Young people joined UN-HABITAT and its partners for a week of hard lobbying of member governments in the Governing Council that oversees the agency’s work programme. Their message: with ever growing numbers of young people in the world’s growing cities, young voices must be heeded.
From the opening ceremony at the twenty-second Governing Council to the closing gavel last week, youth made their presence felt, and underscored their ability to take leadership roles in their local communities, nationally and internationally.
The formal meeting of governments marked the first time youth groups were formally represented through the new UN-HABITAT Youth Advisory Board. Established at the World Urban Forum IV in Nanjing, China, the board actively engaged in policy discussions, supported the writing of resolutions, and was represented on a special dialogue panel.
“Young people like me represent half of the world population, and in developing countries, like mine, Colombia, youth represent more than half of the population,” Advisory Board Member, Ms. Maria Fernanda Valencia, told government delegates in a landmark address.
According to the UN-HABITAT purblication, The State of the World’s Cities, of the 1.1 billion young people aged 15-24 less than 4% are employed.
“We are 3 times more likely to be unemployed than adults. And young women like me are more likely not to have decent and sustainable paid employment,” she said.
Young people at the convention also made several concrete suggestions on how youth could and are engaged to address the problems of climate change and cities which are now home to more than half the world’s population. UN-HABITAT also announced its new Place on Earth climate project, which will engage young people in cities to help find some of the answers.
“Given the high unemployment rate among young people, acknowledging the lack of opportunities, lack of training, and the social stigma, I have no doubt that young people are currently one of the most affected segments of the population suffering from the financial crisis,” said Ms. Valancia who presented several of the youth recommendations to the Counci.
“Taking all this into consideration, it is important to highlight that young people should not be punished for the crises. And financing youth-led or youth-related initiatives should not be affected. In fact, these investments should be expanded,” she said.
Ms. Valencia, who also thanked Norway for financing the agency’s new Youth-led Opportunities Fund, added: “We, young people, have repeatedly demonstrated our capacity to actively work and advocate for both affordable housing and climate change on local, national and global levels from grass roots projects to international advocacy networks.”