This week, I'm having a chat with Mr. Ravi Karkara who is a global advocate on the human rights based approach to Development and an advocate for social development, social inclusion and social justice. Youth participation has been a key focus of Ravi’s work for 17 years. Ravi is pursuing his research on “Inclusive Governance to Strengthen Accountability on Meaningful Youth Participation in social Justice. He is an Expert Advisor on Children & Youth, Partners and Youth Branch, at UN-HABITAT New York. We spoke about all things youth, ranging from youth participation in the international system and the World Youth Conference Sri Lanka is preparing to host in 2014.
Why is the World Youth Conference important?
The World Youth Conference will help to create, and add to the existing world discourse on youth. In the run up the conference we’ve been hosting various regional conferences (such as the African Youth Conference and the North Asian Youth Conference) and what we felt was that there needs to be an institutionalized mechanism to address the global deficit of leaders. It is also imperative that young people are seen in a more positive light in implementing the post-2015 agendas: not as a challenge but partners. I think it’s absolutely important that conferences of this calibre mirror local realities and address various issues such as minority rights, facilitate inter-generational dialogue, issues faced by youth with disabilities, youth unemployment, and social inclusion and encourage youth civic engagement. When the World Youth Conference takes place in Sri Lanka next year, it will be the first of its kind to have ever taken place in Asia and the first such conference in the global south.
Could you describe to our readers, what is to happen at the World Youth Conference.
The conference will comprise of a youth led steering group, the conference will be run by young people throughout and afterwards there will be a youth led follow up. We are also looking at implementing institutional frameworks to enhance skills of young people, such as an Asian Youth Academy. Once the World Youth Conference is over, it’s up to the Government of Sri Lanka to push the outcome document in the open working group.
How do you see the investments made by the Government of Sri Lanka in this area?
In Sri Lanka there is a large amount in investment to facilitate youth development and the government is making a consistent effort to create partnerships with young people. I always cite Sri Lanka as a case study for countries where there is large infrastructure and frameworks in place to enhance youth participation at all levels.
What role can the media play?
Well, I think the media is not doing enough in portraying young people as positive agents of change. When a young person is engaged in some criminal or anti-social activity the media is the first to report, but rarely do they focus of success stories, on inspiring action of young people who are helping us create change and achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
What has the UN done to ensure youth participation in the system?
The UN is doing its level best to ensure that young people’s voices are heard in its corridors and their opinions are taken seriously of. For instance when designing the post 2015 agenda, we held national consultations for young people, various thematic consultations focusing of various areas and online consultations. For instance only several week back United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed Ahmad Alhindawi of Jordan as his Envoy on Youth. Alhindawi is only 28, and he can relate to young people. Besides that the Ban Ki Moon as also prioritized youth in his focus areas, he also implemented the UN Youth Volunteers program for young volunteers.