13 Jan 2004

Comments By Northern Ireland Commissioner For Children And Young People, At The Launch Of The Globalclub At The Waterfront Hall, Belfast

I am delighted to be here and to see so many young people here.

The Commissioner for Children and Young People is essentially a watchdog for you and the issues that concern you.

Three main functions:

  • Individual complaints
  • Reviewing general issues
  • Encouraging Participation.

The Globalclub initiative fits very well with the last of these. It is my view that as adults we don’t listen enough to young people, and we don’t give you enough responsibility over decisions that affect your lives. I believe it is crucial not only to listen to you, but to give you a chance to bring change – and that is what Northern Ireland really needs. We need to harness your energy, innovation and enthusiasm.

Three things impress me about Globablclub:

  • You get to be involved in the issues that really interest you. So if you are into enterprise and business, you can meet others with the same interest. If you are concerned about the environment, you can concentrate on that. If you want to see change in safety within our community, you can address the issues there. I applaud the opportunity for you to get involved in studying issues and expressing views, and I hope many more people will take it.
  • You have the opportunity to engage with organisations with an interest in these cluster areas, so that your ideas are not just floating in mid air, but adults who know something about the issues get the chance to comment on your thoughts and help you bring change. I would encourage many more organisations to get involved in doing this.
  • There is a good mix of offline and online contact. This is not just an internet based initiative – it involves real face to face meetings among the different cluster groups. But the organisers have also seen the opportunity to use the internet as a means of communication and brainstorming in between the physical meetings. I congratulate them on pioneering this model.

Some of you will know that before becoming Commissioner, I was chief executive of an international charity called Childnet which was focussed on helping children and young people make the most of the Internet. We quickly discovered that the Internet does not replace getting together face to face; rather it enhances that face to face contact. Each year Childnet brings together a dozen young people from around the world who have done amazing things in their local communities using the Net. That combination of internet creativity and physical meeting together was a fantastic mix which encouraged even more ideas and real change to not only the young people’s lives but also the areas where they lived. Check out the Childnet Academy idea at www.childnetacademy.org. Entries for this year are closed but you will be inspired by what some other young people have done.

So I welcome the Globalclub initiative. I encourage many other young people to get involved and use the channels Globalclub offers to express their own views. I applaud the organisations that have got involved and those that are leading the initiative.

My final word to you is, if you feel strongly about something, don’t give up until you actually see the change you want. Keep fighting – keep looking for ways to bring change and improve the lives of all of us. We need you to do that, and I am here to support you.

Nigel Williams
Commissioner for Children and Young People