UNESCO Youth Forum: by Youth for Youth

Taking the stage

© UNESCO / C. Bailleul

The Youth Forum process is a fundamental part of UNESCO Youth Programme. Since its introduction in 1999, it has provided an innovative, ongoing opportunity for youth to work in dialogue with UNESCO, to shape and direct the Organization’s approach and to present their concerns and ideas to Member States.

Young women and men come together at the UNESCO headquarters every 2 years, and bring their collective energy, creativity and vision to the table. Through debate and discussion, they draw up a list of Recommendations, reflecting the most pressing needs and concerns of youth today. The Forum is always held just before the UNESCO General Conference - the biannual event that brings together all Member States to decide on UNESCO’s future actions. As such, the conclusions of the Youth Forum, including the recommendations, can be presented to the General Conference, meaning that countries from all over the world hear the concerns and aims of youth and their recommendations for the future.

The Forum is not simply an event that happens every two years – it is a process that enables the voices of young women and men to be heard at the centre of UNESCO’s work at all times. Youth decide on the topics to be discussed and the focus of the Organization’s work, and are fully a part of the design and development of each Forum via online surveys and discussion groups. This means that the Forum is continually innovating and adapting according to the needs of young people in today’s changing world.

The UNESCO Online Youth Community is a vital part of this process, creating a platform for young people to come together online for ongoing discussion and exchange. In this way, the Youth Forum is wholly by youth, for youth.

Getting involved

© UNESCO / Rajneesh Bhandari

The Youth Forum takes place in the UNESCO Headquarters, in Paris, France. It is open for anyone to attend, and the 8th UNESCO Youth Forum in 2013 had over 500 participants, representing more than 150 countries. Participants are representatives of their countries and communities, and are expected to consult with youths from their home societies before coming to the Forum, and to be ambassadors for the work of UNESCO on their return.

Thematic debate, both in small groups and large plenary sessions, is a vital component of the Forum, as young participants exchange ideas and concerns and arrive at a list of Strategic Recommendations. The Forum of 2013 also featured a number of inspirational speakers, exhibitions, a marketplace of stalls and displays, prize-giving ceremonies and concerts.

The structure of the Forum will vary every two years, depending on the feedback of the young women and men engaged in this process. As such, following online consultations, the 8th UNESCO Youth Forum 2013 included capacity building as a very important part of the proceedings, and for the first time, one day of the Forum was devoted to workshops focusing on the many different skills necessary for youth in today’s world.

Driving the change

© UNESCO / Andrew Burton

The Forum process is ongoing and is kept alive by the initiatives, commitments and networks that were made during the Forum event itself.

One of the most important innovations of the 8th UNESCO Youth Forum was the introduction of a competition to select 15 projects, led by youth organizations and aimed at youth, to receive the “Youth Forum” label and to be put into action following the event. Three were chosen from every region of the world, and they are currently working to tackle the challenges faced by young people in local communities today.

Can you support or assist an Action Project? Check them out here


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