Being a rather new representative at the UN took me back to first day in a school. When I was 16, I moved to the US for a year to live with a host family, learn English and to get familiar with another school system. I remember how I walked around with a map on my first day in my new school. There were so many people, so many groups to get to know as well as a new language and institutional terminology to get used to; AP-courses, NSL, JV.
At the age of 26 I was suddenly taken back 10 years ago and could feel the same mix of excitement and confusion I had back then. Entering the UN building on a New York Monday morning, enthusiastically trying to find the room where our first strategic session was and at the same time look self-confident was just like being back in 2005.
I had gotten the chance to represent YouAct at the Post-2015 Intergovernmental Negotiations (Follow-up and review). I have been to several UN-meetings before, mainly about the ICPD Programme of Action so speaking the UN-language is not entirely new for me, although it still seems like a foreign language from time to time. Luckily I was greeted by the Major Group for Children and Youth, who immediately took me in and guided me to the first meeting. I has always made me happy/feel reassured that most of the youth delegates at high level conferences, regardless of their level of experience, invite you to an open space where no questions are stupid.
It was like a jungle throughout the week to try and figure out how and where to make the most of your time. Before, during and after the main sessions there would be side events, strategic meetings with different groups and meetings with country delegations. In short, the meeting was about the follow up and review of the post 2015 development agenda, so language and arguments were a bit different than what I’m use to in the SRHR community. The negotiations were getting more and more technical, while unfortunately the mentions of young people were becoming less and less. What the talk was about was basically “accountability” of the SDGs – some countries find it to be very problematic to give countries more processes to report on and want to make it voluntarily for member states if they want to report or not. Hopefully
if this were to happen there will be a kind of peer-pressure (like with Universal Periodic Review -UPR) so that all member states would be required to report on progress and challenges.
Luckily countries were also mentioning the involvement of civil society and vulnerable groups in all levels of the review (on national, regional, global and thematic level) – and in this group we can argue is where young people belong and have a right to a fair space.
At the meeting I overcame my high school insecurity. I met with both the Norwegian and Danish mission in the beginning of the week, and by the end of the week I had also talked with the Icelandic and German mission, all with positive outcomes. An advocacy-lesson learned was that brining the same positive attitude that we had in the youth group with me was a great way to approach the missions. I thanked the German representative for hosting a youth conference earlier that month, I thanked the Icelandic representative for focusing on the involvement of civil society in the post-2015 development agenda and I thanked the Danish and Norwegian mission for their statements which involved a focus on gender equality. After the positive approach I asked them all to keep their strong focus and I let them know that many young people are following these processes, who will help keep the states accountable for what they promise.
Cecilie Morville, Denmark