Blog: “We need to continue to speak up for our rights, and hold decision makers to account”

23 May 2016

Picture of Ewan McCall MSYP.

Ewan McCall MSYP is a Trustee of the Scottish Youth Parliament. Last year, he visited Geneva to put a series of recommendations to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. This week, he’s heading there again for the Committee’s assessment of how well the UK’s governments uphold the rights of children and young people.

When I opened the list of issues, it was brilliant to see many of the recommendations Kirsty McCahill MSYP and myself brought to the Committee on the Rights of the Child a little over half a year ago. When we went before the Committee in October, we presented questions on austerity and on votes at 16. Much of what we and the other young people present brought before the Committee had been included in the list of issues, making me feel that our voices were really being heard.

As the decision makers from the Governments of the UK descend upon Geneva next week, my expectations are perhaps a little limited. I’m sad to say I’m not expecting a U-turn on austerity, the implementation of the vote at 16, or an end to age discrimination, but I’m optimistic that the findings will be a step in the right direction. By bringing our voice to the forefront of government, the problems we highlighted become issues, and the solutions we present – catalysed by the UNCRC – become bigger and bolder until they can’t be ignored. In short, we have a voice.

Without a voice, changes to our education systems, job prospects and standards of living are put in jeopardy as people play politics and ignore a generation that’s weak at the ballot box. It’s dangerous to play politics with the future of a country with a demographic already worse off than their predecessors and an age group more at risk of poverty than any other.

This week, the UN is providing all of us with a megaphone of international proportions to get a few simple points across on the way forward— invest in the skills of our generation today, include us in decision-making today and ensure that we can expect a decent standard of living today, so that the issues of today don't become the nightmares of tomorrow.

It is important that as young people we continue to make our voices heard and our opinions known. Progress can be slow, and change can feel daunting, but silence accomplishes nothing. We need to continue to speak up for our rights, and hold decision makers to account.