We, the interns at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), believe the world has much to gain from hearing our voices and listening to our ideas. Even more so, we believe global development policy will be enriched if policy leaders act and follow through on these ideas. Representing 33 countries from all over the world, we never hesitate to share our global perspectives and unique points of view with others. So as the world embarks on the process of setting a new global development framework, we are keen to contribute to the Post-2015 Development Agenda in the hopes of creating a better world for our own generation, and for many generations to come.
After compiling dozens of ideas from the 67 interns working at ITU, 61 of whom are under the age of 29, and with notable contributions from the President and Vice President of the ITU Interns Association, we have boiled down our thoughts and opinions to three key points to take to world leaders. If the goal of the post-2015 agenda is to make it people-centered, then these key elements should definitively be incorporated in it:
The benefits of increasing access to quality education are hundredfold. Broadly speaking, increasing and improving education services has residual benefits for society, especially with regards to addressing employment issues; girls’ and women’s empowerment; health issues, including HIV/AIDS and maternal mortality; environmental protection; and much more. Additionally, incorporating the development of ICT and digital skills into educational curricula is particularly important considering that there are significantly more employment and entrepreneurial prospects for youth with ICT skills.
Ultimately, education helps to build awareness and open our minds. It is the portal through which we learn about different cultures, ways of living and world views. It helps us understand that “being different” is not the same thing as “being wrong”. These life lessons encourage camaraderie and peaceful actions, and they help us realize the importance of cooperation and collaboration, all of which are crucial if we are to make positive global changes.
WHAT WE WANT: Facilitate more international exchange volunteer programmes as part of school curricula; develop more peer-education and “training of trainers” initiatives; provide and increase access to more technical, vocational and ICT/digital training for young people around the world.
For young people, access to information and education also translates into increased participation in political processes. Working at ITU, we see the significant role that ICTs can play in this respect: young persons who are marginalized, disadvantaged or excluded because of their lack of wealth, rural or remote living situations or even their disability status can become more involved in decision-making processes through the use of ICTs.
Youth participation is important because, on one hand, young people are able to receive more of the great things that the world has to offer when we voice our needs and opinions and, on the other hand, young people can act as enablers for development – not just beneficiaries. As such, youth participation functions as a reciprocal process and development agendas need to be accommodating in this regard. In countries where over half the population is composed of young people, political youth participation is not just an ideal, but a necessity.
WHAT WE WANT: Formalize and institutionalize the perspectives of youth in political decision-making processes at the national, regional and global levels. Belgium’s Youth Parliament provides the perfect example where youth voices have been mainstreamed into the formal political system.
With increased participation in political processes, there is no reason why young persons should not be recognized as responsible citizens in today’s society. Instead of being labelled as immature just because of our age, young persons should be recognized as pools of optimism, productivity, creativity and advocacy. There are countless examples of youth who have already made positive and innovative changes in our world, from 20-something billionaires and social visionaries to public servants and community volunteers. We are innovators, we are change agents and we are champions of new mindsets – and this should not be discounted.
As countries discuss the post-2015 agenda, they need to ensure that it is fitting for today’s world; that is, a world where more than half the population is under the age of 25. Young people are hopeful for the future and the world should feed on the optimism we bring.
ITU also has a role to play in this regard, not only by integrating young people into the Information Society, but also by promoting ICTs as vehicles to enhance education, reduce youth unemployment and promote social and economic development. With the development of ITU’s Youth Programme and their youth crowdsourcing initiative, The Global Partnership for Youth in the Post-2015 Agenda, ITU can use these opportunities to make far-reaching changes for youth, not only within the Union itself, but also across the globe.
Creating a better world for all is possible, but we will only achieve this by adapting and moving forward in a youth-friendly way. It is a well-known fact that opportunity dances with those already on the dance floor…
WHAT WE WANT FROM WORLD LEADERS: Get on the dance floor, because we’re already there!
For more information about the ITU Internship Programme, click here.
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