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"Languages rang out, dictionary pages flew, laughter was heard, and a feeling of working together toward a common goal seemed to bring all of the people involved closer together."
- Julie Birnbaum

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Nepal

Planting the seed for the next millenium
by Julie Birnbaum, Nepal
Jan 23, 2000

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A major bone of contention between participants and organizers was the objective of the conference itself. Some felt disappointed that out of five days, only two were dedicated to workshops on the conference themes: World Peace, HIV/AIDS, Cultural Harmony, the Environment, and Human Rights. Others wondered if the Kathmandu Resolution was anything more than an empty gesture to make people feel warm and fuzzy, and nothing more.

In truth, every participant came to the conference for different reasons, and certainly not everyone could be satisfied. Another surprise to many people was the liberal interpretation of the word "youth." Though many participants appeared to be under 30, there were a large number of older delegates, and most of the organizers themselves seemed slightly out of place when referring to themselves as youth.

On the night of January 1, an "emergency" meeting was held, where the conference's most outspoken young people met to discuss their expectations of the Global Youth Meet, expectations which they did not feel had been fulfilled. With one conference day left, in which delegates were supposed to come up with the vaguely defined Kathmandu Resolution, those present at the meeting were very concerned about how to create a meaningful document, and one which presented detailed suggestions for solving the issues that had been raised.

After both delegates and organizers had shared their opinions, a handful of leaders emerged, who worked together to reorganize the final conference day. Fighting off the queasy exhaustion from the sleepless night before, they developed a plan to initiate small group discussions on the five conference themes, in order to generate solutions.

"I was happy with the meeting on the 1st," said Hari Man Lama, the conference coordinator. "Here, we exchanged our views and I felt it was a true meeting of the minds. It was a discussion with a concrete outcome." The following day, the conference had a different vibe. On the first workshop day, participants had listened to experts reading papers on the issues, and debate was minimal. On the final day, delegates broke into groups of 5 or 10 people and faced the challenge of proposing viable solutions to some of the world's major problems. Many of them met on the wide lawn outside the Birendra Convention Center, giving a relaxed feel to the normally stately, impressive building. Languages rang out, dictionary pages flew, laughter was heard, and a feeling of working together toward a common goal seemed to bring all of the people involved closer together.

In one group, a Tibetan woman could be heard speaking about the need to balance one's own culture with others, and the group suggested promoting more cultural exchanges among young people. Another workshop, talking about environmental education, discussed the need to utilize means of communications that are appropriate to local conditions, such as street plays, talk shows and public action programs.

"We believe that it is the role of the youth to inform all regarding the refugee issues in the world," wrote the Human Rights workshop participants. "The reason for this is to pressure governments to ratify and implement international treaties. We need to form a youth organization either worldwide or regional, to monitor the situation and pressure the government."

And now it's time to come together..

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