8th UNESCO Youth Forum

© UNESCO-Kathleen Chiappetta
Participants of the Engineering in Action for Youth Event at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France, on 30 October 2013.

From 29 to 31 October 2013, UNESCO invited young people from more than 150 countries to celebrate the 8th UNESCO Youth Forum. This year’s event, “Youth and Social Inclusion: Civic Engagement, Dialogue and Skills Development,” gave participants the opportunity to discuss and debate issues facing today’s youth. At the opening ceremonies, Ms Irina Bokova, the Director-General of UNESCO said,

Each of you shares also the same conviction. That you have a role to play in making the world a better place, that your voice matters for shaping a better future for all. UNESCO believes the same.”

This 8th Youth Forum was designed as a platform for youth to discuss the importance of skills development, civic engagement and social inclusion. From such discussions, young people from all over the world had the opportunity to propose policy recommendations to UNESCO’s Member States. Youth also had the chance to engage with UNESCO’s global partners on ongoing projects.

The UNESCO Engineering Initiative (UEI) hosted a capacity-building session at this Youth Forum, entitled Engineering in Action for Youth: Hands-on Experiments in Engineering. The session agenda included several activities, led by UEI’s partners, Engineers without Borders-UK (EWB-UK), South African Women in Engineering (SAWomEng), Young Engineers/Future Leaders (YEFL), a standing committee of the World Federation of Engineering Organizations (WFEO), Airbus, the European Petrochemical Association (EPCA), Intel and Wikistage.

To kick-off the session, the Assistant-Director General for Natural Sciences, Ms Gretchen Kalonji, spoke about the importance of youth for engineering sectors and for the socio-economic development of societies.

Following this address, Ms Zainab Lari, Chair of the WFEO Young Engineers/Future Leaders Committee, described how WFEO is inspiring youth to address contemporary engineering challenges. Her presentation highlighted recent successes of the Young Engineers/Future Leaders Committee, and it demonstrated how important youth are to engineering sectors across the world.

Next, two films produced by EPCA in partnership with UNESCO, were shown to participants. These films, Chemistry: All About You and Science: Where Can It Take You? illustrated how studying Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (STEM) subjects can lead to a fascinating and rewarding career in the chemicals industry.


Following this, Ms Naadiya Moosajee, the co-founder and CEO of SAWomEng, emphasized the need for young engineers to develop soft skills through an interactive and participatory activity. In her soft skills development module, “Pitch Perfect,” she outlined the steps needed for an effective engineering proposal.  Following this introduction, participants watched two films presenting the advantages and disadvantages of ‘fracking’ (pdf) and engaged in a lively debate discussing the pros and cons of this engineering technique.

Also on the agenda was the screening of two short films by Intel. The first film, Girl Rising, offers a compelling look at how young women, from around the world, are fighting to get an education. This film supports one of UNESCO’s global priorities, gender equality. The second film, The Intel Science and Engineering Fair, highlights the work Intel is doing in supporting education in STEM fields. This film encourages youth to take on contemporary challenges in new and exciting ways.


Lastly, Ms Emma Thomas, the National Outreach Coordinator of EWB-UK led an interactive module showing how engineers can significantly improve global communities through infrastructure development. A key point of the presentation (Part 1) (Part 2)was the need for engineers to find alternative methods of transportation by keeping in mind the unique topography and culture of each location. Following her presentation, participants engaged in a hands-on group activity with the objective of building the strongest bridge using tape and straws.

Moreover, Ms Moosajee and Mr Benjamin Lindenberger, the winner from Airbus’ Fly Your Ideas 2009 competition, spoke to Youth Forum participants during the "15 Minutes of Fame" segment. These talks put the spotlight on amazing youth who have made a difference in their respective industries and countries through their civic engagement.

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