#CoDYouthLeads: Rey’s story

Growing up in a post-apartheid South Africa was one of the drivers of Rey’s decision to pursue his interest in the field of human rights and democracy, with a view of becoming a diplomat one day. In his story, he explains why young people need to be given a meaningful seat at the table and highlights how the principles of the Warsaw Declaration provides a roadmap to young leaders of democracy.

“The Warsaw Declaration principles are the call to action for young leaders to ensure these ideals are attained, not just aspired to”-   Reyaaz Scharneck, South Africa.

I have always been interested in protecting the values of democracy.  South Africa’s not-too-distant past shows the horrors of what can occur if these values and principles are undermined.

While completing my Master’s degree in International Politics along with work towards a second Executive Diploma in the Art of Diplomacy, I have also taken my passion for defending democracy to local and international levels. Locally, as part of my country’s Heritage Day celebration, I delivered a speech highlighting the importance of cultural rights and being proud of one’s culture. This took place in the village of Bethesldorp, Port Elizabeth, where my family is from and where I spent most of my formative years. This speech was in line with the 19th Principle of the Warsaw Declaration, which calls for the protection of all human rights as represented in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. On an international level, I was honored to join the Community of Democracies (CoD) in 2019. My time at the CoD Secretariat was genuinely incredible, allowing me to be part of an international organization of which I share the same values.  I was also given a chance to nurture diplomatic skills, which I hope to utilize as an international civil servant or diplomat.

As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Warsaw Declaration, the principles enshrined within it remain as relevant back in 2000 as it is today. It is essential that young people are given a meaningful seat at the table and that the leaders of tomorrow familiarise themselves with the Warsaw Declaration and the vital principles enshrined within. It provides us with clear guidelines to strengthen our respective countries’ democratic institutions. It is imperative to always put our people first, as stated in the first Principle of the Warsaw Declaration, “The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government.” Concurrently, we should not detach ourselves from the rest of the world while we “put our people first.” We should always work together for the greater good. It is essential to adopt policies which respect the rights and sovereignty of all nations. We should strive to maintain world peace and settle international disputes with negotiation- not war. While upholding equal rights, opportunities, and status for all. These noble ideas enshrined within the Warsaw Declaration should be the call to action for young leaders to ensure these ideals are attained, not just aspired to in our lifetimes.