Youth activists from Africa and Europe join the Inter-Parliamentary Union's General Assembly and call on government representatives to listen to young people. The 100 Million campaign has sent a delegation of activists, representing tens of millions of students and young people from Africa and Europe, to the Inter-Parliamentary Union's 2019 General Assembly in Belgrade, Serbia. Sofia Najid, the North African Representative for the All-Africa Students' Union, and Martina Darmanin, Human Rights & Solidarity Coordinator and Executive Committee member of the European Students' Union, are meeting parliamentarians from across the world to ensure that the voices of young people are heard, and to ask them to meet youth activists in their home countries as part of the 'When Will Every Child Have Justice?' campaign. The assembly, which will also celebrate the IPU's 130th anniversary, is a huge opportunity for youth activists to be heard by parliaments on every continent. Over 1700 parliamentarians, UN, and civil society delegates are participating from 40 countries, with over 70 Speakers of Parliament attending, as well as 40 Deputy Speakers. 30% of parliamentarians attending are women, and 17% are under the age of 45.
Sofia (image right) and Martina (image left), two of a handful of non-governmental participants in attendance, are also reminding the assembly of the importance of engaging young people in all decision-making processes. Half the world is under the age of 30, yet the average age of parliamentarians is 53, and still many countries ban people under the age of 30 to run for national office. Too often, when governments engage young people it is not organised or representative, and can exclude the voices of the most marginalised young people. This runs the risk of deeper discrimination and exclusion of children who are already at a disadvantage, such as child labourers, children out of school, or children who are fleeing from climate disaster or conflict.
Martina had the opportunity to address delegates at the assembly during a session focused on the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. During her speech, she noted:
"It's frustrating to see that with all that's been said and done these past 70 years there are still hundreds of millions of children exploited for child labour, or who live in high intensity conflict areas, and a staggering 258 million children who still do not have access to education... Sharing global wealth and resources is not an act of charity, it's a political responsibility. A responsibility that you as decision-makers have to ensure justice and equal rights to children who continue to be marginalised for reasons they had no part in creating, but reasons arising from decisions being taken at the highest levels of governance."
Ahead of the 100 Million campaign mobilisation, starting on Thursday 17th October, to demand 'when will every child have justice?', Sofia and Martina are calling on all MPs to meet with their youth constituents on 10th December, International Human Rights Day, and to work together with young people to finally deliver the rights to freedom, safety, and education that have been promised.
As Martina concluded in her speech:
"We are asking you national decision-makers to meet with us in your country and constituency and work with us on these issues. Answering this call is a political choice and we hope you will make the right one."
Find out more about the campaign here.