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“The Role of Youth in Advancing Human Rights” 2020 Human Rights Day Forum


Jufitri Joha


Malaysian Youth Council (MBM)

Organized by:

SUHAKAM & United Nations

Thank you for having Malaysia Youth Council (MBM) to be part of this important event. It is a great pleasure to have such a great avenue to propose ideas on best practices from youth leader and youth worker perspective with the view of bringing improvement to the existing laws and regulations, as well as the structure and system related to the protection of human rights in this beloved country.

This is indeed a big recognition to the youth movement and part of rights of the youth to be consulted in the matter affected them most especially in the era of pandemic. This is also a dream of MBM and other youth leaders to achieve the highest level of decision making that is adult-youth decision making as according to Roger Hart level of participation. We want our youth to get involved in offering their ideas and thought in such crucial and serious stuff like human rights. Youth are always chanting that they want spaces, platforms, voices to be heard and their issues to be dealt with.  Most importantly they also want their roles and contribution towards nation building to be recognized and appreciated. This is in fact basic rights of the youth!

We usually hear in the mass media on the role of young people or any group in society to protect human rights. I am pleased to be invited in this forum and to talk about the role of youth in advancing human rights. We had lifted one level ahead whereby youth are no longer promoting but in fact advancing human rights. Advancing means move forwards in a purposeful way and make or cause to make progress.

Now advancing human rights might still include advocacy, awareness and creating discussions around the many areas of human rights – which all include in protecting human rights. However, I think the emphasis is on implementation and thinking about the steps needed to be done in the future. Of course, it means that youth are the main anchor and actor, the key player to ensure all segments of human rights as enshrined in our Constitution with cross reference to Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), OIC Declaration of Human Rights (ODHR) and ASEAN Declaration of Human Rights (ADHR) are well-understood in the society especially among the youth.

When we talk about the role of youth it combines the responsibility of young people. To do that, it best for me to share the significant contributions of young people in advancing human rights. Due to the time constraint, I wish to highlight one or two things that had been done by MBM consistently in advancing human rights in the light of youth rights.

Many people talk about general human rights, women rights, and people with disability rights, indigenous people rights and children rights but tend to forget youth rights. Even though the definition of youth somehow or rather encroaches in part of children definition 15 to 18 years old, however for this purpose we are referring for those who are between 18 years to 35 years old.

Youth Mainstreaming

Youth Mainstreaming in development planning and policy is a key part of the long-term commitment of MBM to working with young people, to champion their rights and develop broad-based strategies to incorporate their capacities, participation and interests in the youth sector and beyond. In this regard MBM adopted a rights-based approach where it perceives young people as rights holders and the state and all institutions as duty-bearers.

Commonwealth defines Youth Mainstreaming as:

“Strategies for intergenerational equity and justice that enable young people’s capabilities, participation and human rights to be an integral dimension of the analysis, design, implementation and monitoring & evaluation of policies and programmes in inter-sectoral planning across all social, political and economic spheres. It enables young people and adults to benefit equally from, and contribute equally to, development outcomes”.

The key points in youth mainstreaming is voice, participation, representation and empowerment so that youth can bring their ideas, issues and aspirations to the highest level of decision making and to be heard by the government. I believe youth mainstreaming is in line with the spirit of United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child.

As an umbrella for all youth organisation, MBM is responsible to ensure youth voice to be heard at all level especially in the various national decision making platforms like Parliament, National Consultative Youth Council (MPBN), National Action Council on Cost of Living (NACCOL) and Majlis Pekerjaan Negara.

In the era of pandemic, MBM in collaboration with National Student Consultative Council (MPPK) becoming a mediator to collect all grievances and suggestions including issue of unemployment posted by our youth to be sent to Economic Action Council via Minister of Youth and Sports.

MBM believe in inclusivity and social cohesion, hence MBM has empower several youth organisations like Majlis Belia OKU, Gerakan Belia Sikh Malaysia, Persatuan Belia Industri Kreatif, Majlis Belia Orang Asli, Majlis Belia Tahfiz and Kelab Belia Guru Muda. MBM is also considering to empower refugees youth as well. Their voices are equally important to be heard.

MBM also took an initiative to have a meaningful dialogue with progressive and controversial youth group like Parliament Digital, Undi 18 and Senate 18. MBM try to understand their aspiration and try to bridging between them and Government.

In more serious matters, MBM and its affiliate members are continuously committed to offer ideas from youth perspectives in senate reform caucus, election reform agenda, political finance committee and universal periodic review report.

Apart from bringing the youth voice, MBM is providing and sending them to various direct platforms to voice out by themselves such as Youth Parliament, Majlis Penasihat Anak Muda Berkepakaran kepada Perdana Menteri, All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPG) on Youth Affairs, Youth Group for International Affairs and Diplomacy and not to forget to mention our representative in Majlis Konsultasi Kanak-Kanak, adik Azman Azhim Ketua Junior MBM. All of them had chances to speak on behalf youth and the rakyat especially in the era of pandemic.

Furthermore, MBM is fighting for more youth to be given more chance to be fielded as candidate in the next general election as way out to the current political turmoil.

Youth Rights

While I just shared an example of the effort to advance human rights in youth organisation, I found the right to participation, rights to have space, rights for internet access, rights to be unleashed their potential as significant to youth in Malaysia. This effort is important as well for youth to work together to protect NGOs freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom of associations – collectively.  By saying collectively we hope that our fellow youth will want to engage further in youth organisations, groups and collaborative activities.

The Way Forward

There is a need for a collective and better understanding of what youth mainstreaming involve, how it can be implemented effectively for all youth.

Finally, to further strengthening the role of youth in advancing human rights, MBM would like to make some recommendation as follow:

1) To recognize youth movement as an efficacy informal platform for informal education especially in educating the youth about human rights;

2) To consider qualified youth leader to be appointed as one the Suhakam Commissioner for the next tenure to ensure youth are represented or at least to have special youth section under Suhakam;

3) To have and recognize Youth Rights Charter such as right to participation, rights to have spaces, rights for internet access, rights to be unleashed their potential etc;

4) To include youth representative in every decision making process platform at all level so that the youth have proper channels to post their ideas and problem because they are most affected. In short, full and effective youth participation in society and decision making. With these proposal to provide inclusive medium in place we hope that it may further strengthen the role of youth in advancing human rights and allowing young people to act collectively.

Date: 10th December 2020 | online session

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