The World Youth Alliance (WYA) began in 1999 when 21-year-old Anna Halpine stood up for human dignity during a conference at the United Nations. Since then, WYA has grown to include tens of thousands of members around the world with six regional offices, all dedicated to the defense of the dignity of the person through education, culture, and advocacy.
While observing the 1999 Conference on Population and Development, Anna Halpine witnessed a group of thirty two young people make a statement. Claiming to represent all three billion of the world’s youth, they demanded that the following policies be put into place:
The group of young people characterized these as necessary for development, but ignored basic needs such as clean water, education, and employment. This spurred Anna to action. The next morning, she returned to the Commission with a few others and distributed bright pink flyers offering a more holistic view of the human person and human needs.
The development of the whole person includes the moral, spiritual, emotional, intellectual as well as the physical dimensions. Please do not reduce us to our sexual faculties. Our main concerns are issues relating to education, family, employment and development.
Please don’t “reserve and move on”. Hold fast to principles for our future.
– Excerpt from the pink flyer
With human dignity as her focus, Anna called on delegates to discuss topics addressing basic human needs and rights. Her statement was so well-received by delegations that she was asked to maintain a permanent presence at the United Nations and work with youth from developing countries.
The debates at the United Nations are, fundamentally, debates about who the human person is. How we understand the human person lays the foundation for what policies and initiatives are implemented. Is the human person the object of various policies, programs and end goals, or a subject with inviolable dignity, who stands at the center of all policies and initiatives? How will our answer to this question impact policy and culture?
‘Is the human person an object to be used or a subject with inviolable dignity, who stands at the center of all policies and initiatives?’
Understanding the right answer to the question, “Who is the human person?” determines the direction of our policies, our culture, and ultimately our vision for humanity. The World Youth Alliance maintains that all human beings have dignity and therefore are subjects who should be respected. Human dignity is intrinsic, independent of any individual condition; it is not granted, and it cannot be rescinded. It is the foundation of all human rights, and States have the responsibility to recognize and respect the dignity of the human person.
These ideas have real world effects. A flawed vision of the human person threatens human dignity on a global scale. This is evident in policies that promote abortion, tie foreign aid to population control policies, and prioritize ideology over more effective prevention strategies in addressing HIV/AIDS.
Conversely, a proper understanding of the human person fosters freedom, solidarity, authentic development, and true respect for human dignity and rights. WYA is equipping a generation of young people with the tools necessary to propose this vision to the world and bring about a cultural transformation.
Today, WYA works at international institutions such as the United Nations, the European Union, and the Organization of American States, as well as with young people from around the world to build a culture that supports and nurtures the dignity of each human person. We bring young people to international conferences and into dialogue with ambassadors, diplomats, and political leaders. We focus on:
WYA trains young people of every background from every corner of the world in each of these areas, training them to advocate for the human person and develop creative solutions to real world problems.
Want to get involved? Here’s how: