Empowering young people to participate in the promotion of their rights
The right to participation is one of the most important principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Yet, a “Global survey on youth and COVID-19” conducted by UN Human Rights, ILO and other partners demonstrated that young people have been hit hard by the pandemic. In particular, respondents from 112 countries, 18-34 years of age, observed the impacts of COVID-19 on their right to participation in public affairs and peaceful protests.
Consequently, many young people channelled their creativity into countering the spread of the virus and raising awareness in their communities. Respondent Nikhat Akhtarp, from India, wrote, “I am fighting against the spread of misinformation and fake news about COVID-19.”
As noted by a report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on youth and human rights, “Investing in young people’s rights and empowering youth can lead to more equal societies and positive social change” (A/HRC/39/33). To participate effectively, young people must be given the proper tools. During the year, UN Human Rights worked to ensure that human rights were more relevant, accessible and useful to young people in the Asia-Pacific region, enabling them to play a vital role in their own development and that of their communities.
In the Pacific, the Office built the capacity of 25 youth representatives to use the international human rights mechanisms and fight for stronger climate action. Sunishma Singh, of the Fiji Youth Council, participated in this initiative: “Knowing there are human rights mechanisms out there that can be used to hold States and private sector actors accountable for the climate crisis strengthens my resolve to fight for climate action,” he said. Singh and his peers are leading movements to participate in and guide the political debate on climate change.
In Cambodia, UN Human Rights and six youth rights associations organized the Youth Human Rights Champion Competition. Six youth groups, with participants aged 15-23 years, were selected to produce two-minute videos on human rights that are relevant to them, including the right to vote, the right to education of sex workers’ children, the right of vulnerable groups to participate in public affairs, the rights of migrant workers and equality between women and men. The videos can be accessed on the UN Human Rights-Cambodia Facebook page.
In Papua New Guinea, UN Human Rights and the HRA partnered with a CSO to launch an innovative initiative in selected schools entitled “Human Rights Games,” enabling students to learn about and promote their rights.
The voices, creativity and engagement of young people can help shape more inclusive, equal and resilient societies. UN Human Rights is taking steps to make their fundamental right to participate and be heard a reality, including in the context of the COVID-19 crisis.