Promoting Youth Participation at the GFMD

Panel at the introduction of the GFMD

I am currently representing young migrants at the Global Forum for Migration and Development. I held a speech on youth participation and am actively taking part in the discussions. I want to share with you my answers to an interview with the UNICEF colleagues from Germany. 

In your opinion, why is the Global Compact on Migration so important for migrant children?

The Global Compact on Migration is a first international step to tackle migration on a global level. While migration has always existed, additional dimensions and challenges are now influencing it. An increasing number of people are on the move, the reasons for migration are ever more multifaceted, and false information is spreading through the web and on social media. It is therefore more important than ever that we find effective, holistic and durable solutions for migration. The Global Compact is a great possibility to achieve this.

It is children and young people that are most affected by migration policies. Regardless if they are leaving in search of safety or for better education, with their parents or alone, migrate safely or need to rely on the help of smugglers, children and young people on the move deserve particular attention. Their specific needs should be recognised and their rights should be protected. At the same time, their ability to be agents of their own lives should be recognised – children and young people have huge potential to be drivers of change, if we give them the possibility and safety to actively take part in the community. Young people are creative and often have an unbiased, fresh and hopeful view of the world. They should be given the possibility to speak up for what they need and believe.

The GFMD chairs 2017-2018, Morocco and Germany, have acknowledged this potential and have given young people a chance to share their views and participate in the events leading to the adoption of the Global Compact. If this interaction continues to take place eye-to-eye, I think that this will pose a great possibility for change. 

During the Youth Forum in Marrakesh you will meet other youth delegates to advance child rights. What is your priority for the meeting?

My personal aim is to start many different conversations with young people, delegates and the youth speakers at the Youth Forum. I believe that much can be achieved by simply talking to people – by telling them your stories and sharing your ideas. I also think that one should not shy away from challenging opinions and ideas. 

At the same time, I also believe that I can learn a lot from the people that I will meet during the event. It would be great if this interaction would be sustainable and that I can stay in contact with the people in future for exchanging information and planning projects.

In your opinion, what needs to happen to give migrants a voice?

I think that there is great danger that when we are trying to help people, we are prone to make assumptions. We make assumptions on what people want. What people need. What people are afraid of. I think that it is important to find out what people really need and wish for. Migrants do not need pity. They need to be actively involved in the decisions that affect them.

Conversations are a great way of achieving this. These conversations can take place on a personal, regional, national or international level. Migrants should for example be given the possibility to speak at city council meetings or at national and international negotiations that affect migration.

Polls and questionnaires can help us to hear from even more people than one-on-one conversations. The data can be analysed, and trends can be identified, that can then be used to organise projects and laws. 

It is also important to give migrants a chance to actively contribute to their host communities. They should be granted access to education and recreational activities like drama, sports and music. 

A child-focused implementation of the GCM is key for protecting the rights of migrant children. What is your message to government leaders in Marrakesh?

An equal partnership – eye to eye – where decision makers (mayors, delegates of member states, the private sector and civil society) and young people sit together at one table to constructively discuss issues and solutions should become the new normal.

Migration has many causes and just as many effects and no one solution exists to tackle it. It will be necessary to work on many solutions at the same time. 

These solutions have to be realistic to be realized in a timely way. It is counterproductive if we set ourselves goals that are too high from the beginning. Rather, we should formulate smaller but concrete deadlines that lead to an overarching goal.

Most importantly though I think that world leaders have to be authentic and true. They should really stand behind what they advocate – empty words and promises are worth nothing. The Global Compact for Migration is a once in a generation opportunity to transform the lives of millions of children on the move. When we invest in migrant children and young people, we are investing in our shared future. Now governments must listen to migrant children and young people, invest in them and make them count.

Dont make assumptions about what we need and what we want. If you care make us visible.

Yasmin Youssef (Marrakesh, December 2018)