Junior Officer and Human Rights at Sea Advisory Board member, Yrhen Bernard Sabanal Balinis recently participated in the Youth Forum of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). 

Youth in the Spotlight

The ECOSOC Youth Forum is an annual event initiated by the President of the Economic and Social Council. This platform has become significant for young individuals as it allows them to actively participate in policy discussions at the UN by sharing creative ideas, solutions, and innovations on a global scale. 

The main focus is the role of youth in monitoring, reviewing, and implementing the UN 2030 Agenda and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which aims to create "a world of universal respect for human rights and human dignity, the rule of law, justice, equality and non-discrimination." 

Yrhen said that it was "an honour" to be part of the largest ECOSOC Youth Forum to date, especially as he had the opportunity to volunteer for the UN Envoy on Youth and the Major Group for Children and Youth. 

He was part of a team that moderated the live chat while also virtually coordinating 200+ enthusiastic youth from across the globe. 

"The zeal of this youth is immense; one can really feel their desire to be heard and have a seat at the negotiation tables," said Yrhen. 

What does human rights mean to you?

During the "Mobilising Youth Leaders on Human Rights and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)" event, the panel discussed the question, "What does human rights mean to you?"

Noting the 75th year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Yrhen addressed the panel and echoed loudly the voice of human rights at sea, stating, "Human rights apply at sea as they do on land." 

Yrhen, the youngest International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Goodwill Maritime Ambassador, stressed the plights of seafarers, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, and highlighted pervasive sexual abuses that sometimes take place onboard vessels. 

He also discussed previous World Maritime Day Themes, expressing that he "remains optimistic" that the theme in 2024 will "prioritise young people's involvement in the maritime industry." 

He added, "There is a consensus in the UN systems about the need for proactive youth inclusion. No wonder they adopted in a resolution the establishment of the UN Youth office. We hope that with this, we can see an increase of UN bodies meaningfully engaging their youth constituents."

The future

Yrhen also noted the major transformation in the maritime industry and said he is "thankful" that so much had been done on behalf of the youth; however, he asks, "How about hearing from those who will actually be affected by these changes?"

"We held the binoculars and served as a lookout as you navigated our future for us. It's time we join you in steering the helm."

Yrhen will continue to advocate for the youth in maritime and said he will "ensure their voices are heard." 

Through its charitable work and UN ECOSOC accreditation, Human Rights at Sea fully supports the youth in maritime and shares Yrhen's optimism that the next generation of human rights defenders will continue to have their voices heard and acknowledged.

The honesty, determination, and commitment of the young people in the maritime industry give hope that together we can achieve a future where human rights abuses at sea no longer exist.

Contact: If you have any questions, please write to us at enquiries@humanrightsatsea.org

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