UN Young Professionals National Conference – Mid-Week Review

By Holly Kendall

By Holly Kendall

Our generation is facing real and difficult human rights issues: the treatment of refugees, inequality between aboriginal and non aboriginal populations, racism in the community, climate change, how to best use international aid and gender equality. Some of these challenges are unique to Australia, but generally they are global challenges. For over sixty years the United Nations has attempted to bring people together to discuss and work out solutions to global problems.

… the Honourable Michael Kirby described the Universal Declaration on Human Rights as an antidote to World War II and the expression of the aspirations for the new world.

On 26 and 27 October 2012 over a 100 wide eyed and enthusiastic young professionals gathered at the Vibe Hotel in Sydney to consider how the United Nations’ mission can be promoted and developed in Australia.

The United Nations Association of Australia Young Professionals (UNAAYP) was launched in 2011. It seeks to inform, inspire and involve young people in the work of the United Nations. The conference  brought together skilled young professionals to consider the relevance of the United Nations to Australia, the challenges presented by a range of human rights issues and to discuss how the UNAAYP network can be effective.

… [Benson Saul] argued that disrespecting the human rights of a single individual affects and reflects on our community as a whole.

Delegates were inspired by the experience of the Honourable Michael Kirby, who described the Universal Declaration on Human Rights as an antidote to World War II and the expression of the aspirations for the new world. He reminded us that the United Nations remains relevant today. Threats to peace and human rights continue, from the conflict in Syria to the continued criminlisation of homosexuality. Justice Kirby discussed the trials and tribulations of his work within the United Nations and other international forums. He has been an outsider who has been able to get Europeans and Americans to agree on common principles to protect privacy, and worked through the United Nations bureaucracy to break down barriers and turn talk into action to promote human rights in Cambodia. Justice Kirby encouraged the delegates to take the opportunities that present themselves and never lose their idealism.

The conference focused on actions by young people that are bringing about change changes, includinga presentation from Benson Saulo, the first Aboriginal to be Australia’s Youth representative to the United Nations. He argued that disrespecting the human rights of a single individual affects and reflects on our community as a whole.

Young Australians that have been Youth Ambassadors for Development spoke about their experiences working on the eradication of land mines in Cambodia, coordinating United Nations aid in Laos, building capacity and training staff in Sri Lanka and facilitating economic development in the Philippines. These young Australians demonstrate that  there are many opportunities for young people to use our skills to create a positive change.

The conference was an opportunity to brainstorm what the UNAAYP network will do next and how it will grow into a national organisation. To find out more about the UNAAYP visit www.unaa.org.au/young-professionals-network.html.

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