Would you rather have a roof over your head or a voice?

‘Impossible to say’, thought some.

‘My voice is key,’ claimed others. ‘Whatever physical toil I have to go through, life without a say and an opinion is no life at all.’

A small but loud few said: ‘there will be thousands of homeless people who would give anything for shelter and laugh at your choice of a voice.’

This philosophical question only nudges at the confusing, sprawling and subjective concept of human rights. But the UN Declaration of Human Rights clears things up a bit and helps ensure that people and governments can’t pick and choose rights. Putting them in order of importance is almost impossible and always damaging. Go on, would you rather give up your heart or lungs?

Continuously, there are fights for the guarantees we’re entitled to when born. Crises such as war, poverty and exploitation ignore these rights. As do common problems here in the UK. Young carers may miss out on education due to time constraints. A disabled person may struggle to find work due to the attitudes or employers or colleagues. A refugee or asylum seeker may be unable to access learning due to a lack of information and advice.

I attended the UK Young Ambassadors Youth Empowerment Roundtable in London, a forum that helps young people have a voice. Between the sandwiches and sips of orange juice, I felt equally inadequate and awe-inspired at what my peers had done in such short lives. Their hours and hours of dedication to everything from the Carers Trust to helping advise David Cameron on youth volunteering left me wondering if I should rethink my intimate relationship with Netflix.

UK Young Ambassadors is a programme that gives young people a voice in international decision making. Amazingly, the comments we made in groups such as on the question above will be presented by the UK Young Ambassadors at the EU Youth Conference in Italy in October. What do we need with youth rights? Why do young people need to be independent? What barriers are there to access rights?

Human rights are more confusing than I initially thought. A striking example is The Convention on the Rights of the Child, the most widely and rapidly ratified human rights treaty in history. But two countries haven’t ratified. The politically unstable Somalia and proud super-power, the USA. Why won’t the US sign? The CRC’s dedication to fighting child abuse, neglect and exploitation is hardly a stance that should conflict with America’s interests.

There’s lots more work to be done then and our generation can help. The overarching lesson I learnt (other than to arrive early to ensure optimum sandwich-stuffing time) was that the young people who devote time to others are just that – young people. There’s nothing stopping me or any other young person with the right support travelling to Italy, representing our generation and having our voices heard. Or from being educated. Or from having fair employment. And that’s what Young Ambassadors are about: ensuring that everyone has access to their rights and, if some have more barriers to access than others, breaking those barriers down.

The UK Young Ambassadors is a team of 12 young people with diverse backgrounds and experiences, focused on your voice being heard on the international stage. Youth may be weighed down by accusations of inadequate life experience, naivety and self-centredness – but the UKYA is proving to the world that we can think intelligently and fairly, that we deserve to have a voice and that we’re an essential ingredient for positive change. After all, it’s our world too.

Find out more: http://www.ukya.org.uk/



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