The Youth Issue: Young People Speaking their MindNo. 4 Vol. XLVII 2010
What do 1.2 billion young people think about a world whose leadership they are about to inherit? To find out, the UN Chronicle invited young persons between twelve and twenty-four years old from around the globe to take over its pages for this special Youth Issue. Read their opinions, concerns and suggestions on nuclear disarmament, on protecting child soldiers, on social media and the digital divide, adolescent marriage and sexuality, rights of indigenous communities, and more. The Youth Issue also features exclusive essays written by the UN Chronicle's Facebook audience on the Millennium Development Goals.
The ripples from the invention of the Internet in 1989 continue to spread, with industrialized countries at the centre and developing countries at the periphery. But, an information gap remains between the two groups of countries. As a consequence, the term digital divide has entered everyday language, describing the disparity between those who have access to the latest information and communication technologies and those who do not. However, it is important to explore the nature of the digital divide and of a social divide within each country between the information rich and the information poor.
I remember walking through the fields of the Canadian Plains on many occasions with my father. On one occasion, we were going to pick sweet grass blades that had pink roots and a distinctively sweet smell. I observed that, prior to my father picking the first blade of sweet grass, he reached into his tobacco pouch and grabbed a pinch, laid it on the ground beside the sweet grass he was about to pick, and closed his eyes as he made his offering to Mother Earth. The sincerity of the process was completely natural in that moment.
With the wealth of resources at the world's disposal, for this hymn above to represent the truth in 2015, the target year for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), would be a shame to humankind. It is not fair, therefore, to ask today whether the MDGs are achievable. It is not fair for the 925 million people who do not have enough to eat and the 1.4 billion who live in poverty. But most important, it is not fair because the world has what it takes to achieve the MDGs. What is lacking is a sense of urgency, the urgency that unceasingly drives the lives of those who suffer. While many regions are not on target for achieving the goals, there is so much to be hopeful for. There is much we have done, yet so much more we can do. And let us ask the crucial question -- why is there still room for hope?
The key to achieving the Millennium Development Goals lies in sharing resources, opportunities, and benefits, and in ensuring that those who wield power become responsible and accountable.
I could not believe my eyes when I walked through the narrow dirt pathways between the hundreds of rickety tin shacks in the township of Khayalitisha in South Africa. A beautiful African girl, not much younger than me, wearing a pale pink skirt that casually hung below her hips and a white, dirt-stained tank top, led me to Sekwamkele's hut.
The Conference on Disarmament (CD)* has met in vain for years. After the successful negotiation of the Limited Test Ban Treaty in 1963, the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1970 and, more recently, the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1992, the forum increasingly stagnated. The last time the Conference agreed to negotiate was in 1996 -- this time for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly but has yet to enter into force.
The goal I chose to focus on is MDG 1, eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, which has three target indicators: reduce by half the proportion of people living on less than one dollar a day; achieve full, productive, and decent employment for all, including women and young people; and reduce by half the proportion of people who suffer from hunger.
It wasn't an option, murmured a thirty-two-year-old woman with a troubled face who wished to remain anonymous. I felt her emotions so strongly that I wished I had a chance to change her life. I was the oldest girl among my sisters, she said, my aunt came to my father wanting his consent for my marriage to her oldest son. My dad could not let her down -- his politeness resulted in my melancholy. She was married at sixteen. Deep down, I knew she wasn't the only one. Somewhere out there, even in my country, adolescent females suffer from similar situations.
The United Nations World Youth Report 2007 stated that there are approximately 1.2 billion people -- 18 per cent of the entire world population -- between the ages of fifteen and twenty-four living in the world. Youth is a powerful force for change and youth activism is on the rise, with a lot of young people taking action for social transformation. Youth are engaging with their communities and making their voices heard. This activism is being carried out through a variety of media and is conducted differently in nearly every country in the world. Young people can choose to hold rallies and protests on the streets, attend public hearings, or even organize grassroots movements within their communities. Since the Internet is used by 30 per cent of the world's population, as some estimates have it, it has also become a preferred tool for young people to foster positive change.
