Day Two of WCY2014 was actually Day One: with the opening ceremony done and dusted, BMICH opened its doors to a flood of delegates. After an initial plenary session, the attendants split into multiple groups, each focusing on their own areas of interest.
I’d like to say really good things about today. Let’s pull a Sergio Leone here:
All the events went off as planned. The whole schedule proceeded, which is saying something for like 20-odd sessions carried out over multiple topics, some of them involving UN officials and anywhere between 20 to a hundred delegates each.
Nothing happened as planned for us local social media fellows.
For starters, we didn’t get ID tags. Which meant, for all points and purposes, that we did not exist at all. This small but fundamental point proved nightmarish. One of our number was detained by the police. The other was barred from entering pretty much every building she tried to get into. Two of us spent a good hour soaking the rain because none of the surrounding buildings, which hosted round table discussions, would let us anywhere near the place.
We were supposed to interview delegates, report the happenings in each session, cover the process and the whole nine yards: instead, we spent the day being turned down by every Tom, Dick and Dinapala in the vicinity. Posted at every entrance was a stuffed suit who seemed to know nothing whatsoever about what was happening but who seemed to make it his life’s purpose to interrogate us on the who, what, when where and why we were here.
It was a fantastic waste of time. We spent some eight-odd hours wandering around like loons trying to sneak in a photo or two. In short, they brought us in as social media fellows and then completely forgot that we existed. Transport? Accommodation? What are these mysterious words you speak, Watson?
The organizers simply did a very bad job of managing everything between the sessions. Take lunch: someone had the brilliant idea of trying to serve a couple of hundred delegates off a small table parked in a corner. This is what happened:
Yes, that’s representatives from almost every nation in the world trying to get to the food, which was served on a barely visible 5×2 table in a corner. Of course, they didn’t all get it. Food ran out. A long queue of delegates was forced to hotfoot it over to another building almost halfway towards the other end of BMICH. Whereupon they learned that food there, too, had run out, and that the building opposite had food, but it turns out they were out too….
You get the picture. We eventually gave up after a bunch of irate foreign delegates screamed in frustration and stomped away.
This is not something that should be happening. Forget the tags issue: it’s sheer idiocy to forget how many people need to eat. The committee we were interfacing were quick to acknowledge and rectify the error: nevertheless, it should not have happened.
The overall problem can be attributed to the fact that nobody among the organizers seems to know who’s actually in charge of anything. Sure, there are events happening, which is a fantastic achievement in and of itself. Unfortunately, nobody seems to be responsible for anything. Who’s coordinating what? Who do you contact to make anything happen? Nobody knows. All we see is a few mid-level organizers and volunteers trying to hold the fort (and failing).
And to top it all off: why is there a baila party for an entirely different, random local crowd in the middle of the World Youth Conference? These aren’t delegates, local or foreign: what are they doing here? Is this even remotely productive? No. Several people complained that the noise actually interfered with their round table sessions. Should not this money have been spent on better things, like getting the food?
Also, why are random hordes or schoolchildren sitting in for plenary sessions looking like they have no clue as to what’s happening? If it’s school representation, why aren’t reps from all schools there? Why a hundred students from just one school in one session? Is WCY a forum for serious discussion or is it a pseudo-carnival where nobody has any clue what the main attraction is?
WCY invited us here to spread the word about the event on social media and write the good stuff that happened: the reason this blogpost is basically one giant rant and not an actual news article is because we simply couldn’t.
We can’t comment on the content or the discussions because for one entire day we were essentially treated as freeloaders and prevented from doing what we actually came to do. It’s a fantastic amount of incompetence.
At the end of the day, I can appreciate the fact that things happened. As you can see from my interview with a delegate from Ghana, people are meeting up, joining minds across countries to solve problems. Serious issues are being brought to the table. Why, then, is the table so amateurishly made?
Here’s hoping Day Two gets better. I’ll get back to some actual reporting once we get access.