LAPC report by Lydia GUTERMAN
“We don’t just want our voices heard. We want to be part of the process.”—Youth activist
This session was designed as a discussion among four young HIV activists - from Mexico, Nepal, South Africa, and Australia - and four ‘adult leaders’: Anthony Lake, the head of UNICEF; Michel Kazatchkine, head of GFATM; and the Aaron Motsoaledi, Minister of Health of South Africa. Motsoaledi cancelled at the last minute, sending the Deputy Minister of Public Health Works of South Africa instead. The youth on the panel and in the audience expressed collective disappointment that Motsoaledi’s absence. They questioned his commitment to youth, and asked how he can expect to combat HIV/AIDS and protect the human rights of young people in his country if will not prioritize a youth-led conference session.
Youth implored the adult panelists to move beyond tokenism towards diverse and meaningful involvement of youth at all levels in decision making. Of particular concern were situations in which adults representing youth take the place of actual youth on decision-making platforms. Kazatchkine committed to addressing this problem with the GFATM Board and reporting back on progress at the next IAC. Already, GFATM has a youth board member, and there are youth representatives on the CCMs of 48 of the 120+ recipient countries. Kazatchkine encouraged all UN agencies to recruit youth board members.
A youth activist from South Africa emphasized the need to ensure the participation of rural youth in policy processes. The Deputy Minister agreed that more needed to be done in this realm. Two young women perinatally infected with HIV asked Anthony Lake to ensure that UNICEF prioritizes protecting the rights and needs of this oft-overlooked group, particularly their right to quality education. A young activist from Nepal emphasized that the rights of young people who use drugs are summarily violated and their voices are not heard. He asked Anthony Lake how UNICEF will work to ensure harm reduction services for young people who use drugs. Lake did not address the question but said some UNICEF national committees have youth on their boards and have committed to work harder on youth involvement. Youth activists appealed to UNICEF to reestablish the MARP youth advisory group as part of a commitment to meet the needs of LGBTQ, MSM, drug user and sex worker youth in UNICEF policies and programs.
Youth report by Roli MAHAJAN
This session successfully underlined and highlighted some of the key features which define today’s youth: Passion, the need for putting forward their point but being hampered by the fear of going wrong because this could mean loosing everything that they have worked hard for and having to start from square one along with their desire to be heard and allowed more participation at all levels of governance.
To quote a panelist: Nikhil Gurung – “Young people should be seen as Youth Leaders and not just participants in the decision making spaces.”
This interesting and interactive session was defined as a dialogue which would bring forth the challenges that the young people face to ensure that they are paid more than lip service when the government and civil society organizations as well as parallel organizations like UNICEF and Global Fund speak of “youth participation”. This session also managed to get some form of commitment from the ‘Adult’ members of the panel as well as the youth leaders.
This session brought to light the facts that since the youth session at Bali (ICAAP, 2009), the Global Fund had been trying to work harder to increase youth participation such that right now the Country Coordinating Mechanisms(CCMs) operates in 140 countries and out of it 48 of them have youth representatives on board. However to quote Michel Kazatchkine, the Global Fund Executive Director, “We make progress, we are away from where we were and also from where we want to be.”
During the discussion, Nkonzo Khanyile (panelist), questioned the Deputy Minister of Public Works, Hendrietta Bogopane Zulu, about the basis on which youth were selected for participation in the policy defining areas and was informed that South Africa is a dynamic country which is a political society with lots of activism, so effective participation leads to better and balanced youth representation. She agreed to the fact that the urban youth were better represented but also emphasized on the fact that the government was trying to involve the rural youth too specially by taking positive steps like forming a new ministerial body for children, women, young people and people with HIV and AIDS. She also spoke about the fact that the youth is welcome in the policy developing stages as she herself had joint the parliament at the age of 21.
The Global Fund executive director also stated that Global Fund procedures might be complex but the youth should fight for them to be changed and slowly the change will come. He himself spoke of bringing this issue to the board meeting. A board which also consisted of a young girl, Shanti who represents the youth and he hoped more such Shanti’s would find their way to the Global Fund Board.
A young Australian eighteen year old girl, Stephanie was also a panelist and representing Positive Woman Victoria(Australia), an organization which she was trying to take to the national level spoke of her childhood experience wherein she was denied the right to education because people were f the opinion that she would not live past 13 since she was born with HIV.
The moderators, Elisabet Fadul and Caitlin Padgett, used techniques like timing devices to make up for the lost time and also to allow maximum number of young people to put for the their issues such that these issues could be chewed upon if not successfully sorted out right then. It was then that Liping Mian put the Deputy Minister, who was standing in for the minister of health, in a tight spot by questioning the minister’s commitment to the youth in Africa when he could not fulfill his commitment of attending a youth session.
Some other questions raised were regarding issues like: Policies being “tokenistic”, lack of young people at different levels of governance, commitment from the Adult leaders on the panel.
This session concluded with some powerful statements from the various panelists like:
• Don’t shut up about issues you (youth) are passionate about, speak out about them at forums where people who can do something about it can hear them
• Commitment of trying for More Space and More inclusion by the Global Fund
• Demand for Translation of Policies into Actions and Immediate Access
• Commitment from the Deputy Health Minister of South Africa to make sex education more accessible and allowing medical choices for the young people from the age of 12 as ensure resources are made available to young people.
• Budget should have space for young people’s budget too.
• Work towards ensuring and protecting children’s rights.