World Youth Alliance attended the first ever Youth Forum for the Commission on the Status of Women, which took place in New York on March 11 and 12. It consisted of presentations, breakout discussions, and workshops. WYA looked forward to representing our over 120,000 members around the world during the event. We also anticipated having a role in the drafting of a declaration to be adopted and presented to the Chair of the Commission on the Status of Women.
We were disappointed.
Although WYA was able to participate in several discussions, we were unable to work on or even see a full copy of the draft. Despite touting participants’ influence in the document, the organizers excluded attendees from any meaningful role. Rather, some notes from the reports back from breakout discussions were incorporated at the discretion of the drafting team. The result was a document which included elements WYA’s team and members, as well as other attendees at the Youth Forum, found problematic, objectionable, and in opposition to human dignity.
When a WYA team member came across the drafters by chance on the afternoon of the first day, they refused to let her read the draft, promising to email it out later (which they did not). Our team member later made a statement expressing her frustration with the process, that it was closed and not representative. While the organizers took pains to explain how inclusive the process was the next morning, nothing changed.
The “open” drafting process consisted of the ability to comment online, not on the draft, but on general topics related to the theme. WYA learned that an “open call” went out to select the drafting team, but that it only went to the “inter-agency task force.” We believe this to be the Inter-Agency Network on Youth Development Working Group on Gender Equality, a co-sponsor of the event. An open call to a closed group only ensures the concentration of access among those who already have it. There was also no effort to ensure that group rapporteurs accurately reflected group discussions, and the majority of participants came from developed countries.
The statement was read aloud to the Chair of the CSW and presented to him as a statement on behalf of all youth. But it does not reflect the priorities of many of the world’s youth, and certainly not of WYA’s tens of thousands of members, who our team was present to represent. Even so, no draft was made available at that time; in fact, it was only released March 18th, after several more days of closed drafting.
Based on the final draft that was finally made available, it is hard to conclude that the drafters were truly interested in conversations on the text. In fact, we suspect that they kept the negotiations closed in order to exclude viewpoints, such as WYA’s, they found objectionable. Whatever the reason, we express our dissatisfaction with the lack of transparency and open discussion on topics, and call on the organizers, UN Women, the Inter-Agency Network on Youth Development Working Group on Gender Equality, and the YWCA, to make transparency and youth engagement a reality, rather than an empty promise.