So the organizers of the 14IACC posted a YOUTH CHALLENGE where they invited young people from the world over to upload a video in which they voice their anti-corruption messages to the world leaders who are attending the conference. I don’t know how many videos were submitted and received, but they were able to screen one video from a Vietnamese student during the closing plenary session.
Our Global Youth Anti-Corruption Network (GYAC-N) was the only official youth organization/delegation at the conference and so being the journalist representative of the Network, I decided to do the opposite by asking some participants of the conference for their message to the youth. Here’s the end product:
From Tom Quine, Manager of Online Communications at Transparency International Berlin:
“No matter what career you choose in your life, you can build a struggle for social justice into that career, doesn’t matter if you’re an accountant, a lawyer, a doctor, no matter what, you can put social justice in there … If you do that, if you fight for social justice in your career, then you can sleep easy at night.”
On the last day of the conference, a Bangkok Declaration was scheduled to be read. COUNT ON THE YOUTH TO REACT, right? This time we did so by drafting our own Bangkok Declaration of Young People, which my friend Tonyo Cruz featured on the Asian Correspondent.
From the first day of the conference, it was made very clear that a major agenda in the global crusade against corruption is tapping and harnessing the potentials of the youth: “The moderator summed up the main outcomes [of the opening plenary/leadership forum] in just 15 words: ‘Focus on youth, work from the ground up, promote transparency and we have to kick butts!’” (from Issue 02 of the IACC Today newsletter). At the closing plenary, one of the panelists even commented that she hopes to see less gray hair among the speakers/panelists next time. Sounds good. But in the end to me it all seemed plainly rhetorical at best, hypocritical at worst. I will not name names, but even some people from Transparency International agreed with me on this. Well, yes, I am irked that despite our request, we were not allowed to read our Youth Declaration on stage but yes, also, the way we were ignored spoke volumes to me. YOU WANT THE YOUTH? WELL HELLO HERE WE ARE THE YOUTH! Maybe I should understand that they thought of youth involvement in anti-corruption JUST NOW (God knows what they talked about in Athens in 2008), but I have high hopes and expectations for the organizers of the 15th IACC in Brazil to finally take the youth challenge seriously.
Though we were few (10 of the 1,200), we made a strong physical presence at the conference, and WE WILL NOT SHUT UP. Here are some evidence, when my friend Emmanuel Sanyi from Cameroon was the first and one of the last participants to address the plenary:
Count on us to strengthen our online network, starting with GYAC-N’s Ning. The internet has been our first bastion, and I sincerely hope it doesn’t end there. YES, we the youth are with you in the fight against corruption, but I hope you mean it when you say you’re with us, too.
EDIT (21Nov, 10:03AM Phil time): From fellow GYAC-er, Gina Romero of Ocasa, an anti-corruption organization in Colombia:
About the presence of youth in the different IACC that had been held. It is true that it had been reduced, but not completelly forgoten.
Ocasa had participated in four anticorruption conferences: Seoul 2003; Guatemala 2006; Athens 2008; and Bangkok 2010. In this four conferences, different scenarios for young people had been open. I agree that is not enough and that some times the menction of youth is not more than a good intention that a real commitment, but it is necesary to know this past to stablish really useful and intelligent strategies.
In Seoul 2003, when actually came up the idea of creating what is Ocasa now, an open parallel youth youth forum where held, in this link it can be found the information about that activity (http://www.11iacc.org/iacc/html/para_4.html). I do not have the conclusions on that participation, but will ask for them and see if I can get them. The important thing to know here is that in that moment the conference organizers themselves opened up the space for youth.
On the other side, in Guatemala 2006 there was not specific scenario for youth, so some young participants (with the innitiative of Ocasa’s representatives) held a youth paralel declaration that can be seen in this link (http://guatemaladeclaration.blogspot.com/2006/11/english.html). And, also, had the change of including a menction of youth in the final conference’s declaration (http://www.12iacc.org/modules.php?name=Content&pa=showpage&pid=106).
In Athens 2008, linked with the ICT discussions, there also was held some activities related with youth, but, again, there no was any specific space for youth. In Bangkok 2010, as some of the GYACs representatives had say, there was some activities related with yout: the youth journalist contest, the youth challenge, the rethinking sessions where the youth issue was address… Also, some of the GYAC’s representatives also leaded a youth declaration, established a point of information about GYAC’s and spread the voice of the existance of the network (specially participating in the sessions where the youth issue was address) and the important of working with youth in the fight against corruption.
I do believe that, although insuficient, the voices of youth in the Conferences are rising. What we must do (and unfortunatelly did not do for Bangkok) is to come up with a strong and eficient strategy. And how to prepare ourselves for having an incident in this scenarios using the very few tools that the used, for example, we could have reunite some youth to virtually attend the activities held in the conference that were being transmited in Internet. We wanted to do it so in Colombia but the time difference didnt allow us to do it.
We have two years to preparate it and to see in which other international scenarios the GYAC must be present.
Ocasa’s Executive Director
NB. Ah, and about the youth challenge, they received just seven videos (three of them where send by Ocasa) unfortunatelly the deadline was too short and the call to weak. I posted the call on this network and it seems to me that no one took the advantage of sending the video. Some times, that is the problem in working with youth, they keep saying that there is no chances for participating but when the chances are open they dont take them!.