THE COPENHAGEN YOUTH DECLARATION

"THE SOCIAL RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF YOUTH"

INTERNATIONAL YOUTH CONSULTATION ON SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT, WORLD SOCIAL SUMMIT, 3 - 5 MARCH, 1995, COPENHAGEN, DENMARK




INTRODUCTION

We, the youth gathered in Copenhagen at the International Youth Consultation on Social Development, 3 - 5 March 1995, represent tens of millions of young people from the diverse youth organisations of the planet. We congregate in anticipation of the World Summit of Heads of State and Governments, to discuss our contribution - "The Social Rights and Responsibilities of Youth".

This theme illustrates our recognition of both the responsibility, and the potential, that the youth possess, and the necessity of our participation in the social debate. The qualities and capacities of the young are indispensable to the realisation of the plans of today, and are the basis of the world of tomorrow. Moreover, the very identity of youth, transcending racial, religious, cultural and gender barriers, offers a universal and concrete foundation for social development.

"We have a vision of a world without economic injustice and dire social and individual needs; a world where all live in a spirit of mutual respect, co-operation, tolerance, peace and justice."

This was our statement in Cairo, 1994; our statement here in Copenhagen, 1995, shows our continued support of this vision as well as the continued effort towards its fulfillment. At the same time, we wish to deepen and broaden as its foundation the consciousness of the oneness of humankind. It is this deeply rooted global consciousness, a strong identification as equal members of the same human family, that will ensure our commitment to the realisation of our aims, especially in a world of increasing intolerance and xenophobia accompanying the phenomenon of global population movements. We emphasise the need to eradicate racism and all prejudices from our societies. This global consciousness will reinforce our efforts to global action in addressing the problems of poverty, unemployment and social integration.

The world's looming environmental problems are another reflection of the interdependence of the planet. We again charge the governments and civil society to take their collective responsibility in addressing the environmental crisis and the problems inherent in the present model of development which encourages overconsumption in the West and endangers the very survival of whole ecosystems in the South.

Development must mean investing in people to enable them to take charge of their own destiny. It must lead to a fulfilling and secure life for all. Development must be integrated and sustainable, that is to say utilise resources to satisfy present needs without compromising the needs of future generations.

The World Summit for Social Development is a testimony to the failure of our current development paradigm to provide for the security as well as the material and spiritual well-being of peoples and nations. The youth believe the primary requisite to be the active follow through of commitments. It is incumbent upon all those in authority to take immediate action based on the profound promises they make now, to ensure that the needs of the present are not the needs of the future.

We, the youth, commit ourselves to the promotion and fulfillment of a new development paradigm. It is a political, economic, legal, ethical and spiritual vision, which fully respects all human rights, values and cultural backgrounds. The call is for unity in diversity. Our focus is action. Our time is now.

We address the following issues in preparation for action:

(A) Youth Policy,

(B) Young Women,

(C) Education,

(D) Racism and Xenophobia,

(E) Health,

(F) Employment,

(G) Population,

(H) The Economy,

(I) The Environment,

(J) Sustainable Development,

(K) Global Governance.



(A) YOUTH POLICY

Despite the fact that children and youth constitute the majority of the world's population, we still witness how their views and problems are overlooked by those who make the decisions in our countries and globally. It is an inherent characteristic of current society that young people are absent from leading politics, administration, business and trade unions, and therefore they lack an appropriate framework for the expression of their needs. The participation of youth in processes of democracy and decision-making are influenced by many factors such as their skills, education level, voting age, the political, social and cultural orientation of those in control and the actual strength of youth as a social force.

Each government should, together with non-governmental youth organisations, adopt a policy instrument to recognise, promote and protect the rights and responsibilities of youth. Such national action should be targeted at both individual and social rights of youth as well as at legal, political, economic and socio-cultural rights and at basic sub-groups of youth (urban, rural, women, men, workers, students, migrants, refugees, indigenous and disabled).

Rather than simply being the passive receivers and objects of programmes of governments or non-governmental organisations, youth must be the advocates and defenders of their rights. We must think and act strategically on the immediate circumstances of young people and in such a way link them to the broader social and political issues.

Voluntary youth organisations can help in many different ways to achieve these goals and are playing a key role in facilitating youth development. They are an important contributor to the social integration of youth and give young people the opportunity to participate in society. The social work of these groups has had a significant impact, helping to prevent marginalisation, enhance participation and instill a sense of responsibility and self esteem. Youth organisations can assist in alleviating the shortcomings which exist in education, health care systems and the social sector. They can mobilise resources by engaging youth in self-help projects and encouraging voluntary participation in constructive activities.

