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Aiming to Get Young People Active in International Policy

12/23/2003 - 8:00 AM PST

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Anna Halpine's World Youth Alliance Works with U.N. and European Union

NEW YORK, DEC. 22, 2003 (Zenit) - A twenty-something woman and an army of her peers are fighting to protect human life and the dignity of the human person in international policy.

Halpine shared how her group unites youth, builds relationships with delegates at the United Nations and the European Union, and places life and dignity at the center of human rights.

Q: What is the mission of the World Youth Alliance, and what are some of its programs?

Halpine: The World Youth Alliance is a global coalition of young people and youth organizations, committed to promoting the dignity of the person at the international level and building solidarity among youth from developed and developing countries.

A small team of World Youth Alliance members works directly at the United Nations and European Union to protect human life and the dignity of the human person in international policy. The World Youth Alliance is able to positively affect the documents produced at major international conferences through direct contact with delegates, building relationships with missions to the U.N., and participation in the General Assembly and caucus meetings.

The World Youth Alliance believes that the first step in building a culture of life is to help our generation understand and articulate what that culture includes.

For this reason, the World Youth Alliance trains hundreds of young people each year in the use of diplomacy and negotiation, message development and grass-roots activities, as well as providing formation for our youth to talk about the dignity of the person in different sectors of society.

Other World Youth Alliance members are engaged at the grass-roots level, building a culture of life through charitable service projects and innovative cultural events.

For example, we have created "Ubuchindami," a book discussion group that meets in several locations throughout our regions and focuses on selected works of philosophy, literature and nonfiction that promote a common language for understanding the dignity of the person.

Q: Why did you decide to establish the World Youth Alliance?

Halpine: In 1999 I was attending Cairo-plus-5, a U.N. conference on population and development in New York. The United Nations brought 32 young people into the conference to participate.

In the course of the conference, it quickly became apparent that the majority of U.N.-selected delegates were caught up in politically correct nostrums and were not interested in engaging basic issues confronting most of the world's youth -- issues such as potable water, human dignity, basic health care, education and human rights.

I was with a handful of young people who felt the issues being discussed did not represent our concerns. So we went in the next day with a letter laying out an agenda addressing our concerns and presented it to the delegates. For two hours the conference stalled, and in that time the world divided.

The representatives of the developed nations clustered around the Clinton administration, which was in office at the time. The developing nations came to us one by one and said, "Thank you. Thank you for being here. Please come into our countries and work with our young people." And that really was the beginning of the World Youth Alliance.

We soon realized that there was an invitation and opening in the international community to actively engage in the process at the U.N. There was an opportunity to give a voice to millions of young peoples whose concerns and ideals were not being represented by the worldview expressed by the small, well-funded group of young people who claimed to speak for the world's 3 billion youth.

Q: What has been your experience working at the United Nations and European Union?

Halpine: The World Youth Alliance realized very early on that in order to be the most effective in working with these international bodies we needed to learn how the system works and work within it. We have found delegations are very open to dialoging with us, listening to the concerns and ideas of the youth we represent.

Recently, in November 2003, we held our first International Solidarity Forum in New York. We brought together 35 of our best and brightest young people from all of our regions, representing over 16 countries for a week of training and discussion.

In the middle of the forum, we held a reception where the permanent missions to the U.N. and our young people could meet. There was a mutual delight on the side of the delegates and the youth as they met and shared their backgrounds and ideals. I think this example is just a small indication of the rich opportunity that is present ...

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