Organisation Internationale de Droit du Développement

Human rights, democracy and rule of law: the role of youth

We live in a highly unfair and unsafe world and no one knows that better than young people, Irene Khan, Director-General of the International Development Law Organization (IDLO) told a high-level side event at the 32nd session of the United Nations’ Human Rights Council.  With growing inequalities, rising extremist violence, the warming of the planet and destruction of natural resources, she said, the young are being robbed of their present and their future.

The side event, held in cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), explored how youth can contribute to strengthening human rights, rule of law and democracy, and the obstacles and enablers to youth participation.

Kate Gilmore of OHCHR described young people as a most precious, untapped source of renewable energy, who want to be part of the solution. The question is not if we involve young people, she stressed, but how.

Ambassador Adrian Vierita, the Permanent Representative of Romania to the UN Office in Geneva, warned of the big mistake of not listening to young people, recommending bringing them on board in the decision-making process and benefitting from their expertise.

Veterans should mentor youth in politics, Faith Nafula Wafula, a member of the Commonwealth Youth Gender and Equality Network, told the participants. Political parties don’t take this seriously, there is a role for governments and parties in capacity building for youth, she concluded.

Young people have never been so politically active, echoed George-Konstantinos Charonis, Policy Officer on Youth Rights at the European Youth Forum, we need to reinvent politics to include young people.

The high-level panel also included Firoz Ali Alizada, a young expert on humanitarian disarmament and the rights of persons with disabilities, and Yves Leterme, Secretary-General of International IDEA and former prime minister of Belgium.

The event – organized by IDLO in cooperation with OHCHR and sponsored by Romania, Tunisia, Peru, Morocco, the Republic of Korea, and International IDEA – comes ahead of the UN Human Rights Council Forum in November on “Widening the democratic space: the role of youth in public decision-making.”  The objective of the high-level side event was for participants to identify topics and approaches to help shape the debate at the Forum on youth and public decision-making, calling attention to best practices, opportunities and challenges to be considered.

Report available below: IDLO's submission to OHCHR for consideration in the preparatory process for the 2016 Forum. 

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UN HRC side event: youth, human rights and rule of law