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Latin America’s Youth Must Have a Voice at OAS Summit

By: Kevin Itoiz - May 15, 2015, 8:20 am
Young people from various Latin-American countries gather in Buenos Aires.
Young people from various Latin-American countries gather in Buenos Aires. (Pan-American Youth Forum)

EspañolOn May 1, the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Center of Design was home to the first Pan-American Youth Forum, which brought together representatives belonging to various organizations from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, and Uruguay.

The forum was opened by Sebastián Schuff and Manuel Soto, of the Youth Front and the World Youth Alliance respectively. Afterwards followed a fascinating talk by Ursula Basset, who spoke of human dignity, drawing a distinction between the dignity that one has simply for human being, and that gained during the course of one’s life by self empowerment and self-realization as an individual.

The event had as a central theme the issue of human rights in Latin America, with various talks addressing the topic over the course of the first two days. Speeches and even video calls from Washington, DC, allowed attendees to get a glimpse into how international organizations function, and their role in the domestic policy of the nations that constitute them.

One of the most dynamic and interesting moments of this forum was, without doubt, the time dedicated to debates on three key topics: Youth, Sustainable Development, and Maternal and Reproductive Health. Delegates could choose to participate in one of these committees according to their preference, and work as part of a team to draw up a statement about the expectations and proposals that young people have with respect to these three issues.

Sustainable Development focused on the issues of education and work, poverty and the environment: concepts intimately related in development and growth, not only for developing nations but also those who have already made considerable socioeconomic progress.

Promoting quality education and dignified job opportunities, generating an infrastructure to meet the basic needs of individuals, and preserving and recovering natural resources were some of the key demands reached by this team.

The Youth committee meanwhile highlighted the fact that being young is not a virtue in itself, but rather a transitory stage. But for this same reason, young people must be active participants in making decisions, given that these will impact on their present and future lives.

Also mentioned was the importance of meeting basic needs in the first years of life; encouraging education and participation in political and civic questions; and designing methods to facilitate the transition into the world of work, such as tax breaks for companies that take newly qualified workers.

The forum closed on Sunday, May 3, with talks from the organizing institutions highlighting the importance of participating in these regional debates, and the impact they can have on participants’ countries, as well as mentioning the extensive grants available for those wanting to get further involved.

The organizers then read out the final document drawn up by the three working groups. This will be a pillar of the declaration made by representatives of the World Youth Alliance and Youth Front at the 15th General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Washington, DC, between June 7 and 9.

Those attending the event left with a strong sense of the importance of taking part in these kind of events. It’s vital to leave our comfort zone and meet with people who might have ideas and principles similar to our own, while learning and growing together despite our differences.

As young people our priority ought to be improving ourselves intellectually; developing key concepts; getting to know what ties us together; and discovering achievements beyond our usual boundaries.

As such, we’re calling on young people to join with their equally committed peers to work for common goals. The results can only be fruitful and inspiring for a generation hoping for a brighter future.

*This article was written by Florencia Abram and Kevin Itoiz, delegates to the Forum on behalf of Argentina’s Freedom and Progress Foundation

Translated by Laurie Blair.