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WYA/ Young people fighting for human rights at the UN

November Thu 17, 2011

Anna Halpine  Anna Halpine

The World Youth Alliance, a global coalition of young people committed to promoting the dignity of the person and building solidarity among youth from developed and developing nations, was founded at the United Nations in 1999. At a conference on Population and Development, a conference aiming to confer about the needs of the world’s people, thirty-two young people were given the floor. They stated that they represented all three billion of the world’s youth and demanded abortion as a human right, sexual rights for children, and a deletion of parents’ rights. Basic issues such as access to clean water, sanitation, education, health care, and employment were not addressed.  Anna Halpine and her friends were challenged by this and, in a reaction to it, went into the assembly the next morning to distribute flyers stating that the group of young people did not represent all the youth of the world. Anna called attention to the importance of addressing basic human rights and necessities. The statement was well-received by many delegations, which requested that she become a permanent participant at the United Nations, as well as work with young people from different countries. Since then, WYA has grown and become a global coalition with 1 million members from more than 100 countries.

When listening to Anna speak, one cannot help but wonder about the intricate dynamics of cultural debates in western society today and contemplate the implications of being an active part of this debate at the UN without negotiating one’s own values or retracting in front of adversities. The question that surfaces is what does it mean to affirm the supremacy and value of Life in a society that tends to perceive everything as relative and negotiable?

Anna Halpine and WYA are examples of people who not only find the courage to affirm what they believe in, but do so in a very efficient and influential way, by paying attention and engaging their freedom in the issues that are dear to them, within the UN and numerous other international forums. The WYA acts concretely to defend their clear vision in which the person, its dignity and needs are at the center by proposing development policies and training youth in its programs around the world.

The WYA is not leading a merely theoretical, ethical or moralistic battle against a group of people that it disagrees with. Instead, the WYA is fully engaged in responding to a distorted perception of life and its value at all levels by operating within the society and the institutions surrounding it. This is a fascinating paradigm and proposal for changing or “making” our culture today, engaging in the cultural debate by setting our language, our vision and most of all our experience as an alternative to a status quo that tends to threaten the core of our Humanity. An interview with Anna is below.

Starting from the 1999 episode at the UN, what moved you then and today to continue the work you are doing with WYA?



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