WYA Sends Asians to CPD

Sitting in at the Commission of Population and Development was an interesting experience. The theme for the Commission this year was “International Migration and Development”. For those who are extremely passionate about development studies and global politics, the feeling of being at a Commission for the first time would very likely match the feeling of attending the Cannes film festival for movie fanatics or the feeling of being at the Olympics for people who are sports aficionados. And like the two events mentioned, being at the CPD had its high points as well as its low points. Like any major event such as the Oscars or the Olympics, the Commission on Population and Development had its stars and exceptionally brilliant performances, but it also had its share of wearisome speeches.

If my experience was any indication, I found my first day at the Commission to be the one that was filled with the most repetitive speeches that, to be honest, I had to struggle to focus on. This was mainly because the speeches on the first day of Commission are used for introductory speeches as well as policy speeches. This would normally be good to listen to, but the fact that there was no disparity between the policies of countries made for a very repetitive and monotonous round of speeches. All countries seemed to agree on two main points. First of all, they all agree that remittances from overseas are helpful, but should not sacrifice the skilled labor pool of a country. Secondly, they all appeared to be saying that there is a need to protect the human rights of migrants, many of whom have their human rights breached for the sole reason that they are not citizens of the country they are living in. Due to the fact that there seemed to be a general consensus in the Commission, the afternoon session was cancelled and replaced by an informal session wherein negotiations on a document would take place. As a result, people observing the Commission were done for the day.

The second day of Commission, I was sent to observe a preparatory meeting on “Creating an environment at the national and international levels conducive to generating full and productive employment and decent work for all, and its impact to sustainable development”. It was during this meeting that I thought I found the most insightful and most brilliant people. The meeting consisted of several groups of people that were invited to speak in a panel discussion. Among them were speakers from large organizations such as the ILO, the WTO, the IMF, UNDP and UNCTAD.

It was admitted by many of them that they were speaking from theoretical economic perspectives, and that was the way it seemed because of their liberal usage of economic terminology. Despite that fact, however, they got their messages across. Although the panelists all had much to say, two of the main ideas that I found most insightful from many of the speakers at the panels were, first of all, that there is a need for countries to stop working within the Philips curve in economics. That is, the belief that there is an inverse relationship between employment and inflation because factors such as globalization have already rendered the curve obsolete. So countries stop viewing growth in employment as a negative consequence, because apparently there are many countries that still do. The second point that seemed very pertinent was from the representative of the ILO who said that employment should not be a consequence of economic development, but countries should strive to make employment an objective in itself. To this, he added that it is not enough that governments provide employment, but they should provide employment that protects the human rights of work. The statements from the ILO speaker and from others in the panels struck me as being very much within what the World Youth Alliance would have wanted to come out of the Commission, and the paradigm that they were operating from seemed to me to be a truly positive development in the Commission.

The days I spent in Commission were therefore days of extremes it seemed. There were points of extreme monotony, while there were others of extreme interest, at least on my part. Despite those realities, however, one cannot help but say that being at a Commission was a waste. On the contrary, it is perhaps one of the most enlightening experiences that anyone could ever have, whether they want to be part of the UN in the future or not. And if one were indeed planning to become part of the UN, the CPD would be an excellent starting point for future work in Commissions.