This article is written as a diary piece, giving a personal view on the busy schedule of an IFLRY President. This article follows IFLRY President Christian Scharling on his trip to New York for the United Nations ECOSOC Youth Forum. Part one of this series, in which Christian travels to Strasbourg for the induction course of the Advisory Council on Youth 2016-2017 of the Council of Europe can be found here.
Saturday 30 January, 2016
07.10 local time Copenhagen, Denmark
Alarm clock ringing. After a busy week in Strasbourg, I’m off to New York for the United Nations ECOSOC Youth Forum. Before heading to the airport, I make it to the gym. When travelling a lot, I find it important to exercise – as such I often also go for a run or find the local gym when abroad.
11.45 local time Copenhagen, Denmark
Take-off. I’ve made it once again. This time I’m flying direct to Newark airport, which is about 45 minutes outside of Manhattan. My meetings will only start Monday, so I have the rest of Saturday and Sunday for private matters. When I have the option, I try to stay with local people. It saves costs for myself and IFLRY and is much more fun. When you’re in another country for just a few days, you really have to make the most of it. I use ‘couchsurfing’ online, but there are also other websites, where one can stay with locals. This time I will be staying in Brooklyn, a part of New York that has grown to be my favourite over the years.
Monday 1 February, 2016
First day of the ECOSOC Youth Forum. The United Nations has several bodies and institutions, the most important event of the year of the United Nations is the annual General Assembly taking place in the Autumn. Next to the General Assembly is of course the Security Council, which meets several times a year. However, besides the UN GA and Security Council, the UN is also governed by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) which meets annually in February. Several key institutions are under the supervision of the ECOSOC, like the Human Rights Council and the UN Women. It is also within ECOSOC that NGOs can apply for observer status within the UN and thus be able to contribute to various UN processes. IFLRY was for example admitted Special Consultative status with ECOSOC in 2014, after a long application process of eight years.
The ECOSOC Youth Forum is a relatively new measure from the UN, only started a few years ago. It aims to bring the diverse voice of young people into the ECOSOC agenda for the following days and the UN agenda at large.
As such IFLRY is invited to participate, because of our Special Consultative Status. In addition, IFLRY is also a member of the International Coordination Meeting of Youth Organisations (ICMYO). ICMYO comprises international youth organisations, ranging from conservatives, to socialists, to scouts, to medical students…, the ICMYO network has grown a lot stronger over recent time. As such, ICMYO is now part of the planning team for the ECOSOC Youth Forum.
ICMYO organisations were also invited to sit at the main floor, which meant that we were sitting next to UN member States representatives and could lobby directly with them.
The main theme of this year was how young people could help implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s), which were adopted at the latest UN General Assembly in 2015.
After the usual opening speeches in the morning, with the repeated famous phrase when dealing with youth, “youth are not just future, youth is also the present” – we finally got to business.
14.40 local time New York, USA
After a quick networking lunch, I have a panel to attend. For the afternoon the plenary is split into several panels on key UN priorities, like urban planning, social inclusion, environment etc. All these panels are supposed to look at how young people can help implement the SDG’s within the respective areas.
I have been asked to speak on the urban planning panel, on how young people can be included in local decision-making processes. As such, I speak about the importance of youth participation and the inclusion of young people in their local communities. For example, if the city council is planning to make changes to its urban planning policies, it should include the local youth organisations and youth workers.
The panel was led by the UNHABITAT (who deals with these issues) and other key international youth organisations.
19.50 local time New York, USA
After a long day at the United Nations headquarters, I got to a networking dinner. The talks centred around how the UN process for including young people in the SDG’s should be more realistic. For example, it almost seemed like the UN wanted all young people to commit to each individual goal of the SDG’s. As youth organisations, we saw our role more as being educators of what the SDG’s was about, making sure that youth can hold their governments accountable, and as such increase youth participation within their respective countries.
Tuesday 2 February, 2016
06.12 local time New York, USA
Rise and shine. Getting into Manhattan where the UN headquarters are located at from outer Brooklyn takes a long time. Today, is the last day of the ECOSOC Youth Forum and there will be a lot of dealings to get the final outcome text to correspond with the views of the youth organisations.
13.15 local time New York, USA
After another morning of speeches and information on how member States of the United Nations keep sure to include young people in the SDG process, several of us in the NGO sector made sure to look over the ideas for the outcome text and tried to feed into the last dealings before the closing of the meeting.
The outcome text of the meeting was presented by the President of the ECOSOC, who had also been chairing the plenary discussions of the Youth Forum throughout. The text included references to youth participation and young people’s important role in decision-making processes, a key focus area for IFLRY. Following the official closing, ICMYO and thus also IFLRY hosted a side-event to the ECOSOC Youth Forum at the UN headquarters. Despite the late time, several member States representatives, UN employees as well as key youth organisations attended the meeting. The meeting centred around how youth organisations in general could play a positive role in implementing the SDG’s. I was leading one the breakout sessions of the side-event, where people could feed into this process. After a successful side-event, all our events for the ECOSOC Youth Forum were concluded. I would depart again from New York the following day and thus had private plans in the evening. Another week of advocacy work on behalf of IFLRY had been successful.
Christian Scharling is the current IFLRY President. Elections for the IFLRY Bureau is foreseen to take place at the coming IFLRY General Assembly from 14-17 April, 2016 in Istanbul, Turkey. If you’d like to get in touch with Christian please email/tweet him at: firstname.lastname@example.org / @c_scharling