My name is Malin Johansson and I am elected as a youth representative by the National Council of Swedish Youth Organisations.
I too want to express my deepest condolences and sympathy to our neighbours in Norway. My thoughts are with all the young people who were at Utöya and all families and friends who lost a loved one. Dialogue and mutual understanding must defeat ignorance and brutality. It feels more important than ever in a time like this.
As a young person I very much welcome the theme of this conference. Dialogue and mutual understanding are always key factors in moving forward.
At the same time, just talking is not enough. We need concrete action in order for progress to be made.
Now it is up to you, decision makers, to prove that this is not just talk from your side and that you do intend to take concrete action. That means among other things to realise the World Programme of Action for Youth, adopted by the General Assembly.
There has been some discussion about WPAY in the negotiations of the outcome document of this conference. We firmly believe that the WPAY is a very good basis to work from. Any future revision of the programme must be preceded by
– a thorough evaluation of the programme,
– in-depth dialogue with youth and youth organisations and
– sufficient time for discussions in and between Member States.
However, until then, the implementation of WPAY must remain a priority for all Member States, as well as realising the Millennium Development Goals.
As previously mentioned, human rights are universal and apply to everyone, anywhere, at all times – without exceptions. Human Rights must serve as a basis when developing youth policies. A fundamental right is participation, which is something that lies very close at heart to me, as a young person with disability. Many young people today, with or without disabilities, consistently face marginalisation and exclusion. Everyone, regardless of disability, age, ethnicity, religion or belief, sexual orientation, sex, gender identification, or gender expression should have the same rights and the same possibilities to participate on equal terms. And what is more: the participation of young people has to be real and not just symbolic.
Youth participation needs to permeate all levels of politics. “Youth perspectives” can only be expressed by young people themselves and that is why youth-led organisations, are essential in achieving youth participation. Youth-led organisations must therefore be strengthened and encouraged.
It is central that the work for young people’s participation, influence, and power does not stop at national borders. Young people, through youth organisations must participate, influence, and hold power in international arenas as well.
That is why I regret that there are so few young people represented here today, especially since this is a conference on youth.
We have the right to contribute with our full potential, creativity, and strength here and now. Young people are no more the future than middle-aged people are the past.