Nearly every day on television or in the newspapers we see reports of natural disasters in different parts of the world, causing concern and alarm. Our planet is going through a most difficult time because mankind, in its eagerness to improve upon personal economic and living conditions, has forgotten that its actions cause pollution and uncontrollable climate change. According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, this term is used to refer to global climatic change that is directly and indirectly attributable to human activities that change the atmosphere's composition.
Sireen Tutunji and Gedalia Gillis are alumni of the Face to Face/Faith to Faith, annual dialogue and leadership programme for Jewish, Christian, and Muslim youth, planned and implemented by the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel, in partnership with Auburn Theological Seminary in New York. Programme participants meet biweekly in East and West Jerusalem in order to foster positive relations and tolerance of the other, and to develop dialogue and leadership skills. They also act together to benefit the Jewish and Palestinian communities in the city through volunteer work.
The Times They Are A-Changin' . Or are they? I believe times have already changed. More than we could have imagined. Our ability to communicate has changed dramatically in the last twenty years, from the advent of the mobile phone to the proliferation of laptop computers, and then the marriage of both into smartphones. As technology continues to advance into more versatile and effective ways to communicate, the way we use these methods are almost as complex as the devices themselves. This increases our scope and reach as individuals and, subsequently, as groups of individuals in search of a common goal or ideal. That's why, with the arrival of social media services across new technology sources, activist groups and social institutions alike are finding a changing way to spread their messages and organize their activities.
A team of girls from Gayaza High School in Kampala, Uganda, sat down to discuss water issues within the school and the surrounding communities with the deputy head teacher, Mr. Ddungu Ronald.
When I was a child, the neighbourhood children would gather on the street in front of my house to play dodgeball. With the hot summer sun blazing down on our backs, we raced from side to side, bending and twisting, to avoid getting hit by the ball. I enjoyed every second of those games.
Students in Lusaka, Zambia, learn about tuberculosis and resolve to sensitize their peers. We would like to share an experience that opened our eyes to some issues that most of us take very lightly. Our teacher, Florence Lutale, introduced us to a global programme in collaboration with the Genius Group of Schools in Rajkot, India, and schools in the United States to share our experience on global infectious diseases. The programme is the brainchild of GreenContributor, a non-governmental organization. We identified tuberculosis (TB), which is often overshadowed by HIV/AIDS in terms of publicity. While conducting research, we found out that not many students at the International School in Lusaka had been in contact with anyone suffering from TB. Many in Zambia believe that it is a disease infecting poor people, or those suffering from HIV/AIDS.
The question of one's sexuality transcends religious, racial, and cultural differences. Irrespective of skin colour, gender, gods worshipped, or how different cultures portray it, people everywhere explore their sexuality. Especially during adolescence, in a bid to discover and embrace who they truly are, questions such as what is sex? and who am I as a sexual being? plague the minds of young women and men as they struggle through the years between childhood and adulthood.
Millions of children around the world face the uncertainty of accessing quality education and consequently are left without a choice in what they wish to do with their lives. The goal of making education universal provides a way for governments to begin to settle the social debt owed to populations worldwide.
Water is a basic necessity of life, and it may seem inconceivable to imagine living without it. But the stark reality is that many people around the world do. The availability of fresh water for drinking and sanitation poses an urgent and challenging problem, particularly in many developing countries.
If a war breaks out, my child shall be protected, said Willson Khama as he lay dying from tuberculosis six years ago. Willson was only thirty-five years old and had spent almost half of his life as a child soldier with a guerrilla group in Liberia during the country's civil war from 1889 to 1996. He wanted to make sure that his son would never have to go through what he had experienced.
The world is on a deadline. The clock is ticking, and achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is a global priority for governments. There is no doubt that the fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS, global warming, and disarmament has received more coverage recently. But one issue that affects all, yet still goes under the radar, is hunger. That is why I will be focusing on MDG 1: eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.
Today, there are 1.5 billion people worldwide between the ages of twelve and twenty-four, with 1.3 billion living in developing countries - the largest generation of young people the world has ever known.