Donnerstag, Juli 26, 2007


European Consultation and Consultation with the African Youth Diaspora living in Europe

“About half of the world’s armed conflicts and some three quarters of the UN’s peacekeepers are in Africa. This is because millions of Africans are still at the mercy of brutal regimes; showing no respect for human rights, or even human life.” These are the words of former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, spoken at the celebration of the 89th birthday of Nelson Mandela, in Johannesburg, yesterday. Mandela turned eighty-nine on 17 July, with a party held yesterday, 22 July.

Nelson Mandela was using his birthday to launch a new organisation of former world leaders that is to tackle some of the world’s most pressing problems - a so called “world council of elders” to take on big issues such as AIDS and global warming.

According to a statement from the organisers, the group will contribute their wisdom, independent leadership, and integrity to address some of the world’s toughest problems: it is a big idea with powerful people behind it.

Although it’s not yet clear who will serve on the council, among those attending the launch yesterday were the former Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, Desmond Tutu, Kofi Annan, former US President Jimmy Carter, and the former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson.

Whilst it is a noble idea, and while the fight against hunger and poverty undoubtedly needs the mobilisation of all who are prepared to participate, I think it is therefore vital, that we young people join this fight.

I am certain that we do not have to call ourselves ‘wise’, but our organisations must be independent and fight all infringements on our autonomy and we need to remain upright in our belief in peace and cooperation. Our work here over the following days needs to multiply within and across our organisations, and needs to reach out to our constituencies - and in turn, to the heads of states and government of the European Union (EU) and the African Union (AU). At the end of the day it is good if retired politicians pull at the strings of power to help realise a better world, but what we do here in Marly-le-Roi needs to matter more and for longer, otherwise we have failed.

The cost of combating hunger and poverty worldwide is, according to the United Nations, approximately 195 billion USD a year. Twenty-two countries pledged to work towards each giving 0.7% of their gross national income to international aid – which the European Youth Forum (YFJ) is convinced is too low a proportion in any case, but which would raise the $195 billion. While some countries have been slow to meet their pledge, only five countries have already reached the goal of 0,7%: Sweden, Luxemburg, Norway, the Netherlands and Denmark. Shamefully, some countries have not even scheduled a time frame for when they want to reach their pledge – for example, Switzerland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and the United States.

While the list of problems that need to be tackled continues to grow, the willingness and enthusiasm of young people to contribute to the global partnership for development remains unbroken. As it is imperative that all possible means and tools are mobilised to achieve the MDGs – it is therefore evident that we young people must be at the forefront when it comes to being consistent, coherent and accountable in our work. We must not fall into traps of bad governance of our organisations and campaigns, we must act according to our own claims and demands, and we must do this together.

Which brings me to the work that we will be doing over the next two days, as we work in eight different workshops – all of them key to a joint strategy for Africa–Europe cooperation.

The Millenium Development Goals
The slow and delayed progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals is, frankly speaking, a major disappointment for all, and particularly, for the youth of the world: this failure in acting to solve humanity’s most agonising problems is unsatisfactory and dangerous. As youth organisations, we comprehend our responsibility and duty to hold governments accountable for their actions and their inaction in this regard.

Approximately 25,000 people die every day from hunger or hunger-related causes, according to the United Nations. This is one person every three and a half seconds. Unfortunately, it is children who die most often.

Yet there is plenty of food in the world for everyone. The problem is that hungry people are trapped in severe poverty; they lack the money to buy enough food to nourish themselves, and being constantly malnourished, they become weaker and often sick. This makes them increasingly less able to work, which then makes them even poorer and hungrier. This downward spiral often continues until death for they and their families. The MDGs are a global partnership for development that are supposed to break this vicious cycle.

Good Governance & Democracy
Respect for the rule of law, pluralist democracy, the protection of rights and property, fighting corruption and promoting good governance – these are all essentials for a sustainable future. We young people have to show this ourselves, by maintaining transparent and accountable decision-making in our own organisations, ensuring our organisations act as true schools for democracy, and assuring our legitimacy to ask the same from governments.

