The ISF as Experienced By Issa Tobias

The 3rd International Solidarity Forum

March 27-30, 2006

United Nations; World Youth Alliance HQ, New York City

I loved the fact that I had to fly to New York City the very day after my graduation. It was like every fresh graduate’s dream of being a jetsetter who has something noteworthy, something momentous waiting for her upon the threshold of entering the post- college world. Having the 3rd International Solidarity Forum to go to definitely fit in with that description, even increasing its pizzazz upon hearing of its nature to discuss good governance and corruption. It had exactly the type of issues that I wanted to engage with, and what many people, if not all, need to come to terms with. It seemed to me a venue in which my idealism and dreams birthed in college could be realized in actuality, wherein one could actually bring about some concrete changes in this world bogged down by tragic injustice.

From the very first day, I could see that I was not alone in this voluminous venture. Youth from all over—Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, Latin America— had the same desire as I did. We all wanted to speak our minds and turn abstract into reality, to show that we, the up-and-coming youth, had just as much stake in the world as any weathered veteran. We all wanted to debunk that old saying that youth is wasted on the young; and believe me, I have never seen people more raring and determined to break away from it. Coming out of the conference, I can’t do anything but attest witness to that sublime feat.

With spirit and fervor unwaveringly fueling us, we pitched comment after comment into a communal pool of ideas, discovering more as we went along about others and about ourselves as well. We talked of varying backgrounds and varying lives, common problems and common solutions. It was such a sight to see, that there would be times that I could not stop myself from smiling as the delegates congregated in a melting pot that precisely evoked the rich and intense colors of the human race.

And it wasn’t just about speaking. It was also about listening. We opened our minds and set down our barriers, working towards a real and sincere dialogue that we all knew was essential to function. And I have to give it to the delegates, who gritted their teeth and remained sharp and patient during the very heart of the drafting of our Declaration on Good Governance. With every word chosen and every sentence completed, it reflected the perfect amalgamation of different perspectives as we authored a heartfelt message to the world.

For some, ISF only reinforced what they already knew of justice and violations of it. For most, it made the problem of corruption more visceral, but also made the remedy of good governance more hopeful. For all however, and which I feel was a parting gift, ISF gave us an immense sense of liberation, of being free. With all the talk of recognizing and upholding our inherent human dignity, it could not become clearer that we ourselves—me, you, us, them— are the agents for preserving every person’s being. The ball is in our court. It always has been. We are empowered with choice, and with that freedom of choice that is all we ever need to maintain the integrity that makes us more human than ever.

It’s been only three weeks since I’ve last seen some of the delegates, and I sincerely miss all of them. Though I may not have gotten to know some of them as well I had others, their voices and faces are etched fondly in the walls of my memory. They are among the most outstanding people I’ve met, incredibly brilliant and possessing a love for life that inhabits everything they do. And though it saddens me that I do not know when I may see some of them again, it warms me to think that wherever in the world they are right now, they continue to make that free choice to uphold what is just and true. That in everyday humdrum to monumental life-altering moments, in every instance another person hears their voices or sees their faces, these young men and women always remember that we are people. They never forget that I am I and you are you, and wholeheartedly comprehend that it is because of one’s innate dignity. And nothing is more important than that, for that is from which everything else is born.