Raising the voices of indigenous youth at the UN

Soledad Carrasco Climate Change, Youth

Soledad Carrasco reflects on her experience of attending the UN youth forum as a representative of the indigenous peoples of Peru.

Youth are often accused of being indifferent to the political events unfolding in our society. But I saw no evidence of that at the Youth Forum of the United Nations which I attended recently in New York.

The forum, organized by the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ESOCOC), provides a platform for young activists from around the world to engage in dialogue and exchange ideas on the role of youth in reaching the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), alongside government and civil society representatives.

I believe that youth, in South America at least, have made progress in making their voices heard in the political arena. Young people lead the Departments of Youth in countries like Argentina and Paraguay. Yet, I can’t help but worry that when young people take on these roles, and are given a political voice, their ideals and concerns are often not carried through into action, as they end up aligning themselves with the leading political parties.

As a member of the indigenous community in Peru I noticed the absence of indigenous youth organizations or delegations at the forum. We face specific issues and we need to become familiar with these forums so that the UN and our leaders take us into account when making important decisions on international policies.

Our communities are not involved in defining international initiatives, so those who do get the opportunity to engage in these spaces have a duty to share what they learn.
How many indigenous youth know the importance of the SDGs and how they are being implemented, or how they include or affect young people? I believe it is up to every one of us to answer these questions and consider these challenges. Our communities are not involved in defining international initiatives, so those who do get the opportunity to engage in these spaces have a duty to share what they learn.

One of the hot topics at the forum was youth, technology and innovation. Discussions mainly revolved around technological advances, digital transformation and the challenges they bring to youth employment. Many young people suggested that the solution was to strengthen digital skills to better prepare youth for the workforce. However, in our indigenous communities, even access to mobile phones and computers is limited, that is when we even have internet signal! We face greater struggles to fully participate in defending and exercising our rights.

We also talked about climate change and the role of young people in improving awareness of global warming. While it was not a core subject, participants acknowledged the need to take into account the traditional knowledge and ancestral techniques of our aboriginal peoples that might help us adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change.

It was my first experience of attending the forum as a member of CHIRAPAQ (Centre for Indigenous Cultures of Peru) and of the Oxfam delegation. It made me realize the urgent need to define a common agenda for Andean and Amazonian youth, and to participate in events so we can share our ideas and make proposals.

We face many fundamental challenges, including language barriers, which make it harder to contribute to sessions, know and understand the function and use of the UN spaces, and secure the economic support and alliances that will allow us to assert our presence and not be left out of significant decisions. I am more convinced than ever that indigenous youth need to be more involved in discussions on sustainable development and be taken into account when implementing the 2030 Agenda.

Read more about Oxfam’s work with youth

Adinda Van Hemelrijck