Youth organisations have a great "social capital". It is therefore clear that non-governmental youth organisations need to be actively involved in the planning and implementation of youth policies. Freedom of association of these organisations must be respected, and governments should neither harm nor block their endeavours, they should rather encourage their continued work. The youth organisations ought to identify and define common objectives that they could co-operate on.


(B) YOUNG WOMEN

The principle of gender equality is fundamental to the future well-being of the earth and its people. In many parts of the world gender inequality is still an overwhelming reality. Violence against women is a global issue and is manifested in problems such as rape, incest, pornography, sexual harassment, prostitution, abandonment, abduction and trafficking of women. In some regions gender preference starts as early as birth, where thousands of daughters are horrifically slaughtered; in other areas it is seen through the social restraints and limited access that women and girls have to a full education.

The education of girls and young women is crucial to the opportunities they will have in their lives. Such education is the single most effective factor in improving the situation of the whole family, as the mother is the first educator.

Young women's independence and employment is reliant upon them gaining a high level of self esteem and confidence. The social network of a country must provide sufficient childcare so mothers of young children can participate in work and education.

If young women want to participate in the changing world, they must be equipped to take an active and effective part in social, economic, political and cultural leadership. Special attention should be given to enabling the young to change old discriminatory traditions.

The establishment of full equality between men and women, in all aspects of life and at every level of society, will be central to the success of efforts to conceive and implement a strategy of global development.


(C) EDUCATION

Education is defined as the life-long process which releases human potential along physical, psychological and spiritual dimensions. Education is crucial to enabling youth to become effective agents of social development.

Young people should have equal access to quality education irrespective of gender, race, class, religion, politics and ethnicity. Financial aid must be available to enable young people to study.

The purpose of education, in addition to basic skills, is to inculcate human values, including respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, instill a sense of social responsibility, advance the concept of global citizenship and empower young people to become a dynamic force for social change.

This significant learning process should be carried out in an atmosphere free from economic, social, religious and political pressures. It must help to stimulate all individuals to recognise their inner potential and make them responsible for their lives and the future of humankind.


(D) RACISM AND XENOPHOBIA

Despite the fact that racism and xenophobia is a world wide occurrence, little or no government action is aimed at reducing it. We demand that governments implement anti-racism actions to eradicate this problem by the end of the century. We see racism as a severe problem for our generation and request the governments to provide us with support to enable us to eradicate racism.


(E) HEALTH

Ignorance concerning sexual issues creates prejudice and due to HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, can prove to be fatal. Sex education and services which facilitate safe sexual behaviour do not encourage promiscuity. On the contrary, they help to create respect and integrity for our bodies and lives, and encourage youth to take responsibility for themselves.

Individuals have the right to a level of health that will permit them to live socially and economically productive lives in happiness and self-fulfillment. We call on governments to improve their commitment to, and implementation of, comprehensive health-care programmes that will ensure access to quality health-care for all.

In many countries youth are deprived of essential information concerning both sexual and reproductive health. Substance abuse is a problem particularly important to address with regard to youth. The effect of addictive substances on the mental and physical health of the young, and its secondary effects on social behaviour and family are undisputed. We call upon governments to implement preventative health education programmes in areas such as substance abuse, prostitution, HIV/AIDS and contraception.

Governments should prohibit female genital mutilation wherever it exists and give vigorous support to efforts among non-governmental organisations, community organisations and religious institutions to eliminate such practices.

We call upon governments to take the necessary measures to prevent infanticide, prenatal selection, trafficking of children and the use of children in prostitution and pornography.


(F) EMPLOYMENT

The effects of unemployment are straining the world community as never before. This has affected the youth more than other social groups. We are deeply worried at the alarming rate of unemployment among young people across the world.

Special attention must be paid to job creation for young people and to their continued support and training as well as access to financial resources to assist in undertaking small and medium business enterprises. The right to a job and a secure income for young people must be guaranteed by governments including the provision of unemployment benefit in order to sustain a basic standard of living.

Young workers should have the full possibility to participate in the activities of trade unions. Attention must also be paid to the protection of young workers and it must be ensured that youth are made aware of their rights as employees.

