ANKARA

The youth have to get organized, and the Islamic Cooperation Youth Forum (ICYF) is a “very good and brilliant example” of how youth can be organized – across the borders and across the spectrum of Islamic countries, said Ambassador Munir Akram, addressing a virtual event Thursday evening. 

“But it is equally important for youth to organize at the national level,” said Akram, Pakistan’s permanent representative to the UN.

“Quite often in many of our countries, our youth are organized by political parties, and their activities are usually focused political agendas. Political agendas are of course important [for] the promotion of democracy and justice, but I think youth organizations also need to focus on development agendas of their own countries,” said Akram, addressing the event — Future of Multilateral Cooperation in the Post-COVID-19 Era and the Role of Youth.

The event was hosted by the Istanbul-based ICYF, a youth body that works under the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

Akram emphasized that developing countries need to adopt the right policies.

“Unless their priorities are focused in the right direction…unless the youth are able to bring to attention the important objectives which are not being addressed by governments, national policies emerge,” said Akram, who is also president of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (UN ECOSOC).

National policies, Akram insisted, “can be best changed nationally.”

“I am not the one who can support the change of the policies in developing countries through pressure from outside. That pressure needs to come from inside, and that pressure has to come from the people because it is their future and they must be able to decide their future,” he said.

He said such pressure can be exercised through political groups, political parties, youth movements and mobilization.

“The whole IT space provides a good vehicle for young people not only internationally but also nationally to be able to spread their message,” he added. 

‘UN systems survived pandemic’

Akram said the most visible impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was the lockdowns “so the people were not able to cross borders.”

“We were not able to meet in our usual conferences at the United Nations,” he said. “Everyone was operating from homes, if they could.”

The UN system was able to connect online and keep things going, he said.

“UN systems performed quite well in the COVID-19 crisis,” he added.

“But the fact of the matter is that until people are able to actually interact with each other, until cooperation is able to get to people physically…meeting with each other is not sufficient,” he said.

“The United Nations has to be able to deliver on its decisions…on its cooperation and assistance to where it is needed, and that of course has been affected,” he said.

Akram said there have been a lot of safety and security concerns in UN peace-keeping operations and UN humanitarian assistance operations, “but on the whole, despite the border closures, despite the limitations of physical interactions, United Nations systems have been functional…in terms of humanitarian and peace keeping…It has functioned well.”

However, he said major conferences and decisions have been postponed, and “it inevitably will impact on international and multi-lateral cooperation.”

“The UN systems have survived with some degree of resilience,” he added.

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