Young Parliamentarians a new force for peace, disarmament and sustainable development

130 young parliamentarians from 50 countries gather in Lusaka.

Discuss youth action and policies for a sustainable world.

Young parliamentarians are emerging as a new force to advance effective policies for peace, disarmament and sustainable development. This was evident from the 130 young parliamentarians from 50 countries  who gathered in Lusaka, Zambia, for the third Inter Parliamentary Union Global Conference of Young Parliamentarians on Mar 16-17.

The conference was held prior to the 134th IPU assembly of 700 parliamentarians (of all ages) from 125 countries held on Mar 19-23. PNND was represented at both eventsby a number of parliamentary members.

Sandor Fulop and Catherine Pearce, World Future Council.

A key focus of the conference was on the rights of youth – current and future generations. These include a right to peace and to a sustainable world.

Sandor Fulop, former Commissioner for Future Generations (Hungary), noted that considerable human activity today impacts on future generations. He reported on the role of his former office to ensure that all legislation takes into consideration the rights of future generations. This opened up a very interesting discussion on the World Future Council’s proposal for more countries – and for the United Nations - to establish  Guardians for future generations

Economics as if future generations matter

The conference also focused on economic models to ensure equity and a sustainable world. ‘Our planet is the source of all economic activity – now and into the future,’ noted Alyn Ware, PNND Global Coordinator and a member of the World Future Council, who opened the discussion. ‘It is a closed system – much like a spaceship. Economic growth based on continued consumption of finite resources is unsustainable and an evolutionary dead-end.

Ware also noted that the global military budget of $1.7 trillion robs human and material resources from social, economic and environmental needs. He also noted that ‘global military activity – both in peacetime and in war – is one of the largest contributors to climate change and other environmental pollution.’

There are several examples of parliamentarians taking action on these issues. In the United States, PNND Co-President Senator Ed Markey, has submitted the Smarter Approach to Nuclear Expenditure (SANE) Act which calls for a massive reduction in nuclear weapons spending in order to fund health, education, job creation, renewable energies and environmental protection.

Gareth Hughes MP, New Zealand

The parliaments of New Zealand, Norway and Switzerland have taken action to divest (end investments) of public funds or financial institutions in corporations making nuclear weapons. And individual parliamentarians, using data from Don’t Bank on the Bomb, are ensuring that they do not have their bank accounts in banks that invest in nuclear weapons corporations. 

Gareth Hughes MP (New Zealand) reported on actions to divest from fossil fuel industries as well as nuclear weapons industries. 'Finance and investment is a key part of climate action. In New Zealand, we have seen our universities, local governments and churches divest from fossil fuel investments. These have been campaigns led and won by youth.'

There was also discussion on economic indicators which measure quality of life – not just quantity of consumption. These include the Gross National Happiness Index, Global Peace Index and Happy Planet Index.

Rinzin Jamtsho MP (Bhutan), noted that the Gross National Happiness Index, which guides policy-making in Bhutan, is a scientific index with 33 statistical indicators under four main domains - good governance, sustainable socio-economic development, cultural preservation, and environmental conservation.   

Rinzin Jamtsho MP (Bhutan) speaking about the Gross Happiness Index

Youth participation in political process

Also discussed was youth participation in political process. ‘Youth are not just the torchbearers of the future’ says IPU President Saber Chowdhury opening the conference, ‘You are leaders now! You are not the warm-up act for the main event. You are part of the main event. You are not only the inheritors of a world that has to be fixed, but the ones with solutions now for it to be fixed. As digital natives, and as bearers of new ideas, energy and enthusiasm, you are ideally equipped to change the world.’

However, according to Vinay Nayak, youth outreach digital manager for the Obama 2012 re-election campaign, ‘Young people will not engage in political process to build a better world unless they can identify with the issues, campaign methods and the policy-makers leading them.

'This can be done by ensuring there are young people representing them as parliamentarians and other decision makers, by listening to young peoples’ concerns, and by using social media tools for youth to communicate with their elected representatives.”

Conference Final Document

The Final Document of the Conference (also available in French), reflected these, and other key discussion points:

  • From Zambia, the pride of Africa, we want our action to be driven by the principle of Ubuntu (human kind-ness). We firmly believe that there can only be national development benefits for all when benefits are also delivered to all at the global level;
     
  • We are deeply engaged in the protection of our planet and in prompting sustainable production and consumption patterns. Those will ensure that young people and future generations can benefit from natural resources and live a healthy life on a healthy planet;
    Rania Elwani MP (Egypt), former Olympic champion and Ambassador of Peace and Sport

     
  • As young parliamentarians, we are committed to prioritizing spending in our budgets on social and economic well-being and international development cooperation rather than military expenditure;
     
  • As young MPs, we can set the stage by using social media and digital communication channels to better link young citizens and our parliaments;
     
  • We are committed to bringing the development agenda to the attention of the public and the media, including by calling on sports celebrities popular with young people.