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African Youth at the UN World Summit! Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Vidar Ekehaug, Norway Nov 7, 2005
Child & Youth Rights , Human Rights , Culture   Interviews
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African Youth at the UN World Summit! Hellen Tombo from Kenya was one of only two youth delegates to the World Summit at the United Nations in September. She was able to get on the Kenyan delegation that traveled to New York. Hellen came to represent the people of her country, the youth of the world, and also the Global Call to Action against Poverty (GCAP), for which she is the Youth Co-Chair. Below is an account of her experiences.

How did it feel to be a youth delegate to the World Summit??

This was a history in Kenya and I believe in many other Africans Countries to have a young person as part of the Government delegation. This made me believe that there is nothing we young people cannot do or there is no place that we cannot go. I felt very privileged to be one of the two NGOs representative appointed by the government as delegates. I told myself that this was one chance and I was not sure I would ever get it again, and I promised myself to utilize it to a maximum level. I ensured that I painted the corridors with the youth spirit and messages. I felt responsible for all the world youth.

It also made me feel as if there was a heavy pressure knowing that there were few young people as delegates and so much was expected from us. I feared that there was too much for me to lobby. I felt responsible to have the youth voice heard as much as possible. I felt that I owed it to all the youth that in the world.

How were you able to get on the Kenyan delegation?

From the beginning of the year, from my organizational level, I lobbied and advocated for the youth to be included in all the processes on the MDGs. Our persistence made us recognized by the NGOs and Government teams. When it was time for the Government to constitute a National committee to develop the Need Assessment as well as the Country report, we did not miss the chance to have the youth issues incorporated. We never missed their meetings, we worked so hard to have our thoughts and ideas put in. When it was time for the ministry to appoint the delegation, they appointed the most active and persistent and those who had lobbied and advocated for their needs without giving up. They also wanted to fulfill their earlier promise that they were to involve women and the youth.

What was your role in the delegation during the Summit?

As an Adviser to the President I was expected to advice on the draft outcome document and any other matters that were arising from the meetings. I was expected to participate in all meetings and negotiations that were taking place. I ensured that I participated in the majority of them. I also participated in the Kenyan Side event on the MDGs. Finally, my role was to ensure the country needs were heard and accommodated.

To ensure that the youth issues were discussed, heard and incorporated. I was feeding the Kenyan youth network on what was going on. I also made sure I took every opportunity of any media interviews such as BBC to bring out the youth issues and concerns very clearly.

Civil Society (GCAP):
As a member of the Civil Society community known as GCAP, I was the link or intelligent from within, media spokes person as well as ensuring that I participated in all the meetings to try and influence what was been discussed. I was also expected to lobby the ministers, ambassadors and other delegates, feed them with information from the outside and vise versa. I also gave speeches in various forums outside the UN informing them on what was going on inside e.g the Inter Faith Vigil.

Did you feel your voice was heard?

Yes and No.
YES; I forced, insisted and persisted for my voice to be heard. I spoke to as many people on the corridors, in the meetings and in the delegations, as I possibly could.
NO; I felt that most of the negotiations that were taking place were governmental issues, and it was hard to bring out specific youth issues in these meetings and negotiations.

How will this experience benefit the work you do in your country?

One thing for sure, the Government has to fulfill what they committed themselves to doing at the UN. I was there and I know what was signed, I will make everyone aware and we will lobby and advocate that it is done. I am now very clear on the core issues to lobby and advocate for. I am very well informed and I will ensure that the rest are informed to. We are convening a youth network meeting to disseminate this information. This will definitely simplify what we have been trying to achieve.

Are there any things you think could have been done better?

It would have been very helpful to know which other young people were among the delegations. This would have made us have more impact and a better strategy to influence the processes.

A major impact on Youth issues would have been felt if we had youth intelligent briefings organized by the youth networks in the US every single day to feed the youth delegates on what they were to lobby for.

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Vidar Ekehaug

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Youths Ahead! | Apr 28th, 2008
really interesting.. ludewic..

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