UNESCO Youth Forum: Speak up, speak out!

© UNESCO/Emilien Urbano -
8th UNESCO Youth Forum openning session

“Youth and Social Inclusion: Civic Engagement, Dialogue and Skills Development” is the theme of UNESCO’s 8th Youth Forum which opened Tuesday, October 29, in Paris 

UNESCO’s main hall was packed for the Forum’s opening ceremony on Tuesday, where – unusually for UNESCO -  there were no official delegates, just participants, coming  from 150 countries, all speaking with an equal voice.

On stage, six outstanding young people – all with exceptional stories to tell - are joined by UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova, and her counterpart from Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) Abdulaziz Othman Altwaijri.

Stephanie, the MC, gets the show on the road.  Dare to dream, dare to be original, she challenged, before inviting the Director-General of UNESCO to take the floor.

©UNESCO/E.Urbano -
“Take control. Speak up and speak out. Be bold and be audacious" said UNESCO Director-General to the Youth Forum delegates

For Irina Bokova, the Youth Forum is not only about ideas, but also about action. In addition to the recommendations the participants will be expected to contribute to UNESCO’s strategy on youth, these young women and men will select 15 flagship projects to be recognized with a UNESCO label of excellence and implemented in the coming months.

"You are not the subjects of change – you are its greatest leaders with the greatest ideas. You are not the beneficiaries of support – you are our full partners in making change happen for the benefit of all,” said the Director-General. “Take control,” she added “speak out. The world is listening.” 

Abdulaziz Othman Altwaijri , Director General of ISESCO , says he, too, was certain  that the youth of the world is its present and its future. "We need you for the world to change,” he said.

© UNESCO/Ala El Fellah
Nick D'ALOISIO, Multimillionaire Entrepreneur (UK) at 8th UNESCO Youth Forum

© UNESCO/Emilien Urbano
Ahmad Alhindawi, UN Special Envoy for Youth, during his speech at the opening ceremony of the 8th UNESCO Youth Forum.

The six guest speakers then spoke in turn, starting with Ahmad Alhendawi, 29, from Jordan. Designated  UN  Special Envoy for Youth in January this year , he sent out a ringing message urging governments to involve youth in policy development:  leaving them out was not an option, he warned.

Severine Macedo , 31, National Secretary of the Youth of Brazil , reinforced this message saying that young people had the right to be involved, and that governments should not look upon this as a favour.

Multimillionaire at just 17 after selling an app’ designed to summarize texts to Yahoo, Nick D' Aloiso shared the enthusiasm. "Everyone can be an entrepreneur”  he said, without necessarily undertaking long, hard years of study.

For others, even getting access to such studies  is a challenge. Suffering from cerebral palsy , Shimla Maharaja , 26, told of her difficulties in winning the right to study  and the continuing obligation to "adapt "

In turn, Omayyad Shasta Tariq Mohammed , Vice-President of Football Club Malaga, a UNESCO partner in the fight against racism , encouraged all participants to make this year a great success.

After him Melamine Kane , 41, Chairman and founder of the French sport clothing brand "Airiness " reminded that success is not a question of color, age or origin. The world can become a better place he said, provided that we join forces, talent and ideas to fight against all forms of social exclusion.

Finally, Iye Traore, 25, from Guinea, more accustomed to "freestyle" performance on the Paris streets than speeches on a UN stage, added: "We, the young, sometimes feel that the world has forgotten us. It's good to see that some people are using time to build a better life. "

That’s exactly what the participants at the 8th Youth Forum UNESCO have set out to achieve.

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