The Youth Declaration
We, the young people of Asia and the Pacific, representing an overwhelming majority in our respective countries, guided by our diverse faiths, confronted by common issues of poverty, wealth, and ecology, have gathered to exchange stories and experiences.
Our region is endowed with tremendous beauty and abundance with the capacity to sustain its people for generations to come. Several of our economies are held up as “Asian tigers,” examples of the right path to development. Yet, the adoption of neoliberal capitalist policies by many of the governments of Asia and the Pacific has given rise to ecological, socio-economic and cultural problems which adversely affect us, as youth, and the population as a whole.
We witness mass impoverishment created by predatory, corporate-led globalisation. We observe the growing inequality between the global North and the global South, and between the rich and the poor within our countries. There are few employment opportunities, even for those who get the privilege to obtain university degrees. When we do find work, wages are low, working conditions are inhuman, there is no job security and there are limited benefits.
As poverty increases, we move from one irregular employment or short-term contract to another. We leave the countryside and go to the cities to look for work to support our families. We migrate overseas in the tens of thousands in search of jobs and a better life. We are pushed into prostitution, the drug trade, crime, and human trafficking, among other social vices.
We want to go to school, but the majority of us cannot afford it. When we can go to school, schools are overcrowded and it is hard to learn. Courses are designed to fill the needs of the profit-driven, private corporations; therefore we study to get work, not to better ourselves nor society. We are witness to the continuing collapse of any meaningful social welfare system that could respond to these multiple crises.
We weep at the destruction of ecology on a daily basis. We see how the forests and water systems have been ravished by profit-oriented logging and mining operations. We are aggrieved about the increase in unnatural disasters caused by climate change: droughts, floods, sea-level rise, wild-fires, tsunamis, cyclones, tropical storms and other calamities.
This destruction is caused primarily by development projects financed by the multinational corporations with the blessing of our governments, backed by the military. The current profit-oriented economic system upholds and encourages deforestation, top-soil erosion, toxic waste and uncontrolled emission of greenhouse gases. It leads to the take-over of local agricultural economies by big agribusiness, undermining domestic and community lifestyles. All of this is reinforced by the environmental racism practiced by the global North and governments of the global South against our peoples.
We are afraid that there will be nothing left to sustain life for us and our children.
We oppose the unjust practices and seek alternatives, but our governments react with oppression. We continue to fight the exploitative policies of our governments and corporations, and we will continue to support social movements upholding justice and peace.
We the youth, envision a world where sustainable practices are the norm; where the environment is treated with respect and cared for because we understand ourselves to be part of it; where all work is valued and meaningful; where everyone has freedom of expression and organisation. We yearn for a lifestyle that is peaceful, safe and prosperous. We envisage an Earth where economies are driven by human need, and not human greed. We conceive of a world where wealth is measured by happiness, contentment and an abundant community life. We dream of a future in which young people have the freedom to choose their own paths and develop full human potential. We desire a world that is just and sweet.
Our Strategies and Actions
The current times call for urgent action. We call upon the youth:
to reject consumerist mono-culture, and uphold the positive aspects of our respective cultures that affirm the community over the individual;
to critically engage with church institutions and other organisations to hold them accountable to practice what they preach; and
to build principled alliances with other social sectors like the Indigenous Peoples’ movements, trade unions and women’s movements, nurturing social movements that uphold justice and peace.
We call upon all churches:
to take immediate action on climate change because of the grave threat posed to our brothers and sisters in Asia and the Pacific; and
to create projects supporting those who are fighting for socially disadvantaged people, affordable education and all forms of positive inclusiveness.
We will work to raise awareness on these issues by:
creating “cafés of consciousness” and other alternative forums where youth can discuss issues and outline plans of action, as well as find alternative entertainment and education;
launching boycott and divestment campaigns;
supporting and creating unbiased media that offers alternative news and information, through such means as internet and pamphlets; and
forming prayer circles that give support and hope to communities and instill the need to fight for a just cause.
We will start today by:
not buying products of multi-national/transnational corporations that are made from processes that exploit natural resources and human labour;
making every effort to buy products produced locally and from fair trade, that affirm that we are part of Creation entrusted to us by God; and
reducing our consumption, recycling and reusing resources.
In summary, as youth motivated by our faith, we realise that prayer alone is insufficient. In order to bring about the changes we long to see in the world, we must be models. We must live the lifestyle that we want the people of Asia and the Pacific to adopt.
“So when Jesus heard these things, he said to him, you still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute it to the poor, and you will have a treasure in heaven. Come and follow me.” (Luke 18:22)
“A new world is not only possible, she is on her way, and on quiet day you can hear her breathing.” (Arundhati Roy)
Declared by the youth delegates from Bangladesh, Cambodia, Hong Kong, India, Korea, Philippines, Pakistan, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Tonga, Australia, and also Kenya, South Africa, and the United States to the AGAPE Consultation on Poverty, Wealth, and Ecology on 05 November 2009.