If present dithering is any indication, the promised global conference celebrating the UN International Year of Youth may not happen after all.
As it stands now, governments at the UN cannot decide on a date, sponsor, funding, or venue. However, some fear that a hasty youth conference will be thrown together at the last minute, given the example set by the World Youth Conference in Mexico this past August.
Last spring the UN announced a conference for youth in July 2011 to cap off the International Year of Youth. As talks over the practical aspects of the conference began, Tunisia came forward as a potential sponsor and began to organize the event.
In August, Tunisia abruptly pulled its sponsorship and a new sponsor has yet to be found. Delegates reported that there was frustration on Tunisia’s part with no institutional support from other member states and no extra funding for the conference.
One delegate told the Friday Fax that the U.S. and Japan refused to fund the event, estimated to cost upwards of $15 million, even at UN headquarters.
Meanwhile Mexico staged its own World Youth Conference in Leon, Guanajuato last August as the beginning of the Year of Youth. Although the Mexico conference was not an official UN event, it boasted the support of various UN agencies and several UN member states.
The chaotic Mexico World Youth Conference frustrated delegates and participants alike. Delegates agreed upon a statement, called the Declaration of Guanajuato, only after a tension-filled struggle with delegates having to hunt down a drafting committee to submit their proposals.
The Mexico conference was allegedly going to be a stepping-stone in anticipation of Tunisia, and the Declaration of Guanajuato was supposed to be presented to the UN General Assembly during the MDG summit in September. The Declaration of Guanajuato would also serve as the groundwork for an outcome document from the Tunisia conference.
While the draft of the actual Declaration of Guanajuato was much improved by the end of the Mexico conference, pro-life lobbyists were particularly concerned about a radical youth statement calling for redefinition of gender identities, comprehensive sexual education, and abortion that would be attached to the declaration.
Surprisingly, the Mexico World Youth Conference was only mentioned briefly in Mexico’s speech at the MDG summit in September, and the Declaration of Guanajuato was never brought up at all. Throughout the General Assembly meeting, delegates were anticipating hearing of preparations for a UN youth conference, however it never came up in the Third Committee.
The last major UN conference dedicated to youth was held in Lisbon in 1998, and addressed “ministers responsible for youth”. The conference produced a document called the Lisbon Declaration that included suggestions from the Holy See that recognized the family as “the basic unit of society” and affirmed the call of young people to marriage.