This was the third UN conference against racism in the past 30 years, and despite all the talk and an official "Decade to Combat Racism," for many young peoplefrom Panama to Indonesia to Nigeriaracism and the poverty that accompanies it have only gotten worse. "They keep wanting to know what to do about us," said Danielle Garcia, a 13-year-old with WILD for Human Rights, "but when we tell them, they don't want to listen."
Change may take confrontation. What young people did so well at the conferenceand what they have always doneis to interrupt talk and demand action. Some of the loudest applause at the summit came when two young delegates directly confronted Commissioner Robinson. At the closing session, Manar Farrg, a 15-year-old Palestinian girl from the Dheisheh Refugee Camp, walked up to Robinson and demanded, nicely, that Robinson say something about Palestine. Later Farrg said, "I used to think the refugee camp was Palestine and Palestine was the world. Then I went to visit my village. And my village said to me, 'I want you. I want all of you.' And so I knew I had to be the last generation to suffer and struggle."
"We can either be the next generation of leaders or the next generation of statistics," Naina Dhingra of the International Youth Leadership Council said. The youth at the summit can't afford to wait for the UN to make that decision for them. They will return to countries, including the U.S., where daily survival is a struggle and where taking a stand means risking their lives. The global youth network could be the beginning of a lifeline, as it continues to confront those in power by modeling the difference between talk and action.