Today, I had the wonderful opportunity of presenting WYA’s oral statement to the UN Commission on Social Development. The major theme of the Commission is social integration, and listening to delegates issue statements on the meaning of this phenomenon for their cultures has led me to reflect on my own experiences. When I was offered the chance to compose part of the statement and present it to the committee, I jumped at the chance, and I was very well received by delegates and other NGO representatives.
We know that social integration or cohesion is a process whereby all members of society live and work together for the common good. It is an organic process that requires mutual respect for the diversity of cultures and traditions that make up the fabric of human society. Of course, this grows out of a desire to act in solidarity with one another, a desire which originates in and through the family. Indeed, as the son of Portuguese immigrants to Canada, I often witnessed the exclusion of my parents from the societal fabric. Also, my own experiences at school were that of alienation and exclusion in many overt and subtle forms. However, it was within my family that I felt a strong sense of solidarity, which taught me the importance of self gift as a means of expressing my own inherent dignity, and to respect that of others. When my grandmother had begun to display a loss of mental capacity, I felt I should assist my family in providing care for her. These early lessons have led me to understand the importance of social integration, and my presentation to the Commission was a testament to the family’s importance in creating a strong sense of social responsibility. The lesson that all have inherent dignity, and therefore, have the right to be integrated into society regardless of age, disposition or capacity, was for me, a lesson learned in and through the family.
Intern from Canada
World Youth Alliance North America