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"International conferences: inspiration needs action"
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"International conferences: inspiration needs action"

Mridul UpadhyayLarge international organisations tackle tough issues of development and piece, and increasingly give a voice to youth in that process. While commending the positive, Mridul Upadhyay, 22, a Commonwealth Correspondent from New Delhi in India wonders about the efficiency of large conferences that seem to yield more talk than action.

Sri Lanka was a remarkable host for the first UN World Conference of Youth (WCY) after hosting the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting and 9th Commonwealth Youth Forum in November 2013.

Youth support international sustainable development because they genuinely care. It is a matter of pride that youth are given proper and influential platforms of decision making. But a few reasons make it a little difficult to get excited about such world level events, conferences and forums.

International organizations feel proud of their progress, yet they reaffirm support for many unachieved objectives, such as the Commonwealth’s 43 year old Singapore Declaration for the first CHOGM; against poverty, inequality, humane rights, gender discrimination and environmental crises. So even after having the implementation plan, why do we need to discuss the same issues repeatedly?

Similarly, the UN Charter was signed 64 years ago. And since then, its decisions have been neglected and contravened many times. The glowing promise of international co-operation between the world’s nations has dulled in the context of a multi-polar world regulated, by and large, by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

Certainly, making change is not all rainbows and butterflies. It’s a tough, difficult business and a whole lot of work. But should the low output and inefficiency of the implementation process be neglected or compromised?

CHOGM and CYF appeared to be the biggest planning commission working for a widely discussed and recommended plan to be implemented by the Heads of Government. Young leaders were happy and excited about forming of the world’s first ever Commonwealth Youth Council (CYC). The ‘declaration by the young people of the Commonwealth’ was recognized and discussed in government heads’ meeting. As well, a partial supportive grant was assured for CYC.

But after scrutinizing the final communiqué of CHOGM, it is obvious that already recognized and perceived issues were conferred up and reassured. The CYF declaration notes and calls on the issues related to youth empowerment, socio-economic growth, quality education, gender and other systemic equality, health care and human rights. Likewise, the UN WCY declaration (Colombo declaration on youth) urges enhanced efforts on issues like poverty eradication, food security, inclusion of sport and culture, environmental sustainability, youth centered urbanization, disaster management, governance and accountability.

Now the question arises – which leader in a key influential position and having sensible knowledge can neglect the importance of these issues! If none, then what consideration has these declarations affected or addressed?

Another questionable point is the large gap between words and working. CYC proudly represents 1.2 billion youth in 53 commonwealth countries and hold the status of largest youth-led organization. But after completing six months as CYC deputy head of the media, publicity and public relations committee, I don’t feel proud while presenting the CYC half-yearly progress report. It comprises a few fancy speeches (again reaffirmations) given on various occasions by the CYC chairperson and one executive committee’s meeting to celebrate Commonwealth Day. Is it all that 1.2 billion youth expect us to do in six months on such a platform? Or is it because we just have a big name but not proper authority for implementation?

‘The Commonwealth’ is appreciated for its scholarship programs, online courses, events, various planning committees, other youth opportunities and international development work. But when Fiji and Pakistan were thrown out and Mugabe quit the Commonwealth, it couldn’t discourage inhuman unilateral actions.

Similarly the UN has been recognized for its successful world food program that gives food aid for 104 million people every year in 80 countries affected by with war, natural disasters, health emergencies and poverty. As well two Nobel peace prizes went to the UN High Commissioner on Refugees for helping 17 million asylum-seekers and refugees, UNICEF’s work for improving living standard of children, UN peacekeeping forces (16 currently active international missions) and other work for human rights, health care, population control, gender equality, safe drinking water and freedom of choice.

Still, on many occasions UN opinion has been ignored – during the Soviet Union attack on Hungary and Czechoslovakia in 1950s, Israel-Palestine conflict, Cuban missile crisis, Vietnam crisis, NATO’s bombing over former Yugoslavia, US invasion of Iraq, nuclear proliferation and a universal consensus to protect the deteriorating world climate. These offensive conflicts have caused more casualties, brutally neglecting every phase of development, than any international bodies’ humanitarian work can make over.

Then how can it be expected from the world’s biggest organizations to entertain recommendation of its committees and sub committees while these organizations are not able to stop unilateral action against world humanity and brotherhood, even with the support of more than 190 countries?

So what are these meetings, conferences and forums for? First, they are for teaching us cooperation and broadening our thoughts. Second, we cannot leave our efforts because “where there’s life, there’s HOPE.”

Photograph: Mridul Kumar Upadhyay

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About me:
A thinker, a social volunteer, a mechanical designer, a theater artist, a guitar player, a lyrics-writer, an amateur sketch artist, a cook, a traveler, a wannabe civil servant – there are many phrases I enjoy trying on me to describe what I see myself as.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit:
http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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