The 8th Annual UN Student Human Rights Conference will take
place on December 1-2, 2005. The theme will be “Water
as a Human Right.” Coinciding with the 60th anniversary
of the UN, this year’s conference relates directly to
the UN’s Millennium Development Goal (MDG) #7: to ensure
environmental sustainability, and is integrally related to
the achievement of other MDGs as well.
The need for clean, safe water is an inescapable
reality, and the world is increasingly suffering the consequences
of decades of pollution and mismanagement of this vital resource.
It is essential that human rights be incorporated into any
strategy designed to ensure sustainable management of the
earth’s limited supply of fresh water. The conference
will unite 60 youth from around the world at the UN Headquarters
in New York for discussion, collaboration, and action on water
issues. Participants in New York will include up to 10 student
representatives from each of the co-sponsors. Countless others
will participate through videoconferencing and web-casting.
Prior to the conference, participants will conduct their own
research on human rights and water issues, and share their ideas
through a web-based forum. During the conference, student representatives
in New York will work with students from other countries participating
by videoconferencing and web-casting to develop a consensus
on these issues and draft a Plan of Action. After the conference
is over, students will be encouraged to initiate or participate
in a water-related project in their local community or abroad.
The chairperson of the conference will present this document
to the President of the UN General Assembly at the end of the
proceedings on December 2, 2005. In past years, the President
of the General Assembly has, in turn, presented the document
prepared by the Student Conference to the General Assembly.
Background to the Conference
In December 1998, the United Nations Department of Public Information invited students from around the world to a conference at UN Headquarters in New York to help celebrate the 50 th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The conference goal was to produce the Youth Declaration of Human Rights.
This program at the UN was so successful that students lobbied to make the conference an annual event that would be scheduled to coincide closely with Human Rights Day (December 10 th). The UN Department of Public Information agreed to host the conference. The Carol Baur Foundation, Global Education Motivators, InterConnections 21 and the UN International School (UNIS) in New York City were founding co-sponsors . A total of seven such annual conferences have taken place since 1998.
While the theme of the conference changes each year, the goals of this annual event remain the same: to promote awareness and learning and prompt action among student leaders about human rights in general, as well as the specific rights issues related to the current year’s theme. The conference is also an opportunity for student leaders to network and develop important leadership skills such as public speaking, team and consensus building, negotiating, and research and drafting. Finally, the conference provides participants with first-hand experience in using information technologies such as video-conferencing and web-casting.