Youth address at RFSD 2022


Your Excellencies, colleagues of civil society, and my fellow young people in the room,
I am Rashima Kwatra, a lesbian, migrant, young feminist of color, speaking on behalf of the youth pre-meeting to the Regional Forum on the 1st of April.
We express our solidarity with the people of Ukraine as well as those in Russia who are standing against the human rights violations and atrocities committed by the government. I wanted to echo a quote I heard yesterday from Ukrainian environmental activist Svitlana, and reiterate that – there is nothing more unsustainable than war and militarism.
Youths today are not inheriting the future we deserve. Decision-makers around the world sacrifice our future for capitalistic, political, gains, and do so without accountability.
We cannot continue to ignore that the world is burning, those hardest hit by the climate crisis and COVID-19 are dying, and colonialist, neocolonialist, extractive States and actors continue to exploit those who are already excluded, with impunity.
Systemically excluded youth are among those hardest hit by COVID-19. This includes young women and girls, LGBTI youth, indigenous youths, youths with disabilities, migrant youth, young refugees, and other young people, who have been historically marginalised.
This year’s theme is “Building back better from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) while advancing the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in the UNECE Region”, yet what we need to do is build forward better.
We want to stress for everyone here today and beyond to hear us when we say:
  • We are best placed to serve our peers and we are the experts in our own lives. We need the financial resources and opportunities to build our capacity and to lead action on sustainable development.
  • The barriers to our participation need to be addressed so that we can be our own decision makers. We must be meaningfully engaged and consulted. Policies that are being made for us cannot be made without us.
  • Young people in our region experience intersecting forms of discrimination, sexism, racism, ageism, and misogny, both in explicit and implicit forms. We must address patriarchy and the systemic forms of oppression, including the Western, binary and socially constructed notion of gender promoted at international and national decision making, which drive inequality.
  • We need accessible education that ensures that the needs of young people with disabilities are met and they are afforded every opportunity to succeed and thrive.
  • We need to see the institutialization of comprehensive sexuality education and adequate access to sexual and reproductive health services, including free menstrual products for all people. We must include education around consent and agency in schools and ensure that education systems challenge gender norms.
  • We must stop deforestation, which often occurs as a result of private interests at the expense of local communities and indigenous peoples. We call on countries to ratify ILO Convention 169, as the free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples is vital to sustainable development.
  • We demand clearer regulation and monitoring to stop illegal and unsustainable fishing methods, sustainable practices of consumption and production, and to address the issue of microplastics. We need to stop polluting our waters, where we see a future with more plastic than sea life.
  • We must acknowledge the inequitable access to UN headquarters and Offices. Specifically, HLPF is hosted in New York, and this regional meeting in Geneva, both of which have some of the most restrictive visa systems in the world, affecting youth disproportionately. Youth must be funded and systematically included to engage at every level
We believe that our pre-meeting was a good example of SDG17, and an example many here can follow. We worked in partnership across the different countries in our region, across various constituency groups, including those whose voices are silenced, we had an accessible event, with the provision of interpretation in Russian, international sign language interpretation and live captioning.
We understand that the only way forward is to work together intersectionally.
Transformative change and the 2030 Agenda can only be achieved in a peaceful world with our inclusion.
Thank you.