Friday, 25 June 2010

Democracy is YOU decide

This is my take on democracy for the 5th IYMS (International Youth Media Summit) which will be held in Belgrade from 11th to 20th of August 2010.

"Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home, so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any map of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person: the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world." -- Eleanor Roosevelt

Democracy. It’s such a powerful word. But what does democracy mean to me? What situations do I encounter that involve democratic treatment? Or don’t. How does it affect my everyday life?

Let’s say my friends and I are planning a girl’s night out. We are getting ourselves ready and discuss where we want to go and dance the night away. I want to go Plastik, but my girls prefer to go to Akademia. Who decides then where we are going?
In one scenario one person will ‘have to give in’ and do something they don’t want to do and in the other 3 people are doing something ‘against their will’. Is this a case of majority rule (after all it’s 3 against 1) or should every single person’s will be respected?

How would we solve this situation? We would probably make a compromise – going to Plastik first and then to Akademia or vice versa. This is a problem that’s easily solved.

But let’s look at another situation, one that’s a bit trickier:

Ben is 17 and just finished high school. He wants to take a year out/gap year, as he isn’t sure what he wants to do with his life. He is not sure if and what he wants to study. He just needs a break and he thinks the best way for him to get his priorities straight is to go backpacking in Australia for a year. His parents though, don’t want him to go. They think it’s too dangerous, irresponsible and besides they want him to become a doctor and insist he enrolls in medical school. But this is not what Ben wants; he wants to go to Australia. His parents tell him that if he wants to go to Australia he will need to pay everything himself, he will have to get a job and find another place to live. As long as Ben is living under his parents’ roof, he has to do what his parents want, they tell him. So, his parents enroll him in med school, even though this is the last thing Ben wants…

He is still a minor, so he has to do whatever his parents tell/want him to do, right?

Well, does he? I mean, doesn’t his opinion count just as much as his parents? Doesn’t he have the RIGHT to pick his own education/future? Yes he is still a minor and living under his parents' roof, but he should at least have a say - his parents should at least consider his will. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen. Most of the time, the parent(s) will decide. And this is too bad.

To me democracy means having the possibility to determine your own life and future. The focus could be the youth’s RIGHT to VOTE for their PREROGATIVE. Democracy is YOU decide.

Democracy is one of the new issues introduced in this year’s summit. The society cannot ignore the power of the youth – they are the adults of tomorrow. They should not only be included in the society but have the opportunity to participate. And this is where the IYMS comes in – it gives them a chance to express their viewpoints and get them heard on a worldwide platform. This is why democracy is one of this year’s 7 issues.

The other 6 issues are directly related to democracy. There are countries where women are still seen as the inferior sex, whose traditional role is at home taking care of the kids. They still don’t always have the same possibilities when it comes to climbing up the ladder in the work environment. And I haven’t even mentioned the lack of women in politics. Women should have equal opportunities – it’s DISCRIMINATION if they don’t. Furthermore, it should not matter what your gender, age, ethnicity, culture, religion, education, and sexual preference is or whether you have a disability or not – everyone should have fair treatment. Each and every one of us should have the same rights and possibilities to access HEALTH care, whatever their financial situation is. Still too many people in the world are living in POVERTY and are experiencing hunger. Every person should have enough food, water and a roof over their head. Every single one of us should have the right to live in a violence and war free environment. VIOLENCE doesn’t sort any problems. If anything, it just creates more. We should all take care of the ENVIRONMENT by taking responsibility to reduce our ecological footprint, so that we all have access to clean water, food and air. What’s more important, we should make sure that future generations can enjoy a healthy planet.

Today’s YOUTH is tomorrow’s future. Therefore, it is important that young people are aware of the issues facing our planet. They should have the right to receive education, information and opportunities to develop themselves. They should have the right to have a SAY. After all, they (and their children and so on) are going to be the ones who have to live on this planet that we are destroying. And the beauty is that they have the numbers and the power to really have an influence and bring about a change. The big shots can’t ignore them if they all stand together and speak their mind. All the youth needs to do is get up and just do it.

"Young people should be at the forefront of global change and innovation. Empowered, they can be key agents for development and peace. If, however, they are left on society's margins, all of us will be impoverished. Let us ensure that all young people have every opportunity to participate fully in the lives of their societies." -- Kofi Annan

I hope that the participants will come with an open mind yet at the same time with ideas of their understanding of democracy and proposals for the PSA. It’s their VOICE that should be heard – it’s their voice that matters. And it’s their future that’s on the line. So it should be their choice what direction they want to go with regarding the PSA. After all, democracy is YOU decide.

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