A youthful boost for world governance

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Source: Foraus

By Nataliya Borys, translated by Aymeric Jacquier.

Would you like to communicate directly with the Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva about global issues? Do you think this is practically impossible? Well, the think-tank Foraus and the Global Studies Institute made this possible for an evening.

The debate “a youthful boost for world governance” took place on November, 28th 2016, in Geneva with the UNOG Director-General, Mr. Michael Møller. The aim of this event was to adopt a participative approach and to allow everyone to share their ideas, sent by text message beforehand and displayed onscreen. The event represented a unique opportunity to discover innovative views and to give the floor to young people.

The conference also welcomed Sebastian Justiniano, President of UN-Switzerland Association; Yuliya Kaspiarovich, a teaching assistant at Global Studies Institute (GSI); Emilia Pasquier, the Director of Foraus; René Schwok, Director of GSI and Xavier Colin, journalist and founder of Géoconférences. The event was also attended by many students.

Pessimistic or optimistic about world governance?

15179179_10154727338168770_8557478289759260473_n“I’m pessimistic about world governance”, said René Schwok at the beginning of the conference. He later justified this defeatist attitude by explaining that superpowers do not respect their commitments anymore, and flouting human rights and laws. However, should we give in to pessimism?

“Definitely not”, replied Michael Møller. “I am a born optimist, and there is still hope”. According to him, constructive debate and exchange are essential, in a time marked by the creation of contestation movements outside governance structures and institutions at local, national and international levels. Many still wonder if speaking of world governance is still relevant when the reality we are witnessing on TV or in a newspaper seems closer to anarchy than well-structured governance. “I do not fully agree with this assessment of the situation”, he went further, “The work of International Geneva institutions – including UN Agencies, NGOs, academic institutions, private sectors and others – and its positive and direct impact on the life of people in this room and everywhere in the world every day is the best example of a part of an efficient governance system.” [1]

As M. Møller suggested, we are facing very quick and deep changes: “tragic conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, in several African countries and even here in Europe, in Ukraine, show us that political structures of world governance have not managed to efficiently resolve all disagreements of the 21st century. The nature of conflicts has changed and we have to adjust our institutions. The lack of efficient tools to solve those conflicts has led to relentless crises. There are five-year-old children in Syria who have never lived in peace. This has a deep impact on the future of the youth.” [2]

At the same time, the participation of youth in sustainability is a crucial issue. As Mr. Møller highlighted: “These challenges require international solidarity and a more integrated and more inclusive approach. Every individual should have a more important role in world governance in the 21st century. Young people in particular. You are part of the biggest generation of young people in history. In 2015, there were 1.2 billion people aged from 15 to 24 – that’s one in six people. As a group, you have a huge potential power.” [3]

So what is the best way to mobilize young people?

15219450_10154092048742215_2078146048176221360_nSo what is the best way to mobilize young people? According to Emilia Pasquier, Foraus is a response to young people to engage in world governance, because the association now has more than a thousand members and gives young diplomats the opportunity to express themselves. Julia Kasparovych, speaking on behalf of GSI, underlined the fact that university is also one of the first places where to mobilize youngsters.

Whereas it is quite easy to conceive that the associative and university world are places to raise awareness among young people in particular, what about the UN and decision makers? Should we impose quotas, as is the case in the UN to respect gender equality? Sébastian Justiniano and M. Møller are quite reluctant to this measure, as the notion of youth in business and in the world of work remains hard to define.

On the issue of demotivation among young people, Emilia Pasquier mentioned the difficulty to pursue a political career for the Swiss youth. There is a structural problem for her because Swiss parties are highly hierarchically structured. She quoted an example of success in Europe: the Danish Parliament, considered as one of the youngest. [4] Additionally, one of the thorniest questions was asked: the issue of the growing number of unpaid internships not just in Europe, but also within the UN. “It is a recurrent and depressing question”, said Mr. Møller in a sigh. “I would personally pay my interns, but member states would not allow me to do so”. [5]

Universities and NGOs as starting points.

The speakers agreed on the fact that institutions like universities and NGOs can be the starting point of initiatives by young entrepreneurs, at economic or societal levels. Yulia Kasparovych went on to explain that UNIGE and GSI propose a whole range of courses and trainings about civic activism. Amongst the initiatives that were mentioned is an excellent program, InZone,[6] about the re-education of refugees, which now includes new social media, like Facebook and the Internet, within this framework too.

The debate ended with the question of representation of young people in official institutions. According to Emilia Pasquier and Yuliya Kasperovych, some progress has been recorded, especially thanks to new digital participation platforms. The university and research world also gave the floor to young researchers and students through published research. Sébastien Justiniano underlines the importance of civic education in a sense that “one is not born a citizen, one becomes one.”

So “youthful boost” or not?

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Source: Foraus

So “youthful boost” or not? Louis Bertrand asked the participants. M. Møller declared he had “entered a new era”, referring to the name of the conference, and reaffirmed the usefulness of this discussion. According to him, the world is heading towards a new model of participative governance, a world of shared responsibilities.

As expected, opinions were diverse among the other participants and the audience. While some found the debate refreshing, others were more skeptical. A student expressed his doubts regarding the change of perspective. He stressed as well the necessity to deal with issues like social media, new ways of information sharing and persuasion, including in terms of global governance. Someone else noted that the demands of the professional world and society in general, which value experience, tend to undermine young people’s value in decision-making. At the same time, mentalities are persistent and the system is slow to change. Was René Schwok right to remain pessimistic?

In the end, one participant made a point of highlighting the existence of GIMUN and the Youth European Parliament in Geneva. In fact, one of our organisation’s main objectives is to allow youngsters to hold the floor in the discussion of current world issues!

[1] “Global Governance: what role for the youth ?”, speech by Mr. Michael Møller, http://www.unog.ch/unog/website/dg.nsf/(httpSpeechesByYear_en)/B37C3ADC31CDF4DCC125807A003DDAC7?OpenDocument&year=2016&navunid=DA1302D9298CEF1E80256EF700760B0B

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Bertel Haarder “La politique de jeunesse danoise. La démocratie du Danemark est construite sur ses jeunes. » https://www.coe.int/t/dg4/youth/Source/Resources/Forum21/Issue_No11/N11_YP_Denmark_fr.pdf

[5] See articles “Is the situation picking up for unpaid UN interns?” http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/working-for-free_is-the-situation-picking-up-for-unpaid-un-interns-/42062120; “High costs force unpaid UN intern to live in tent” http://www.thelocal.ch/20150811/unpaid-un-intern-forced-to-live-in-tent

[6] More about the project see http://inzone.unige.ch/index.php?module=content&type=user&func=view&pid=7

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