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     Volume 2 Issue 35| August 29, 2010|


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Going Global

5th World Youth Congress 2010: Part I

Samia Shamim

The World Youth Congress (WYC) is an organisation gathering young people from all over the world. Over 1400 people from 147 countries congregated this year. I, a student of the Department of Economics of United International University, was a delegate from Bangladesh. The 5th WYC was held from July 31 till August 13, 2010. It took place in European capital of culture and one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Istanbul. Yýldýz Technical University Davutpaþa Campus hosted the event.

The World Youth Congress series began in 1997 following the frustrations of the Rio +5 meeting where Governments and organisations met to discuss the progresses since the original Rio Earth Summit. How can we keep the concept of sustainable development in the public eye? Conceived as a kind of Young People's Earth Summit, it became, instead, a process of identifying priorities for the new Millennium. The 1st Congress, held in Hawaii in October 1999, was entitled: “the Millennium Young People's Congress (MYPC)”. It identified ten key priorities for the new millennium eight of which closely mirrored the UN's Millennium Development Goals. The key message of that first congress was “Young people want to be active in development, not just beneficiaries of development aid delivered by others…” So was born the concept of Youth-led Development and the “Be the Change” Youth-led Development programme, which are central to the whole World Youth Congress Series.

Imece is a way of helping each other and a system of moving together for a common good. It is a social responsibility. Considering the current problems such as poverty, climate change, corruption and terrorism, the need for joint action to take comprehensive steps to promote solutions for these problems is inevitable. It is impossible for an individual, a group, or a nation to deal with all these problems at once. To secure our future, all nations, moreover, all individuals need to take concrete steps in a collective way. Thus the main theme of the 5th World Youth Congress Turkey 2010 was Imece to stress the urgency of joint action.

Programme Highlights of the WYC 2010:

Aile Meetings: During the WYC, participants were divided into small groups called “Aile” which means “Family” in Turkish. My family name was Kestane Sekeri and our leader cum grandfather was Azem Alptekin. We met every morning to discuss the day's programmes in detail. Azem had been a great leader and our group was one of the best performers in the WYC.

Regional Meetings: Delegates from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bhutan took part in the same regional meeting.

We discussed challenges and common solutions and the best practices in our region. One of the major outcomes of the regional meetings was the creation of the Istanbul Action Plan, which will be presented to all Youth Ministers gathering in Mexico for the World Youth Conference this month.

Workshops: During the first week of the Congress, there were numerous workshops of 90 to 180 minutes sessions everyday. Youth Employment in the UN, The World Bank's Youth to Youth Program, The MDGs and Multi-faith Action, The Notion of Sustainability, Gender equality in Education and Science, The Global Poverty Project: Introduction, Climate Change Negotiations are some of the workshops that took place.

Exhibition: the Exhibition hall or the “Market Place” as it was popularly called because it was a place for the exchange of ideas and information. Delegates from different countries had stalls to represent their national food, clothes and culture. There were stalls from Palestine, Paraguay, Indonesia, Mexico and Pakistan. Many UN agencies and other international organizations took part in the exhibition as well. Among them were Doctors Worldwide, Turkey and International Labor Organization. Aside from the stalls, delegates got to take part in traditional Turkish glass blowing, pottery making, paper marble designing and handicraft making.

The main aim of WYC 2010 was to gather together young people from different nationalities and to inspire them to take urgent actions. It also enabled participants to find out more about Turkish society and culture, and especially the old Turkish solidarity system, “imece”.
To be Continued…

(Writer is a graduate student of United International University)
Photo Credit: Patrick Kirsch

Iftar at DU campus: delight in fasting!

SEHRI and iftar are the two important rites of fasting. Students, both boys and girls, of the residential halls of Dhaka University take these rites with a festive mood. Friends and hall mates get up in the late hours of the night and head out to the canteens for sehri. They chat as they take their meals together. After the azaan, they go to bed again for the second session of sleeping.

In the morning, everyone gets busy with his or her own business but they will be back again one or two hour before iftar. Having iftar with friends and mates is the most delightful part of fasting. Groups of various sizes are seen sitting in circles, waiting for the whistle. Those who do not fast also take part in the feast along with their friends with the same degree of enthusiasm. The whole campus wears a jovial look during iftar.

There are various items of food for iftar in and around the campus. The snacks shops turn into iftar shops with the advent of Ramadan. Some additional street vendors also appear in the scene. Fruits, halim, jilapi, pakora, piyaju, begunee, alu chop are the most common iftar items for the campus students. One can get drinks like juice, lassi and fresh water. Among all these items, chola-muri is the most sought after food item.

