Statement by German Youth Delegates to 52nd Session of Commission on Social Development
"Distinguished chair, honourable delegates, dear fellow youth delegates,
Today we are addressing this High Commission as the two German youth delegates. However, we do not speak for ourselves but for 20 million young people below the age of 25 living in our country. At the beginning of the negotiations for this year’s Commission for Social Development we would like to elaborate on two main topics.
Firstly, we would like to emphasize the fundamental meaning of families for young people. Families can give meaning to our lives and ideally are a place of love, mutual responsibility and confidence. Still, families can unfortunately also be a place where fundamental human rights are violated.
Secondly, we would like to seize this opportunity to give our view on this year’s priority theme ‘empowerment’ and the importance of international youth participation. This year marks the Twentieth Anniversary of the International Year of the Family. Families have always been a core part of any society all over the world. It carries deep meaning for human kind as its structure offers protection, reliability and continuity in our fast-paced and ever-changing world.
Yet, family can also be a place of violence, injustice and the denial of fundamental rights. Be it early or forced marriage, femicide, sexual abuse in marriage, child abuse, honour killings or the fear of confessing one’s sexual orientation to the family – the list is almost endless. However, we are firmly convinced that human rights must apply everywhere, also within families. Families are in most cases the starting point of an individual life and hence human rights have to be respected and lived especially within families.
One human right in this regard is the freedom of choice to start a family. A life of dignity includes the freedom to lead a self-determined sex life regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity and without coercion, discrimination or violence. It is one’s personal choice and responsibility whether and when to sleep with someone else with or without intending to start a family. We must guarantee that everyone is informed about and has access to safe, effective and affordable methods of fertility regulation. In the end, sexual rights are human rights. We call upon the international community to globally promote sexual and reproductive health and rights. It is simply not acceptable to us that the United Nations still cannot agree on this fundamental right. With regard to the post-2015 agenda we therefore demand that sexual and reproductive health and rights should be included.
What our global society should also strive for is greater respect for diverse family models such as single-parent, patchwork or LGBT families. All models of human coexistence must be treated equally and no one should judge whether a family model is right or wrong.
Family can also be a place of living intergenerational solidarity – where young people can count on the support of the old, the old on that of the young. In Germany, just as in many developed countries, the society’s demography is undergoing dramatic changes. This raises new challenges such as justice between and within generations, notably in the field of old-age pensions, democratic representation and access to the labour market. Therefore we demand government policies to be fair to all generations – whether old, young or the ones to come.
This year’s priority theme is the empowerment of people. We understand empowerment as increasing the capacities of an individual to take free and informed decisions and to actively participate in society. This process requires significant changes in power relations. For empowerment to be effective all members of society need to actively participate to ensure a fair distribution of power. To name but one example, the empowerment of girls and women requires the active participation of boys and men. Empowerment, in the end, should not be seen as merely promoting one group but as a means to create a society that is more equal, fair and just to everyone.
Empowerment is also the key to greater participation in society. We as young people want to take part in the decisions that shape the world we live in. We therefore demand that the voices of young people are taken more seriously on all political levels to ensure sustainability in decision-making. At UN level, new mechanisms, such as a Permanent Forum on Youth, must be explored. At the same time existing structures, especially the youth delegate programmes, must be strengthened. Honourable Delegates, take a look around you and count the youth delegates in this conference room. Unfortunately, you will not need more than two hands to count them.
The youth delegates that are present today, are eager to see changes. Here at the UN, we understand that it is often challenging, at times frustrating, to find consensus among such a diverse family of nations. The diversity of the United Nations should, however, not be an excuse for inaction. It might sound very simple but if we want to bring positive change to the world, we need to be ready to change ourselves.
Distinguished chair, honourable delegates,
We have presented ambitious ideas for a more equal, just and inclusive global community. Within the upcoming days we have the chance to translate some of these ambitious goals into action - first on paper, then in people‘s lives. However, this is only possible if we are willing to agree on new language, for example in regards to modern family policies and reproductive health and rights. As the youth delegates, we appeal to you: We do not want another debate with the same old words, the same old ideas and the same old arguments. Let us work together to prove: We might be different but we can also make a difference.
Thank you for your attention."