Youth's engagement globally, and more specifically within the UN system, was the focus of the Youth 21 Stock Taking meeting held earlier this month at the UN-Habitat offices in New York.
Bruno Vanhoni, Advisor on Youth International Affairs, Government of Brazil, and Joao Scarpelini, UN-Habitat Youth Advisory Board member
Governments globally recognize youth as pioneers of today and leaders of tomorrow. From the Middle East to Europe, Africa to Latin America, youth are becoming positive forces for changes.
Youth 21 is an initiative that seeks to better engage youth within the UN system. The initiative, launched in Oslo, Norway in the fall of 2011, has brought together youth, governments and civil society to develop a process that leads to the creation of mechanisms which assure youth a seat at the international table.
The report, Youth 21: Building an Architecture for Engagement of Youth in the UN System proposed a number of engagement scenarios – the two most prominent being the appointment of a Special Representative for Youth and the establishment of Permanent Forum on Youth. In January of 2012, Secretary General Ban Ki Moon announced the establishment of the position of Special Advisor on Youth, a watershed event for youth globally.
In March of 2012, 300 youth and government representatives convened in Nairobi, Kenya and developed the Nairobi Declaration which congratulated Secretary General on the establishment of his appointment of the advisor, but encouraged him to as well establish a more representative body. The Nairobi meeting was followed by a High Level Panel on Youth held at Rio +20 in which governments called for the establishment of a Permanent Forum on Youth.
"The establishment of a Permanent Forum for Youth would mark a watershed moment in youth participation in the UN and globally," stated Bruno Vanhoni, Advisor on Youth International Affairs, Government of Brazil, following the August meeting, "It is important for us as governments, and for youth and civil society to continue working toward this goal."
It was agreed that UN-wide policy decision pertaining to the heightened engagement of youth in the UN system such as the setting up a UN Permanent Forum for Youth can only be pursued in line with established UN processes. This would require extensive and formal consultation and concurrence with Member States culminating in the adoption of a resolution in a decision making body of the UN. A campaign and media strategy will be drawn up to raise the awareness of and support for this initiative among governments, youth organisations and the society at large.
The next stage in the process will be a side event at the World Urban Forum/ Youth Assembly in Naples in September 2012 followed by a high profile side event on Youth 21 which will be held in conjunction with High Level Segment of the General Assembly. The latter event will focus on engaging member states on the Permanent Forum and raising awareness of the importance of enhancing the engagement of youth in the UN system.