Rory studies MSc Global Politics at the London School of Economics, sits on Amnesty International’s Global Youth Task Force and is a Global Shaper at the World Economic Forum. Here he tells us about the coexistence of local and global youth initiatives, and gives several inspiring examples of recent youth social action projects.
“As the impact of COVID-19 is felt across the globe, it is clear that young people are needed now more than ever. The world’s largest international organisations were quick to recognise this, launching a global survey on 21 April. Available in 17 languages, its questions aimed to gauge the pandemic’s impact on youth rights, particularly for those in fragile situations, the rural economy, and entrepreneurship and self-employment. The survey was created by organisations including the European Youth Forum, International Labour Organisation, and the United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Few would argue that this global initiative does not constitute a grand gesture. However, at a time in which many young people are struggling with the effects of the virus on a daily basis, I have heard many of my peers ask; What good is a global survey? And, in particular, one that will be analysed for weeks to come? We need community-level action, they cry, and we need it now.
I often respond with a note of caution, stating that despite its large, lengthy, and lethargic nature, global action should still be encouraged at all costs. After all, global action always precludes cross-border coordination and collaboration.
I then respond with many notes of optimism, as from Belarus to Belgium, I regularly see European youth entrepreneurs, activists, changemakers, and volunteers rise to the challenge by tackling local and global virus-related issues through smart solutions.
One such solution was quick to catch my eye. In Italy, a European nation particularly hard hit by the virus, young volunteers launched Outbreak of Generosity. Supported by the Forum of European Muslim Youth and Student Organisations, the campaign aims to provide young people with the tools necessary to better their communities and countries. To achieve this, volunteers from 12 nations developed a comprehensive toolkit that they translated into 14 languages. What better example of a global initiative? I also saw that another group of young people, responding to a call to action from the Diocese of Milan, took on the task of delivering parcels to at-risk families and older adults who live alone. Crucially, this allowed older volunteers to stay at home and assist remotely.
Driven by a profound sense of duty, the ambition of these young people was to serve as ‘sparks in the night’ for society’s most fragile and vulnerable individuals.
The situation in the UK is just as inspiring. I have witnessed this through my role in the London ‘Global Shapers’ hub. This initiative of the World Economic Forum sees young people in over 400 cities devise and implement social impact projects that will benefit those around them. Our current project labelled #UnitedAgainstC19, asks people across London to commit to taking an action that will benefit their local community. This is run in partnership with One Young World, a UK-based NGO that enables young leaders to develop solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges.
Alongside explaining what people can do to help during the crisis, our easy-to-use website connects visitors with volunteering organisations, advice on misinformation, government support, health resources, and more. I’m proud to say that other hubs across Europe are also harnessing the power of young people.
The Barcelona hub’s ‘Open Ventilator’ project, is a non-profit, open-source initiative that shares the design, software, and assembly manual of a fully compliant artificial ventilator for COVID-19 patients. In Copenhagen, the hub has created C19.dk, a contact tracing tool which allows people to self-report their location and update their health status through a daily text message. In essence, where there’s a hub, there’s hope.
Clearly, as evidenced by the global survey, international organisations have a key role to play in coordinating a Europe-wide virus response. However, I’m immensely proud of the fact that whilst they do this, young people are on the ground, implementing solutions, and taking action.”
Youth story by Rory Daniels submitted via Eurodesk Partner, British Youth Council (BYC).
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