“Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.”
― Alexander Pope
A lot has been said about WCY. I’ve said a lot myself. It’s been called a keystone event in world history, it’s been called an absolute waste of money, it’s even been called “ah that exhibition thing happening at BMICH.”
Let’s start by defining WCY. Now I’ve been blogging a lot about WCY, doing daily recaps and the like, but what I’ve given is a very general outline, mostly focused on the process and logistics of the event. Time to amend that. WCY2014 is – or was, I should say – the third world youth conference held. The purpose of such a conference is – ideally – to give the youth of the world a crack at seeing laws and objectives they want to address being passed into UN legislature.
To that effect, delegates from the various countries invited come up with a document, or a declaration, which is then checked, sorted, edited and passed onto the United Nations for appraisal. In the case of WCY2014, it was the Colombo Declaration, which was just sorted and settled today.
It’s important to understand how this document works. Even if the UN accepts the tiniest part of it, it’s not going to affect us today. It’s not going to affect us tomorrow. It’s going to take years to push these changes into the UN and back down to the national level for implementation by governments. WCY, in short, was 70% a platform for giving the youth of the world a crack at changing the world from the top-down rather than the bottom-up. The other 30%, of course, was a bit of marketing for Sri Lanka and the Powers That Be.
How was WCY2014? I found it both fascinating and slightly disturbing at the same time. For starters, there was chronic mismanagement running throughout the conference, and despite rumblings about the volunteers, I personally believe that if not for them and their hard work, this entire conference would not exist.
Then there are the delegates and the points they raised within the document itself. Firstly, I have to admire the passion which many of these youth delegates brought to the conference – each and every foreign delegate I met seemed to have a burning agenda to push through.
In their light, I found most Sri Lankan delegates disappointingly submissive. Despite fiery speeches to the local media and suchlike, overall participation of the Sri Lankan delegates – especially since they outnumbered every country over 10:1 – was disappointingly low. Some delegates I spoke to had no actual clue as to what the outcome of WCY would be.
Secondly, I have to say that WCY2014’s delegates exhibited more than a little naivette in the themes that they choose to push through. Hours and hours were spent discussing Sports and Recreation for international friendships, but more readily pressing issues like media freedom, political corruption, war crimes, even international legalities and jurisdiction (which should have been discussed, especially in the light of Snowden, Assange and the like) were glossed over.
Was it a failure? No. Put that many passionate minds and you end up with something usable. Unfortunately, coming from a third-world country, I cannot help but feel that some of the problems discussed were cracks in the windows of castles in the sky. It was, in one sense, a very “safe” conference. I expected, in the very least, the proposal of a system to increase the actual influence wielded by the UN in relation to war and related crimes (US/Iran, Russia/Ukraine anyone?). I was disappointed.
Was the outcome document revolutionary? No, not quite. I’m no political expert, but from where I’m standing it looks very reactive instead of proactive, in some senses very similar to the products of the previous conferences.
However, I’m told the process was revolutionary. Every government body needs more youth participation, and not from a “volunteer for random event then go to concert as compensation” perspective: people need actual influence on decision making.
It’s actually less a question of “youth” being involved than the age barrier to making meaningful changes to decision-making being reduced. After all, no young person likes being bossed around by old people, do they? It’s been that way for years.
Nevertheless, the Colombo Declaration is a very real thing: a global policy document written and endorsed by 165+ countries. It’s a historic moment, actually – the very first document jointly agreed on by governments AND youth is no mere joke. It covers a huge range of very valid topics and suggestions, from the need to establish coherent vocational education in every country to the need to recognize the rights of people of all gender identities.
Having read the thing, I can say that even if the UN accepts only half the proposed suggestions, if those few suggestions are successfully pushed out to the countries involved (which is so much harder than having a conference), then the world as we know it is going to change. For the better.
One thing I must mention here is the lack of professionalism on the part of some delegates. Every so often someone would randomly wander into a sessions and attempt to revisit an issue that had been done and dusted about an hour ago. It’s a global conference:, not a field trip: the least you can do is be there on time.
We also saw a protest against the recent tragedy unfolding in Nigeria. Now – I understand I’m going to piss off a lot of people here, and I fully empathize with those poor souls mourning their daughters – but what the actual fuck is the point of staging a protest inside the conference? Can those at that moment do anything? No. Can Sri Lanka magically reach out and find Boko Haram? No. Is it for media exposure? In that case, it would have been far more effective to march on the relevant African embassy rather than a conference hall in the BMICH.
In any case, the protestors could have learned a thing or two from the protests we have in Sri Lanka. Stopping outside a door chanting four words and then dispersing fifteen minutes later is nothing but a waste of fifteen minutes. It was a fine show of human empathy, but ultimately, delegates were there to look at a bigger picture.
Now lastly, one thing I noticed throughout the conference was a lack of concern from the general Sri Lankan public. This is sad. Perhaps the job of communicating the importance of WCY wasn’t done very well. My blog is in English, which means it addresses barely 10% of the country and actually reaches far less.
The general attitude of “nobody gives a fuck” isn’t helping anyone in the long term. Despite what our media might think, we don’t live in a vacuum: we live in a world and we are surrounded by others. In fact, it is a waste of taxpayer money if Sri Lankans don’t make a useful contribution to world policy.
Operations-wise, of course, it was a mess – to the point that I barely want to write on it. As one hole is plugged, another is uncovered. Today’s epic fail of the day was the sudden, random drop-shipping of busloads of random people from all over Sri Lanka to gawk at the delegates and hang around for the inevitable Bathiya and Santhush show. It’s all very fine to show that the youth of Sri Lanka are involved, but I don’t call throwing in 500 random people involvement. It would have been a lot better to get more educated members from all the provinces and even out the so-called balance of average Lankan : Colombo Elite a bit.
Here’s hoping that WCY will make an impact in the world – and that it’ll happen again. I certainly gained a lot of memories from this one, both good and bad. Even the drama.
Especially the drama.