Iftar fest, which is popularly known as iftar mahfil or iftar party, is a common scenario of Dhaka University campus during Ramadan. A good number of such parties are arranged within the campus. Political parties, regional student organizations in Dhaka, departments and residential halls organise these events in different venues in the auditoriums, office rooms, class rooms and mostly in the open fields. They are also organised by the ex-students of Dhaka University. It creates an opportunity for the reunion of old friends.

The most wonderful thing about iftar in the DU campus is that no one takes his or her iftar alone. Even if one does not belong to any group or does not have any friends to sit with, acquaintances or friends of friends will catch him or her up for sure.

In short, iftar is like a mini festival for the residential students of Dhaka University.

Humphrey Fellowship: Spending a year in the United States

Dr. Uttam Kumar Das

I was not ready to go out of the country for a year given the professional engagement and family commitment. A modest job with an inter-governmental organization was also another reason to my dilemma since the employer was not ready to give me a leave for a year. At the same time, I was looking for a change in my career, planning to become a human rights lawyer. I was moving from one “attractive job” to another.

I found that spending a year in the United States for the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Programme would be a way to relieve myself from my ongoing “corporate career,” and to prepare myself for my journey as a human rights lawyer.

The Fellowship is named after the great U.S. Statesman and Senator, Hubert Horatio Humphrey (27 May, 1911 - 13 January, 1978). I arrived at my host campus, University of Minnesota Law School in Minneapolis early August 2009. Minneapolis is where Hubert H. Humphrey built his political career. He had served as the Mayor of Minneapolis from 1945 to 1949. The Humphrey Fellowship, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, “provides a year of professional enrichment in the United States for experienced professionals from designated countries throughout the world,” as the programme's website states. Fellows are selected on a global competition based on their potential for leadership and their commitment to public service. They could be from either the public or private sectors. President Jimmy Carter had introduced it.

For the academic year 2009-2010, there were 187 Fellows from 94 countries. They were spread over in 17 campuses across the United States. There were four Fellows from Bangladesh- two government officers, one medical doctor and I- a lawyer by training. However, we were in four different campuses given our academic background and area of study/interests.

At the University of Minnesota's Minneapolis campus, there were two groups of Fellows; I was one of the 10 (lawyers and judges) attached with the Law School (UMNLS) and Human Rights Center. There were another group of 16 Fellows at the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs. (Again named after Mr. Humphrey). The Fellowship Programme requires studying and researching on particular courses. We were also required to volunteer for a U.S. agency or institution for at least 30 working days. There are also opportunities for attending professional conferences and workshops.

I took all possible advantages of attending conferences and seminars of my interests, mainly focusing on Human Rights issues.

I traveled to New York, San Francisco, Atlanta, Berkeley and Lincoln to attend conferences on human rights, social justice, human trafficking and irregular migration among others.

I tried my best to utilise each day of my Fellowship in a meaningful way, which included taking advantage of the resources and expertise at UMNLS, and visiting places and institutions and doing voluntary works.

I went to elementary and high schools and other forums to talk to students about my people, culture and human rights works.

I also contributed to a weekly column from November 2009 through May 2010 to the Minnesota Daily writing on legal and human rights issues from my South Asian perspective. My first column published in the daily brought me the First Position (in Editorial/Commentary Category) in the Best College Journalism Competition for the Midwest arranged by the Associate Collegiate Press (ACP).

I had the opportunity to meet and talk to a good number of people starting from a passerby in the street of Minneapolis to President Jimmy Carter in Atlanta. I have been at the memorial of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., read his autobiography and reflected on his works and legacies. I also got the opportunity to meeting Nobel Laureate Rigoberta Menchu from Guatemala. Her speech, which promoted working for humanity, has been an inspiration for us. It was wonderful meeting Sri Sri Ravi Shankar from India (founder of the Art of Living) how a simple man like him could inspire thousands of people to be devoted to peace and human dignity.

I never felt tired at the UMNLS. Though it was challenging for me to survive during the winter in the -20 degree Celsius, I managed to live on, learning to walk on the snow, wearing boots. I am proud to be a part of the great Institution like UMNLS with a century old legacy for quality legal education, research and publications.

The UMNLS School alumni magazine, Perspective, also made me part of its history. In the Spring 2010 issue, it profiled six graduates (screening through 1948 till present) including myself for their “fight for human rights on U.S. and global fronts.”

Now I am back, and it is time to deliver. I believe that if I want to bring a positive change or break the status quo wherever I want I have to take the initiative or lead. Even a small initiative like writing a piece or composing a poem can contribute towards positive change. Thousands of drops of water make an ocean. Let's be part of that drop. As Mr. Humphrey rightly says: “…each of us can make a difference. “

Lastly, I have only to extend my gratefulness to my family members, especially to my wife, Chalontica, who had been a great support. She tried her best to compensate my absence to my two daughters and parents.

(The writer is an Advocate (Attorney) at the Supreme Court of Bangladesh. He specialises in International Human Rights Law.)


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