Today’s generation face existential challenge

Philippine Human Rights Chair says: Push back!

The world is in a post-truth era. Facts matter less and less, emotion now shapes public opinion, and upholding civil and human rights seemingly has become an inconvenience. The young generation has largely become disillusioned with politics. Or have they?

“We in Southeast and East Asia are in the frontlines of this direct assault on human rights, freedom, and democracy. It is important that we stand up and push back,” called Chito Gascon, chair of the Philippine Commission on Human Rights, on a crowd of young liberal leaders from across Southeast Asia. They gathered in Bangkok to attend a workshop organized by the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD), the umbrella organization of liberal political parties in Asia, in order to discuss how to strengthen youth participation in politics and civic education.

Gascon cited the recent election of Boris Johnson as a testament to what is also called post-competent society. “It’s no longer important that we elect leaders that hold on to values, or govern effectively,” said Gascon. He explained that freedom, human rights, and democracy were achieved overtime as a result of the many atrocities over the last 150 years, the worst being the First and Second World Wars. “With those horrors, we established an edifice of freedom and democracy by guaranteeing human rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted 70 years ago, and we began to create institutions that will check on power. But what is happening now at the global level and here in Asia is an existential challenge to the values that we all adhere to. “Your generation has been presented the unique challenge of providing the necessary leadership to push back,” emphasized Gascon.

Abhisit Vejjajiva, a former prime minister of Thailand, emphasized Gascon’s call to action: “There is no better or easier time to be involved in public matters. As liberals, we believe that we all have certain responsibility and accountability to make our communities better.”

CYPA Abhisit Vejjajiva

The young liberal crowd took this advice to heart. During the four-day workshop they hammered out creative proposals to raise awareness on local and regional issues, improve leadership skills among young people, and encourage youth engagement in politics through innovative platforms.

“In listening, we tend to listen to reply rather than listen to ignite ideas. This should not be the case. As youth leaders, we can also be more proactive than just be reactive especially on issues that threaten freedom, democracy, and human rights,” shared Paolo Nicomedes, one of the winners of Travel to Freedom who got the chance to participate in the workshop.

It seems the youth have started to push back.