November 19, 2010

South Africa ready to host int'l youth festival

by Emmanuel Tjiya

JOHANNESBURG, Nov. 15 (Xinhua) -- South Africa is set and ready to host the 17th World Festival of Youth and Students on Dec. 13- 21, where approximately 30,000 local and international delegates including heads of state are to unite in an effort to promote peace, transformation and solidarity with the struggling masses against imperialism.

The international festival which occurs once in every four years was last held in August 2005 in Caracas, Venezuela, where it managed to attract 25,000 participants from 144 countries.

For the past 65 years, the festival has been organized by the World Federation of Democratic Youth, a left-wing youth organization, in one of its 153 member countries.

The 17th Festival was originally scheduled to be held in Minsk, Belarus, in August 2009. However, after the country withdrew from its commitment to host the event, it was decided that the conference would be organized in the South African city of Johannesburg.

This means that for the first time since the festival was established in 1945 it will be held in the Southern Africa. The theme for this year's conference is "Let's Defeat Imperialism, for a World of Peace, Solidarity and Social Transformation".

"Building on the very successful hosting of the FIFA 2010 Soccer World Cup, South Africa will again be playing host to one of the largest and most significant events on the international calendar.

"South Africa has been chosen to host the 17th World Festival of Youth & Students from 13 - 21 December 2010 following a bidding process which was lead by the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA)," said Collins Chabane, Minister in the South African Presidency, at a media briefing.

"The World Festival of Youth and Students has a long heritage dating back to 1945 at the end of the Second World War, when international youth and students assembled and adopted a pledge for peace in the world. Since then, the festival has turned into an ongoing forum for progressive youth from all over the world."

According to Chabane, the purpose of the festival this year is to raise critical current issued in order to impact the shaping of policies of government and the world, while at the same time uniting the youth of the world for peace, solidarity and social transformation to create a world free of human rights abuses and create sustainable environments.

Chabane said the event is also a great opportunity for South Africa to market itself as a tourist destination and raise awareness of the country internationally. He added that the conference will also mainstream the African youth agenda.

"In its 64 year history this is the first that this very significant international youth conference will be held in the Southern Africa, and that the conference will have a specific focus on issues relevant to youth from the African continent", Chabane explained.

During the one-week conference next month, the thousands of youth expected to descent into South Africa from all parts of the world are scheduled to focus primarily on social, political and economic issues that are facing the youth of today. Issues such as the right to employment, democratic rights, freedoms and human rights as well as the struggle for peace, sovereignty and solidarity against imperialism are set to top talks at the festival. Another key topic at the conference is set to be the issue of public, free and universal access to education, science, culture and information.

Organizers also have a variety of cultural programs planned for the youth festival, ranging from photography contests, to an international poetry contest as well as an international song contest, to even a soccer tournament and a fun run.

Furthermore, there will be arts and culture manifestations at the event representative of the geographic regions of the festivals. A meeting for young filmmakers has also been scheduled on the pipeline at the youth conference.

"The Festival presents South African youth with an opportunity to make contributions toward the shaping of policies locally and internationally in the interests of advancing solidarity, peace and democracy. This we believe as the Government of South Africa form the foundation for social and economic development," Chabane said.

Chabane said the South African government hopes that the festival would result in increased international partnerships and networking opportunities between like-minded youth leaders from around the world.

He said the country's government also anticipated that the festival would amplify campaigns against xenophobia, racism and other related intolerances.

In addition, Chabane said the South African government hopes that the event would possibly lead to improved consolidation of the country's own national agenda for youth development and empowerment. He added that overall the conference is expected to have economic benefits on South Africa from the foreign spending in the country for the duration of the event.

"As the youth of the world in 1945 pledged themselves to build the unity of youth of the world across all races, all colors, all nationalities, all beliefs; as Government we firmly believe that the Festival will constructively contribute to the advancement Social Cohesion in South Africa. We believe it will lay a foundation for Africa's youth voice to be heard in the world," Chabane said.

The Festival will foster lasting positive relations with countries of the world that will lead to the development of youth in South Africa.

A lot of preparation has been undertaken -- not just in South Africa, but all over the world -- to ensure that the festival is a grant success. Since April, there have been three international preparatory meetings held in Venezuela, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and Cyprus respectively.

During the third international preparatory meeting for the festival, held in Cyprus, 20 members from Africa, America, Asia and Middle East were elected by the international Organizing Committee for the successful conduct of the festival, with South African President Jacob Zuma voted as the committee's honorable president.

National Preparatory Committees have also been formed in Africa, America and Caribbean, Asia-Pacific, Europe as well as Middle East regions.

The Youth League of South Africa's ruling political party the African National Congress (ANC) and the Young Communist League of South Africa, along with the country's government, have been working together to ensure that the festival is a success. Preparation of accommodation and food for the estimated 30,000 guests expected to take part in the festival have already been settled.

"A lot of preparation has gone into ensuring the success of the Festival. The NYDA is the anchor institution to facilitate the successful hosting of the event. It has appointed a Nation Preparatory Committee (NPC) whose main task is the planning, organization and execution of programs for the event", Chabane pointed out.

"The NPC is constituted of various youth organizations that are affiliated to the World Federation of Democratic Youth and government institutions including the Department of International Relations and Co-operations, The Presidency as well as the City of Johannesburg and supported by the International Organizing Committee."

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