» Shaking up youth engagement at the 10th UNESCO Youth Forum
03.11.2017 - Social and Human Sciences Sector

Shaking up youth engagement at the 10th UNESCO Youth Forum

© UNESCO

Inspirational young change-makers from all over the world gathered at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris for a pilot edition of the 10th UNESCO Youth Forum, from 25 to 26 October 2017.

When I met with the United Nations Secretary-General, he had a very simple message for me – “Misbehave.” That’s right! And over these two days, I want you all to misbehave too. Be bold in your advice, be unafraid to speak your mind. If we are not bringing new ideas to the table and challenging the status quo, then we are not going to change much at all,” said Jayathma Wikramanayake, the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, in her opening address to the participants of the Forum.

The primary objective of this Forum was to bring young women and men, that are leading innovative initiatives in their countries and communities related to a UNESCO field of competence, together with UNESCO staff members working on youth actions to discuss “Rethinking youth engagement with UNESCO.”

The overall vision of the 10th UNESCO Youth Forum, that concluded two days of intensive work, is that UNESCO needs to be “a platform and catalyst for change where the youth co-creates what the youth needs.”

60 participants were selected from over 2,500 proposals. All are leading or co-shaping a social initiative related to a UNESCO area of specialization and most have first-hand experience of the many issues being tackled at UNESCO (including school drop-out, refugee issues, post-conflict and emergency contexts).

This grassroots experience was remarkably reflected in the discussions that took place at the Forum, which included youth engagement in thematic issues such as peacebuilding, addressing environmental degradation and youth as effective cultural ambassadors, as well as discussions on more regional-level engagement with youth.

The decision to pilot a new edition for the Forum followed a large-scale impact analysis, both of previous UNESCO Youth Fora, and of the implementation of UNESCO’s Operational Strategy on Youth 2014-2021. The results showed that Forum recommendations are rarely taken on board, the follow-up commitment of youth participants has been very low and when it comes to UNESCO’s youth actions across UNESCO, young people continue to be treated as mere beneficiaries and not as actors and partners. The message was clear – UNESCO needs to engage differently with youth!

In February 2016, UNESCO began interacting directly with young women and men from all over the world via digital media. The UNESCO Youth Facebook community was born, as was the #YouthOfUNESCO storytelling initiative, which aims to provide a platform for young people leading change in their communities.

Thanks to this community and the Forum, UNESCO is now in touch with young environmentalists and peacekeepers, social entrepreneurs, inventors, educators and youth activists from all continents, many of whom are already developing ground-breaking solutions to some of the world’s biggest challenges.




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