Peace and Conflict
As armed conflicts proliferate around the world, increasing numbers of children and young people are exposed to the brutalities of war. In numerous countries, boys and girls are recruited as child soldiers by armed forces and groups.
In the current political environment, the dominant theme in political discourse is security, and immigration is seen as a growing threat to economic stability and security. Unfortunately – when European politicians talk about security, they do NOT think of development cooperation and creating the conditions for peace – which would mean decent jobs, quality education, clean water and environmental protection. They think of a policy of deterrence to make sure only highly qualified migrants enter Europe, not understanding that as long as there are unstable countries and armed conflicts there will not be security.

Globalisation, Trade and Socio Economic Development
Without developing solutions to the negative impact of a both protectionist and imperialist trade policies, Europe is not only exporting poverty, environmental problems and instability to other countries, but we are also aggravating problems.

Existing trade barriers, agricultural subsidies and restrictive rules on intellectual property rights reinforce global inequities and make a mockery of our tall claims to eliminate hunger and poverty from our world.

Corporate social responsibility is the continuing commitment by business to behave ethically and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families, as well as of the local community and society at large. As such, I am looking forward to the panel discussion on Public-Private partnerships for development, taking place tomorrow.

Climate Change and Sustainable Development
Sustainable development is defined as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Global pandemics, climate change, natural disasters, poor soil conditions, and deforestation — all these are issues at the heart of sustainable development, and ignoring them could have many possible consequences: such as rising sea levels, extreme droughts, erosion and loss of forests, increases in slum populations (noting that the majority of slum-dwellers are under 25), species extinctions and collapsing fisheries. There is also increasing evidence that issues such as water scarcity play a role in internal violence and regional conflict. I assume these are all scenarios that we want to avoid, so we have to fight these trends.

Migration, Mobility, Intercultural Dialogue and Co-development

The planned European common system for immigration and asylum focuses almost exclusively on ever-tougher deterrence by violent means and deportation beyond judicial control.

It is illusionary to believe that the stream of immigrants trying to enter the EU can be halted by increasingly excessive means of violence: we must counter this dangerous claim vigorously. Policies relying on violent deterrence will only raise the death toll, but won’t stop immigration.

Intercultural Dialogue seeks to approach these multiple viewpoints with a desire to understand and learn from those that do not see the world in the same way. A good ‘dialogue’, therefore, is an enriching and opening interaction which encourages the respectful sharing of ideas and an exploration of the different thought-processes through which the world is perceived and understood.

Employment and Decent work Agenda

Having a job does not only mean receiving an income, it often means dignity for a person and his or her family and it leads to stability of communities. Having a decent job not only means an income, but also the right to organise into a free trade union, removing glass ceilings for women, having social security and protection: having a decent job means working in dignity.

In many countries legislation to safeguard decent work conditions does not exist, but even where it does exist, governments often fall short in implementing the commitments made and international institutions lack mechanisms to enforce decisions taken.

Strategy and Instrument for Euro-African Youth Participation and Cooperation

The EU Common Agricultural Policy requires further reform - urgently. This is not only indispensable for larger investment in education, research and development, but it must also be the basis for fair trade relations and development cooperation with other world regions.

Exchange programmes, scholarships, job shadowing and development cooperation are just some areas where Euro-African Youth cooperation needs to be strengthened.

This consultation is a first step to such increased cooperation as it seeks to demonstrate the good practice of working together with representatives of the African Diaspora; similarly, I would like to thank those organisation that held national or internal consultations before coming here.

I’d also like to stress how integral this cooperation is for this process, by using the Zulu maxim “umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu” — meaning, in essence, “a person is a person through other persons.” The practice of ubuntu is fundamentally inclusive, involving respect and concern for one’s family and one’s neighbours. Ubuntu defines the individual as a component of a greater inclusive collective whole, and it stresses social consciousness and unity: it is with this spirit that I’d hope us to engage in this conference. Furthermore, it is our multitude of experiences that can make this event a success.

It is my conviction that we have to fight and negotiate if we want to change something, and that such fights are only possible when we are organised and work together. Africans and Europeans must work together to fight against conflict, hunger, poverty, disease, water shortages and environmental degradation, and as such, I wish us all a lot of success for this consultation and for the plentiful action to follow.

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