The continued problem of child labour must be abolished! Alternative ways of securing the family income must be pursued. Also we call on governments to take steps to integrate all children into formal, compulsory education.


(G) POPULATION

Social development is closely linked with population issues. The rapid population growth and urbanisation in many developing countries is undermining the already weak educational and social services and is creating a heavy burden on the future, especially concerning youth employment and housing.

Religious and political leaders should deal with population issues in a responsible manner and not try to hamper efforts to curb rapid population growth. To prevent over-urbanisation, governments have the responsibility to develop and invest resources in other areas.

The creation of social security and provision of education, with a special emphasis on young women, is key to sustainable solution of the population problem. Family planning services must be provided and contraception must be available for all.


(H) THE ECONOMY

In the present day world we are experiencing global and national economic structures and policies that are inherently unequal and exploitative. As a result the majority of the people in the world live in poverty while wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few. The inequality and marginalisation within countries has led to an increasing gap between the rich and poor in both developed and developing countries.

The economic situation of many of the developing countries continues to deteriorate at an unprecedented rate as a result of unjust international economic relations, bad governance and corruption. In the short term very few of the poorest countries will be able, even under the most favourable conditions, to improve their economy.

The foreign debt situation is inhibiting sustainable social development in developing countries. Therefore it is an urgent necessity to move towards a cancellation of the foreign debt with special priority to the less developed countries. The benefits derived from this cancellation should be channelled into the social and economic development of these countries.

Increased development aid is needed to provide for the basic needs of all people, and to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty. The United Nations should develop ways and means to secure compliance with the target and to implement the 20 - 20 compact. The United Nations should create general outlines and rules for development aid. The aid should not be unconditional, it should be linked with moderate military spending, good governance, implementation of human rights and environmental considerations.

The challenge for the world is to improve the economies of the weaker countries to enable them to compete on the world market. In order to achieve a healthy economy, the developing countries need to have multifaceted economies with varied production. Equitable world trade presupposes equal trade partners. When there are great differences in power and economic capabilities and few restrictions on the movement of capital the poor countries are forced to remove trade barriers and the home market becomes vulnerable to competition from transnational companies. The objective of global trade agreements should be the redistribution of resources and the development of poor countries and areas. This must be combined with a stronger sense of international responsibility with particular emphasis on the responsibility of the developed countries.

The present enormous international speculation with currencies is creating world-wide financial insecurity, harming national economies and hampering long term economic growth. To create more stability in the international financial markets and to discourage speculation the so called "Tobin Tax" on international financial transactions should be introduced. This tax could also become a new form for financing international development co-operation democratically administered by the United Nations.

All countries must be given access to new technology.

The main responsibility for social development is in the hands of individual countries. National governments must protect the interests of their people and ensure that the latter benefit from economic activities. Economic growth and efficiency do not exist for their own sake, but to ensure welfare. Governments should create an atmosphere conducive to economic development in their countries, but not at the expense of the protection of human rights, environment and natural resources.


(I) THE ENVIRONMENT

Environmental problems respect no borders and thus affect the whole of humankind. The world's looming environmental problems are another reflection of the interdependence of the planet. These problems will not be solved by technical means alone, a change of attitudes, values and motivation is essential to its successful realisation. With the united effort of all the people and nations this threat can be met.


(J) SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

The decision makers must realise that there is a connection between over-consumption in the North and poverty in the South. We demand that the gap between the North and the South be eradicated. We recognise that a shift towards an ecologically sustainable development is essential for the planet to survive.


(K) GLOBAL GOVERNANCE

The increasing interdependence of the world and the huge gap between the present realities and our far reaching vision for a just and participatory global society cries for global governance. This must be based upon commonly identified global values, rights and obligations, and put into action by effective International Law and relevant democratic bodies. The process must have a reformed United Nations system as a coherent core with non-governmental organisations in a position to influence and act as catalysts in the process.


CONCLUSION

We believe that the rights of young people have not received the deserved attention of the United Nations system. Youth rights are an integral element of basic human rights. A Youth Rights Charter is still outstanding and we intend to ensure that such a charter is drafted with the full participation of the youth and students organisations, and is adopted by the United Nations General Assembly.

We commit ourselves to make a substantial contribution to the process towards advancing a peaceful and just global society. In rising to this challenge we will have to utilise those distinguishing qualities of youth: vitality, openness, the willingness to experiment, and the courage to realise our vision. Let us in unity and action make our mark on the destiny of humankind.




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