IIMA and VIDES side event September 16th, 2011: Young Volunteers and Human Rights

On 16th September 2011, VIDES International in collaboration with the Istituto Internazionale Maria Ausiliatrice (IIMA) organized a side event at Palais de Nations, Geneva. The event was co-sponsored by the Permanent Missions of Costa Rica, Italy, Paraguay, Uruguay, the Permanent Observer Holy See and the NGOs Platform on the Right to Education.
The event, entitled “Young Volunteers and Human Rights” served as a response to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon’s request to “the international community to support youth as agents of change and development.” The panelist present at the event focused on voluntary activities carried out by youth of different organizations in their respective countries and on governmental contributions.
The moderator of the side event Ms. María Francisca Ize-Charrin, former Director of the Field Operations and Technical Cooperation Division (OHCHR), introduced the pertinence of volunteerism for NGOs and the United Nations alike while welcoming the ambassadors and panelists for their valued input on the matter.
The first speaker, Ms. Leonor Salazar, General Director of VIDES International, introduced the mission of the organization rooted in youth education through social activism and volunteering as a means to implementation of human rights. Ms. Salazar asserted that a “volunteership activates the youth’s better energies and capabilities for development that brings one to be a precious effective instrument for democracy and peace in societies.”  With this direction, Ms. Leonor Salazar showed how some youth were able to implement successful best practices around the world. These “best practices” build VIDES communities that promote collaboration between youth participants, marginalized communities and local governments.
The second panelist Ms. Silvia Crafa, from VIDES Veneto, Italy, addressed youth migration issues in her region. The target demographic of VIDES Veneto includes local migrants, women and youth; to whom are made available “laboratories of humanity” that consist of language lessons, intercultural exchange, psychological services, and Human Rights awareness-raising campaigns available to youth in the community. One volunteer working with Ms. Crafa, described her experience with VIDES “I live the style of collaboration as an alternative to competition.”
Ms. Simona Sassano, Italy, spoke next on VIDES Piemonte’s approach to youth and welcoming migrants. She explained the methodology of VIDES Piemonte as valorization of marginalized communities and youth through education and formation. Ms. Sassano emphasized the need for continued government collaboration and support to future programs.
The meeting, was honored with the attendance of H.E. Ms. Laura Mirachian, Ambassador of Italy, she opened by expressing her appreciation for the efforts of VIDES Piemonte and Veneto in favor of migrants’ integration.  After providing background information on the migration situation in Italy, she cited the number 50,000 immigrants, from Lybia alone, in the past year. Ms. Mirachian pointed out that Italy was a country of migrants since the 1920s. For this reason, she is conscious of difficulties affecting migrant populations. She acknowledged and thanked Catholic organizations and NGOs for their efforts to answer this call for social inclusion, at the same time she recalled the necessity for civil society to follow with these measures of social inclusion and integration in order to facilitate improvement in the lives of migrant.
The Hungarian Ambassador, Dr. Istaván Lakatos, followed to speak on the high stakes for the current Hungarian youth generation in claiming their Human Rights.  He explained that the new generation has adopted the attitude to “fight for their rights” which is essential in approaching current politics in Hungary. Furthermore, he asserted that education does not mean much without examples, and thus placed high value in programs that provide practical participation for Youth.
Next to speak, Ambassador of Paraguay, H.E. Mr. Federico A. Gonález, expressed the impossibility for his government to ignore the youth impact on Paraguayan society because it is composed essentially of young people. He focused on the 18,000 young volunteers who demonstrate their ability respond to Paraguay’s need in education, health and human rights promotion domains through educational and social activities.
The last Ambassador to grace the panel’s discussion was H.E. Mr. Christian Guillermet-Fernandez, of Costa Rica. H.E. Fernandez explained that Costa Rica is a country in development and, particularly for this reason, he recognized the role of youth and the need for the global community’s solidarity in leading the change.  To make progress toward this change there are three important factors: a limitless age of volunteers as everyone should be active in social improvements; importance of rousing the willingness of youth to be involved on the political front; and the necessity to recognize the fundamental connection between youth and global society in order to guarantee a better future.
After discussion from the honorable Ambassadors, Anna Szentes, from VIDES Hungary, presented on “Youth and the commitment for social inclusion of Roma children.” Anna explained that activities of the VIDES youth center in Mogoyoród, carried out in collaboration with institutional partners, focus on human rights, valorization of Hungarian and Roma culture, Roma children’s education, active collaboration, and sensitization campaigns. According to her personal experience youth and volunteers grow in the practice of mutual respect becoming “Human Rights promoters and future volunteers”.
Ms Ana Nieto, representing Helsiki España, presented the organization that works with universities and professors to provide courses on development. She explained how the network promotes education and practical experience through collaboration of NGOs, students and professors. Ms. Nieto added that voluntary activities are opportunities to provide practical experience to the youth.
The Counselor of Uruguay, Ms. Estela Queirolo de Tealdi, recognized the importance of the youth in the global context. The country of Uruguay, with other Iberian countries, participated inthe convention Iberoamericana de Derechos de los Jóvenes that seeks to promote and strengthen the potential of the youth. Estela stated, “the youth of Uruguay is the group with better potential to contribute to the development.” Ms. Queirolo de Tealdi sees the youth participation in support of the community essential to support social improvement, human rights and coexistence.
From VIDES Barcelona, Ms. Ana María Mendieta Garcia spoke next on youth and international solidarity. She explained that VIDES Spain achieves two major objectives: taking action against poverty through sustainable development and taking actions to denounce attitudes and polices against life and dignity of people. Ana Maria shared the role of volunteers in VIDES Projects, explaining how voluntary activities have not only a positive impact on direct beneficiaries, but also they change volunteers’ lives who “assume volunteering as an option for life” by putting into practice the values of justice, equality and solidarity to become active human rights promoters. 
Present to speak on water governance and the youth’s role in this human rights issue soon to confront the world was Mr. Jean Benoît Charrin. Mr. Charrin contended that the future needs youth educated and experienced in the political sphere to assert humanity’s right to safe drinking water. Mr. Charrin made the distinguishment between the need of youth who could properly address such political turmoil and that of the youth participants in the Arab Spring who lack the know-how to effectively address the issues at hand. A “mobilized youth” rather, is needed to prevent such catastrophes.
Mr. Ricardo Espinosa, Chief NGO Liaison of the UNOG, recognized youth present and actively participating in the United Nations. Mr. Espinosa stated that in a 2009 United Nations report a total number of 3,450 interns were employed in 18 different agencies of the UN who work professionally and expertly.  Furthermore, he explained how youth participation in the United Nations reflects the role of youth currently engaging in the international debate as stakeholders and active actors of change.
Next to grace the panel was Mr. Jorge M. Dias Ferreira, on behalf of the NGOs platform on the Right to Education, who offered an objective analysis from a psychologist and educator’s point of view. Mr. Ferreira explained, “youth volunteering contribute[s] to the awareness of human dignity and the promotion of human rights;” through this formation they can become major actors of social development. Moreover, he sees volunteering as an opportunity for youth to “engage in their talents and realize themselves as integrated people.”
The goal of the meeting was reached with success, in fact, as MariaGrazia Caputo, main representative of IIMA, said “for the first time governments were invited to reflect on the role of youth as protagonist and not as mere objects of governmental measures and actions.” Ambassadors, specialist and young volunteers productively contributed to the discussion emphasizing the need to invest in future generations to guarantee a better world.