I was in Strasbourg this week, accompanying a group of young people from across Europe to meet Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary General. Some of the guys who made up the delegation continue to have a difficult life, struggling to find work or their place on a worthwhile training course. And struggling to find their place in a society that tends to value people's worth in economic more often than human terms. Others have had more opportunities but are committed to creating a society which gives those same chances to everyone whatever their background.
It was uplifting to join them as they delivered their Appeal for a fairer world to Ban Ki-moon and the European Parliament President. This Appeal is the fruit of a process that has brought European young people together over the past year, in which each person was listened to and each point of view was respected. The Appeal asks Europeans of all ages and backgrounds to express their solidarity with young people who are among the over 80 million who live in poverty across the continent.
"As young people from across Europe and in solidarity with young people the world over, we live in a world where money is more important than people. This world excludes some of us and breaks others. It leaves us feeling disgusted and angry. (…) We are of all ages and from across Europe. We dream of a fairer world. We must come together to make it possible."
The high that the young people were on after the event was infectious. As one of them put it, "When we began the process of writing this Appeal, I could never have imagined that we would end up reading it to the UN Secretary-General!"
It is easy to be cynical about such encounters between dignitaries and "ordinary citizens". I honesty got the feeling that Ban Ki-moon was genuinely touched and impressed by the commitment of this group of young people. In his very spontaneous response, he congratulated them on their leadership in tackling questions of poverty and encouraged their expression of solidarity to build a world free from poverty.
Those of us accompanying the delegation must now ensure that the Appeal's strong message of a dream for a fairer world is reinforced by reminding world leaders and decision makers of the expectations young people have for them to stand by the commitments they have made to make that dream a reality.
European youth appeal to the UN Secretary-General for a fairer world from ATDFRA on Vimeo.