08.10.2014 – Distinguished chair, honorable delegates – young and old,
Today we are addressing you as the two German Youth Delegates, representing the voices and concerns of 20 million young people under the age of 25 living in Germany.
The YOUTH we are talking about today are people who were born after 1988.
The YOUTH we are talking about today will tomorrow be the elderly.
The YOUTH we are talking about „wait, who are we talking about again?“
We may be 20 million young people in Germany, but we are 7 billion people worldwide, who do not want to be defined merely by their age. We are looking forward to working with people of all ages in the upcoming negotiations here in the Third Committee, as we are facing challenges we can only address together. All of us, irrespective of our ages, can with their own potential contribute to creating and implementing policies and programs at all levels against all forms of age-based discrimination against older but also against younger persons.
When talking about the rights of youth we are also and always talking about the rights of women and men, about the rights of migrants, and we are also talking about the right to sexual orientation and gender identity. When talking about youth – as well as about any other social group – we are talking about human beings that are more than just vulnerable or marginalized, more than just young or old.
We want to emphasize: Age is just one feature of us. We all have multidimensional, dynamic personalities, which adapt according to our environment and experiences. Identity means being young and traditional at the same time, being old and full of dreams for the future; loving a women and being a mother, being European and Muslim at the same time. It means being female and male or neither, being an academic and working class, and being black and white and blue and green – all at the same time. Identities teach us: Contradiction is only what we want to be contradictory. We need to recognize diversity as an opportunity, as an inspiration rather than as a source of conflict and hatred. Many of you were probably present here at the UN just a few weeks ago, when Emma Watson gave her inspiring speech. She put it very eloquently: „If we stop defining each other by what we are not and start defining ourselves by who we are – we can all be freer […].“
We consider not only the peoples‘ but also the individual’s right to self-determination to be essential for every society’s development. At the same time we have to keep in mind that in the name of tolerance, we must not tolerate the intolerant.
We all know: laws will only be followed, and recommendations only be implemented, if they are built upon the rights and voices of the whole society. All governments should therefore adopt an inclusive and representative system of legislation at all levels, parliaments should represent all ages and all those, to whom policies apply should have the opportunity to shape them.
Thus it makes us wonder why there are still people who are subjected to policies, who don’t have access to the decision-making process. As an example: Why are young people so often excluded from democratic voting procedures? Why are migrants, refugees and asylum seekers so often not represented in politics and remain invisible? Why are women, who make up at least 50 percent of the population, not adequately represented in parliaments and executive functions of companies? Democracy means by definition the representation of all people and nothing less. Many examples – historical and current – prove: the exclusion of some is a threat to all. All parts of society therefore need to work together to make sure that no one is left behind, and that progress must mean progress for all. This must also apply here at the UN, while shaping the future development agenda.
In order to enable all persons to participate actively in society we do not only have to guarantee access to decision-making. The prerequisite for any effective participation is quality education for all. Education that empowers! Education that leads to the full development of everyone’s individual potential. In order to leave everyone the space to develop their potential, we need to realize how the dominance of one causes the submissiveness of the other. We need to realize that our thinking and acting may disable or empower the ones next to us. These skills are essential for global understanding. They are essential to becoming global citizens with responsibilities towards each other.
We are global citizens whose every move does not need to be surveilled. The International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights is one of the most broadly ratified legal instruments. More important than ever before is Article 17 guaranteeing that no one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence. We assert that arbitrary surveillance and the collection of big data is in itself a human rights violation, as also the High Commissioner for Human Rights has confirmed in the report to this General Assembly. As also Benjamin Franklin already knew: „Who gives up his freedom in order to store security, will finally loose both.“
In summary: The future we want consists of two-way communication processes: participation and representation of all of us, in all our diversity; dialogue, not surveillance, which enables orientation and trust. People, be it young or old, are not irresponsible by nature, but become irresponsible by action: if they are not entrusted with responsibility, if there is no chance of their representation and effective participation.
We thank you.