The UN Major Group for Children and Youth, an officially mandated space for young people to engage in the UN negotiations, has recently concluded youth consultations in the Baqa’a refugee camp in Amman, Jordan. The camp was built for Palestinians back in 1968 and today is home to some 100,000 people. Interestingly, you’d never think you’re in a camp as the place feels like any town in the region.
During the MGCY’s visit, around 30 young people came together to discuss the youth priorities in the Habitat III process, to help frame the “New Urban Agenda”. Not surprisingly, the top priorities identified by the Baqa’a youth were to have free and safe spaces and to put an end to their frustrations. Young people need physical space to play with their friends, they need a space to socialize and actively engage in the community life. Lack of such spaces makes it difficult for them to be fully active in local governance and development.
Many of the Baqa’a youth residents were asked for their needs by various international NGOs, yet regardless of their answers, it didn’t bring a change. This must be very frustrating. We need to put an end to these empty “consultations” carried out to legitimize ones mandate and actions and start focusing on actual collaborations with young people. Listening what they have to say is just a beginning of the action that should follow.
Even in places like Baqa’a, where young people face lot more challenges, the young people are motivated and eager to help others. For example, girls that participated in our consultations want to rehearse a play to share their experiences to fight the use of drugs by young people. They want to show it to the community, despite not having proper theatre facilities to practice or perform.
Changing reality takes time but it starts with little actions by every one of us. Advocacy actions are thus extremely important, at any level. Whether you talk to your friend on the street or a government official in a conference room, your opinion and actions matter as much.
The MGCY’s visit to Baqa’a was extremely successful and we are very grateful to UNRWA, UNICEF and International Federation of Medical Student Association Jordan to make it happen. Thank you!