Yesterday the president of Spire, Julia Dahr, attended a meeting in Oslo were Desmond Tutu, Gro Harlem Brundtland and Mary Robinson participated to discuss the challenges the world faces today. The meeting was supposed to be a dialog between The Elders and the youth on how to fight for global sustainability. Julia says that the idea behind the meeting was great, but the meeting itself was not that impressive. These are Julia’s thoughts after attending the meeting.
I was disappointed because the invited youth leaders did not get to be a part of the dialog, the message from The Elders was not on a structural and economic level and they did not at all challenge Norwegian politicians.
Only five youth present among 150 people
Before I continue to share my inner thoughts on yesterday’s meeting, I would like to thank The Elders for their goal of wanting to include, inspire and empower the youth. However, I do believe that to achieve these goals The Elders need to meet more youth when they are having so called youth dialogues.
Yesterday it was only five invited youth present at the youth dialog, and the rest of the 150 participants were adults. Even though The Elders had invited two youths from Nigeria and China to the panel to present questions and comments sent in by youth through Twitter, I would say that it is not a real youth dialog when the youth present did not get to raise issues.
Spire wanted to learn from The Elders
I am very proud of Spire being the first youth organization in Norway which started working towards the United Nations conference on Sustainable Development in Rio. We have inspired youths all over Norway in the fight for a more sustainable development. We have also given youths the opportunity to promote their demands to the Norwegian minister of development Heikki Holmås. Further on, we have started the fight for the establishment of a national Ombudsperson for future generations in Norway.
These are a few examples of the political work Spire is doing that I wanted to share with The Elders. Not to brag about all the things Spire is working on, but to get input and advice to how we should play our cards in the best possible way to succeed with our political goals of a more just and sustainable distribution of the world’s resources.
The youth did not get a chance to speak
I was looking forward to a dialog at yesterday’s meeting, but instead I felt silenced. I was not allowed to ask questions to Desmond Tutu or Gro Harlem Brundtland orally, but told to write them down and that they would be read out loud by the Chair later. Unfortunately, they never got that far. None of the questions us youth had written were ever answered, or even heard.
To empower the youth it is crucial that The Elders arranges for real youth dialogues. I hope that for the future dialogue meetings there are more youth invited to participate and that they get the chance to have an actual dialogue with the Elders.
More focus on structural changes
I have a great deal of respect for The Elders’ work and I really appreciate that they share their time and knowledge to fight for a more just world. I am also very happy that Spire is fighting side by side with the Elders to establish an Ombudsperson for future generations.
My question to the Elders is why they did not mention this at yesterday’s meeting? Why did they not talk about the necessary political solutions like Ombudsperson for future generations? Why did they not tell the Norwegian minister on Environment, who was at the meeting, that we need political action and that it is intolerable that Norway continues to pump oil that leads to climate change and is harmful to the Global South? I know that The Elders have strong opinions on how to make the sustainable world we need (they write very inspiring about this on their blog at www.theelders.org). However, yesterday they did not share any of the concrete solutions; their focus was on the problems that lie at the world’s feet.
Desmond Tutu, Gro Harlem Brundtland and Mary Robinson are looked up to, and they have an incredible power of definition. Why did they not use this power at the meeting yesterday to push to get solutions at system level? Instead they talked about how we, the youth, have to take responsibility. Yes, I totally agree, we will, but we would have appreciated a political helping hand from The Elders at yesterday’s meeting. Both Elders and Youngsters have to stand together to push the politicians. Desmond and Gro need to have the courage to speak up at such meetings.
Let us fight together across generations
The work The Elders are doing is incredibly important. We need visionary leaders and icons such as Desmond, Gro and Mary. However I wish to challenge The Elders to focus more on concrete system solutions and be sharper in their political message in future dialogue meetings. Last but not least, I challenge them to give youth a greater role in future youth dialogue meetings to create real youth empowerment.
Spire hopes The Elders will include the youth even more in the future. We have to fight together and go beyond talk about current problems, and start talking about concrete actions and solutions to create a sustainable future!