An ambitious undertaking this week has united students from Bahrain, Canada, India, South Africa, and the United States, in person and via videoconference, at this year’s Student Conference on Human Rights, which focused on challenges posed by climate change from a human rights perspective.
Students were expected to draft and adopt a Plan of Action during the conference which took place from 3 to 5 December 2008.
The theme, “Climate Change and Human Rights” was chosen to coincide with the 60th anniversary celebration of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights to be observed on 10 December and the UN Conference on Climate Change taking place in Poznan , Poland , from 1 to 12 December.
Approximately 50 youths from the United States and Canada took part in the three-day event, first at the United Nations International School (UNIS) and then at the UN Headquarters. At the same time, more than 50 students from countries throughout Latin America and the
Caribbean are participating in a parallel conference at the UN Information Centre in Mexico City. In a bold experiment, the students in New York and Mexico City are communicating via videoconference with the help of interpreters.
Prior to the conference, participants were asked to conduct their own research on climate change and human rights and share what they learned through a web-based forum on the UN Cyberschoolbus web site.
Participants were able to interact with UN climate change and human rights experts through a series of live video chats scheduled during the weeks leading up to the conference.
On Friday, students were given an opportunity to present their Plan of Action to the President of the General Assembly and to a panel of international experts on climate change.
During the conference, participants from other parts of the United States and from Canada were hosted by UNIS students.
In December 1998, the Department of Public Information invited students from around the world to a conference at UN Headquarters in New York to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The conference goal was to produce a Youth Declaration of Human Rights.
This program at the UN was so successful that students lobbied to make the conference an annual event that would be scheduled on or near Human Rights Day. DPI agreed to host the conference and this year is the 11th such undertaking.
The Carol Baur Foundation, Global Education Motivators, InterConnections 21 and UNIS were founding co-sponsors and are still involved today.
While the theme of the conference changes each year, the goals of this annual event remain the same: to promote awareness and prompt action among student leaders about human rights in general, as well as the specific rights issues related to the current year’s theme.
The conference offers student leaders the opportunity to network and develop important leadership skills such as public speaking, team and consensus building, negotiating, and research and drafting.