At the end of March, tens of thousands of civil society activists gathered in Tunis for the World Social Forum (WSF), an event first arranged in Brazil in 2001. With more than a thousand panels and workshops, it was a massive gathering with discussion topics ranging from democracy to youth involvement and from tax justice to Arab uprisings. The overarching theme of the event was global justice and development.
One of the participants was also Liisa Ketolainen, a representative of UN Youth of Finland in Kepa.
For obvious reasons, post 2015 was one of the most frequent themes at the forum. The history and current status of the process was repeated and NGOs were ushered to organize and be active. Some of the questions raised were: What does the principle of “leaving no one behind” mean? If we admit many of the current systems (such as within trade) being flawed and biased, shouldn’t the aim be to change the systems instead of ensuring everyone is involved? The greatest problem is not lack of money but the means of trade and financing. The involvement of environment in the coming SDGs was greeted with contentment, but in order of any of the goals to be relevant, their indicators must be ensured to be adequate and to the point. As importantly, rich countries ought to take the principle of universalism and global responsibility seriously. So far the measures suggested by wealthy member countries have included domestic issues, not global ones. For the SDGs to fully play their role, development cannot be isolated within societies. And even within societies, inequality demands increasing attention besides outright poverty.
The Arab revolutions were also a visible and interesting topic. It was impressing to hear the Tunisian youth themselves tell about the pressing issue of unemployment, even between people with university degrees and how the possibilities were not scarce – they were absent. While the situation concerning basic freedoms has enhanced remarkably, the unemployment is still a pressing issue.
Though youth was present in many of the topics and included in many discussions, there was still missing a sense of full involvement. At a discussion session about the future of the WSF a girl stood up and announced that at 18 she is one of the youngest participants and there are few of her age. That was a poignant show stopper for a moment. If forums like these want to be successful in the long run and develop future leaders for the movements, the youth should be included even more carefully and the youth themselves should seek even more prominent a role.
By Liisa Ketolainen, a representative of UN Youth of Finland in Kepa.