Julias Rede bei der UNO
Distinguished chair, Excellencies, Dear delegates,
Today I have the honor to speak on behalf of the Austrian youth. When I first started writing this speech I wanted to address many important issues that concern the young people of my country. But when I travelled through Austria these past few weeks and talked to many young people I realized that there is one matter that is currently shaping the reality of my country in a way nobody could have ever imagined. It is present in every border town and in every shelter, in every newspaper, in every political debate– the refugee crisis. Meeting some of the people seeking shelter in my wealthy and prosperous country, seeing the hope in their eyes when they talk about a life in Europe and hearing their stories of war, terror and violence made me realize that this is the topic to focus on while addressing the international community.
Every four seconds someone in the world is forced to flee their home. These people need to leave behind everything they have and everything they are: Facing the unknown, they often loose their whole existence, their friends and sometimes even their families. But who exactly are these refugees we are talking about? They are like us. They are not faceless statistics, they are humans and every one of them is important. Refugees are ordinary people – doctors and lawyers as well as farmers and salespeople. Half of them are even children under the age of 18, who are deprived of their future.
In fact, we could be refugees just like them, we are simply lucky to not be exposed to war, hunger or persecution. How is it possible that the coincidental factor of where we were born determines what life we can lead, or whether we can live a life in peace and dignity or not? Truth is: We can offer the refugees the dignified life that they deserve and we should do so.
Borders and fences are not the solution to this problem. They separate society and separate us from each other. When we shield ourselves from people that need our help, we lose our humanity. We need to imagine: if we were in their difficult position, how would we want to be treated? Once, not so long ago, we had a wall dividing the European continent and it only brought us pain and violence. We do not want that to happen again. The refugee crisis does not stop at national borders. This is why we need a global solution. The work of the United Nations is crucial in bringing member states together and finding a common ground on the matter. The values we need to protect are also the values of the Charter of the United Nations. If we fail to fulfill these values, if we disappoint the people who desperately rely on us to be saved from harm and distress, we should not call ourselves an international community anymore.
Yes, the refugee crisis has reached our borders.
Yes, the people coming to our countries are affecting our lives.
We cannot change that. Nor can we close our eyes to that.
But just because our realities are changing, does not mean that we are unable to adapt to this challenge. Maybe we need to leave our comfort zones, maybe we even need to share a little bit of our wealth. But we should not be afraid of these transformations because change can be a good thing. I have personally seen the change that is now happening in my society, in societies all over Europe and beyond. A change called solidarity. Just last weekend, over 100 000 people went into the streets of Vienna to show their support and solidarity with refugees. They make me proud to be Austrian. Indeed, after the horrific incidents in which thousands of refugees died on the way to find a peaceful life for themselves, people do not want to accept the status quo anymore. There is an uprising in society to demand refugees’ rights, which are – in fact – human rights. Human rights that we are all entitled to enjoy.
To conclude: I would like to pay tribute to civil society.
While every day hundreds and thousands of people reach Europe to seek safety, volunteer groups are forming all over the continent to help those in need. They are the silent heroes of our time. They take care of the refugees who arrive in train stations, having travelled by foot, carrying their children and all their possessions with them. And a movement is taking over; one that I hope is bigger than hate, bigger than racism, bigger than nationalism. Young people are at the forefront of this movement, as many of the volunteers are students or members of youth organizations, showing that young people are not just the future, but also the present.
Even though they cannot solve the crisis on their own, these people are making an enormous difference. All of them are pushing their limits to step in where the authorities are unable or unwilling to take responsibility. It is a huge burden that they cannot carry alone forever. Nevertheless, they make me believe in humanity again and give me hope that we can overcome this crisis together.
This is why I want to dedicate my speech to volunteers all over the world:
Thank you for bringing out the best in our societies.
Thank you for doing what is right.
Thank you for showing us what is worth fighting for.