, does not feature
prominently in the original framework of the MDGs . . .
both the migration and development communities are increasingly
aware of the close relationship between migration and development
and official UN documents and reports on the MDGs have started
to reflect this shift.” According to a report by the
International Organization for Migration (IOM) entitled “The
Millenium Develoment Goals and Migration,” migration
is most closely linked to the following MDGs: Goal 1: eradication
of extreme poverty and hunger; Goal 3: promotion of gender
equality and empowerment of women; Goal 6: prevention of HIV/AIDS,
Malaria and other Infectious; Goal 7: environmental Sustainability,
and most directly; and Goal 8: development of a global partnership
for development.2 As the number
of migrants continues to grow, the need to address related
problems on a global level becomes more urgent.
Prior to the conference, participants will conduct their own research on universal human rights and those specific to migrants, and share their ideas through a web-based forum on the UN’s Cyberschoolbus website. During the UNSCHR, student representatives in New York will work with students from other countries participating by videoconferencing and web-casting to develop a consensus on these issues and draft a Plan of Action. At the end of the proceedings on December 1, 2006, the chairperson of the conference will present the Plan of Action prepared by the Student Conference to the President of the UN General Assembly, and, as in past years, request its dissemination to UN Member States.
Background to the Conference
In December 1998, the United Nations Department of Public Information invited students from around the world to a conference at UN Headquarters in New York to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The conference goal was to produce the Youth Declaration of Human Rights.
This program at the UN was so successful that students lobbied to make the conference an annual event that would be scheduled to coincide closely with Human Rights Day (December 10th). The UN Department of Public Information agreed to host the conference. The Carol Baur Foundation, Global Education Motivators, InterConnections 21 and the UN International School in New York City were founding co-sponsors. A total of eight such annual conferences have taken place since 1998.
While the theme of the conference changes each year, the goals of this annual event remain the same: to promote awareness and learning and prompt action among student leaders about human rights in general, as well as the specific rights issues related to the current year’s theme. The conference is also an opportunity for student leaders to network and develop important leadership skills such as public speaking, team and consensus building, negotiating, and research and drafting. Finally, the conference provides participants with first-hand experience in using information technologies such as video-conferencing and web-casting.