About the importance of the Global Youth Forum and the significance of the Bali Declaration that sets the framework for the powerful advocacy in shaping the post-2015 development agenda you could read in previous blog posts. And I suggest you do read those ones before commencing reading the concerns that showed up along the way.
Even though we ended up with a progressive outcome document, it is hard to be fully satisfied with the Forum, which puts UNFPA, as an organiser of the event, as well as the youth NGOs that were part of the Steering Committee, under the spotlight of a hideous tokenistic approach and a questionable agenda.
Firstly, the organisation of the arrival of the youth delegates was extremely poor. The applications to attend the Forum closed on 5th of September, but it was not until late October/early November that we received an information whether we were accepted to the Forum or not. Since the Forum was sponsored and organised by UNFPA, they were covering all the travel expenses of all the delegates including our accommodation and per diems. And apparently, when UN pays, then it is not that they just pay, they splurge. Almost all the delegates’ airplane tickets were purchased in the last week prior to the start of the Forum. I am a proof of that as I was very concerned about my attendance of the Forum since I received my e-ticket 3 days before the departure, costing 1800Euros! One of the delegates from Iceland concerned about this actually made a phone call to ask how much money they are entitled to spend on purchasing airplane tickets. They can spend up to 6400Euros. Multiply only half of that amount with approximately 800 people that were there and you get quite an impressive sum. Add to that the fact that these types of meetings happen every few weeks, and you will get a big question mark over your head because they can easily be avoided with simple and basic organizational skills.
But the question marks don’t stop there. On the last day of the Forum, a final text of the Bali Declaration was meant to be presented. It was supposed to be a grand finale where we would discuss the outcome, greet the Declaration, put stress on the upcoming steps, and make clear to everyone the importance of follow up. But since we were a bit late in the agenda, that whole part was skipped! We were simply told – the Declaration will be made available online in few days and we were all sent to the third floor of the Convention Centre where there was a big concert planned. A concert featuring a big Indonesian superstar, who used this event to promote her new song to the “global audience”, two Swedish DJs and Timbaland. Yes, Timbaland, a singer, song writer, producer from the US. A one big room of the Convention Centre was turned into a real dance club with sound system and light show that even the biggest clubs would be ashamed of (pics below). What is even sadder of the fact that we had to skip such an important part of the closing of the Forum due to the concert was that very few people raised eye brows and asked themselves: Did UN really pay for all this? They didn’t fly in Timbaland from US and two DJs from Sweden, did they? Was it MDGs that we were talking about? Did we hear that they were more money cuts announced for the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria that will leave more millions of people without antiretroviral treatment? Maybe we did, but now it probably got lost in the dance sound…..
And when you think that youth NGOs would provide a somewhat different story, a cold shower there as well. From the very beginning it was difficult to understand how the members of the Steering Committee were selected, how the selection of the facilitators was made, who was drafting the Declaration. When you asked someone, they usually said that it was made through a mailing server. Which one out of the dozens that exist? Who has the ownership and mandate to create such mailing servers? And the most important question (the one I have been asking myself and others for a while) – how to get on those mailing servers? Obviously, by knowing the right people. It was also surprising to see that there was a meeting of twenty youth delegates with the member of the High Level Task Force of ICPD, a Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs. The meeting wasn’t a surprise but the fact that it was considered as a top secret was! There was an e-mail floating around seeking for participants, some delegates got selected a night before during the dinner. When I confronted a girl from one NGO who was in charge of organising it, asking about the selection process and selection criteria and why the meeting was not open to everyone – she answered “yes, you are right. It was not transparent, but…..”. It is very hard for people to understand how serious impact handling things in a non-transparent manner could have. On one hand, it is irrespective of hundreds of other delegates who were welcomed in Bali with a message that each and every one of us had equal chance in shaping the process, recommendations and outcomes to know that twenty delegates, selected in a non-transparent way, made their own recommendations to the member of the UNFPA High-Level Task Force. And the same can go in other direction – how will the Dutch Minister, a member of the High-Level Task Force, be able to take the recommendations from that meeting seriously, if she knows the selection was made in a questionable manner, with delegates who were not given a mandate to speak on behalf of hundreds of delegates?
The above raised concern, how maybe frustrating and appalling they are, shouldn’t diminish the significance of the Bali Declaration – a document that leaves us, youth advocates, with a powerful tool to fight for the rights of young people to be taken seriously in shaping the post 2015 development agenda, especially after Rio failed to do so.
Liaison Officer for Reproductive Health issues including AIDS