Keeping world leaders accountable for their actions is key to changing the world for the better. And now, during a global health crisis like COVID-19, it‘s more important than ever to make sure world leaders follow through on their promises to enact change.
That‘s where our ONE Activists come in. They meet and speak with politicians and changemakers regularly to hold them accountable for the things they care about, like global vaccine access, ending the pandemic for everyone, everywhere, and ensuring that everyone can lead a life of dignity and opportunity.
Lune Mercuri, a youth ambassador from Italy, did just that. Here‘s what Luna had to say.
As an Italian YA, why is it important for you to speak about global health?
When I speak about global health, I speak about my future. Living in such an interconnected world it would be naive to think that our present and individual choices will not have an impact on a global scale in the future. I believe that everyone, regardless of where they live, should be guaranteed access to basic health programs.
But, I am also worried about the consequences that the COVID-19 health crisis will have in the future. If a part of the world is not able to properly respond to a health crisis because of the lack of money, infrastructure, funds, education, etc. this is a big concern for the rest of the world, which won‘t be able to keep moving on its own. It‘s crucial to understand that if we don‘t exit this pandemic all together, without leaving anyone behind, we won‘t exit it at all.
Thanks to the ONE Youth Ambassador program, I was lucky enough to get to know some motivated, young activists from Africa and the rest of Europe, and I understood that life stopped for all of us when the pandemic began and that we all want to have our lives back, and this can start happening only by talking about global health.
Why do you think that equitable access to vaccines should be guaranteed to all?
First of all, because it‘s right. Hearing about the situation in India in the last weeks made me cry: human beings are dying and this alone is atrocious enough. Having studied and written about this issue, however, I also know about all the other negative aspects that come with leaving half of the world in the COVID-19 nightmare.
There are also multiple economic reasons for equitable vaccine access: not helping the weaker economies now could cost wealthier countries (including Italy) up to $9 trillion. There are also medical reasons: the more the virus is free to circulate in regions that lack access to vaccines, the higher the probability that new, more powerful, variants will develop; when these new variants start circulating around the world, it is not clear if the vaccines that we currently have will be effective to fight them. Therefore it is very important that countries with surplus vaccine doses start sharing doses right now with the countries in most need, to help them focus on making their health systems stronger and spread the right information about the vaccines. It is our duty to make sure that the people who most need it will now receive the vaccine, and that everyone has the right to access medical treatments.
As a young activist, why is it important for you that your representatives hear your voice on these matters?
Since I am not 18 yet, I still can‘t vote. For this reason, I was very grateful to have the opportunity to speak with my representatives about things I deeply care about. Sometimes I think that my voice doesn’t matter, that it is not loud enough to be heard by people who don‘t care about my opinion anyway.
But through the Italian YA program, not only have I been given opportunities to amplify my voice, but I also discovered, and started appreciating, the importance of having multiple voices saying the same things: that these issues matter to young Italians, that we are here watching what the politicians are doing, and when and if they break their promises, we are here to hold them accountable. I think it‘s crucial to make people at the top understand that these matters concern us more than they may think they do. And apart from being extremely empowering for us, it also encourages politicians to act on these same issues.
What lessons did you learn from speaking with your representatives in Parliament?
Speaking with my representatives was so exciting! I was a bit nervous, but I knew that I was ready to handle the situation because I had the best preparation from the ONE Italian team. During the meetings, I discovered that our politicians are actually very interested in what young people have to say about these pretty important matters, and even if they were a bit surprised at first, maybe taken back by our age and preparation, I think that overall the experience was great for everyone.
Apart from internet issues and small misunderstandings (for example what “taking a selfie” means when you are in an online meeting), it was a great experience that showed how politicians are real people who are eager to hear us and get another perspective on issues.
The biggest lesson that I learned was how important politics is when making a change, but also how near it can be to us, common people, and how we have the power to influence it, even if we still don‘t have the right to vote. If I had to describe the whole experience in one word, it would be empowering.