On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's first manned space flight, movie stars serving as UN-HABITAT youth envoys last week joined Norwegian Junior Minister, Mr. Arvinn Eikeland Gadgil and agency officials at the glittering launch ceremony of a new internet help desk for urban youth.
The launch was attended by UN-HABITAT Youth Envoys, Mr. Vikram Kenny aka Chiyyan Vikram (KENNY), the actor and philanthropist from India, Mr. Ramsey Noah, the Nigerian actor, the artist Mr. Wolfgang E. Riegelsberge from Germany, and the renowned Nigerian actress, Ms. Ini Edo. All pledged to work harder to address the concerns of young people in their own countries and regions.
The help desk is a multimedia, interactive portal for all interested in UN-HABITAT's Urban Youth Fund. It is offers a virtual space for interaction among youth-led organizations in developing countries working to improve the lives of young people and their communities. The Fund will provide grants for innovative projects which promote employment, good governance, shelter and secure tenure.
"The help desk is a first step in allowing youth from around the world the ability to learn from one another and experts in youth issues," said Mr. Tayiona Eldanous Sanaguria, a youth representative from Zimbabwe, who cited the importance of using new technology to network across borders.
One of its main fuctions will be to enable all Urban Youth Fund projects to upload and share information. Also attracting interest is a unique youth research section where updated research material from urban youth research is published and where researchers can talk to one another. The help desk, headquartered at IRIS Knowledge Foundation in India, is a product the Urban Youth Research Network and UN-HABITAT.
The launch of the new website came as countries making up the Governing Council which oversees UN-HABITAT's work programme and budget gave the green light last week to the agency's projects aimed at giving young people in cities, especially in the poorer neighbourhoods of the developing world, a better start in life.
In related development giving a measure of just how vulnerable young people and children can be as a result of disaster or conflict, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy on Wednesday reiterated her call on all parties in Libya to protect children and to ensure than none were associated with any armed forces or groups.
"However, credible information on recruitment and use of children continues to be received by my Office daily. In addition, there have been increasingly alarming reports of other violations against children. The situation of girls and boys in the besieged city of Misrata is of particular concern at this time when heavy shelling, bombardment, and land mines claim children as victims. Humanitarian access is also hampered by the current fighting and several hospitals have been damaged," she said.
"I again urge the Government of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, pro-government elements, and opposition forces to immediately stop using children as combatants. The killing and maiming of girls and boys must end. And I remind all parties that attacks on hospitals and denial of humanitarian aid are also grave violations against children," she said.
Ms. Coomaraswamy warned that perpetrators from all sides of the conflict in Libya would be held accountable.
The Help Desk can be accessed at www.globalyouthdesk.org