13 October 2022
A Human Right Left Behind
This was the line-up for the conference “A Human Right Left Behind: Nordic Conference on MHPSS in Fragile and Humanitarian Settings”, which took place in Copenhagen on 29 and 30 August 2022.
The conference was the first step in the launch of a regional Nordic network on MHPSS, and the concrete outputs of the conference are the 2022 Copenhagen Declaration on MHPSS in Fragile and Humanitarian Settings, and a series of inspirational and aspirational recommendations to inform the network’s actions on MHPSS: The 2022-2030 Nordic Road Map for MHPSS in Fragile and Humanitarian Settings.
The recommended actions in the road map are based on discussions and consensus reached during the conference’s roundtable and panel sessions, and are collated into seven priority action areas.
Spotlight on youth engagement
Throughout the planning and the programme of the conference, youth engagement was a high priority for the organisers.
There are strong, clever, and active young people all over the world, willing and able to engage themselves in creating better and more equitable access to mental health and psychosocial support services and battling stigma. They have skills, knowledge, lived experience, passion, and drive. And most importantly, nobody knows more about how to answer questions relevant to young people than young people themselves. They are best placed to advocate for and make recommendations and act to address policy and human resource gaps in their communities.
Open the doors for us the youth, take away the tables, support us with the capacity to lead and answer the questions that are related to us and our peers.
Rozy Kassab, Youth Advocate
Victor Ugo, Youth Engagement Advisor at the MHPSS Collaborative, explains, “Sometimes I hear adults in the humanitarian sector tell young people that they must ‘take the power’. But we cannot just sit back and wait for the youth to demand their power. We must invite them in, use our influence to open the doors for them, put a microphone in their hands and give them a place at the table. If we don’t do that, how will the youth advocates gain access to events like the Nordic Conference on MHPSS or the Global Mental Health Summit, which are strictly by invitation?”.
This sentiment is backed by youth advocate Rozy Kassab, Youth Ambassador for WarChild Sweden, member of the youth advisory committee and speaker at the conference: “I got engaged through humanitarian organisations, for example the organisation I represent today, WarChild. They gave me the platform to express myself, to share my story and experiences with many young people around the world. They gave me the platform where I could reach out to people in power so I could promote and encourage improvements in the mental health field. By getting engaged in your society through humanitarian organisations you get the chance to follow up the agenda and ensure your participation is meaningful and effective. So my message to the leaders in global mental health is ‘Open the doors for us the youth, take away the tables, support us with the capacity to lead and answer the questions that are related to us and our peers’.”
Youth engagement as a core priority
At the MHPSS Collaborative, youth engagement and participation are a core priority. We support the participation of young people in high-level advocacy events and promote inclusion of youth at all levels of programming in all projects that we are involved in.
If you want to learn more about how to be part of this effort or are unsure of how you can include meaningful youth participation and engagement in your programming, you are welcome to contact: Victor Ugo, firstname.lastname@example.org.