UNESCO Euro-Mediterranean Youth Forum

An exciting meeting of young minds from all over the Euro-Med region, the Euro-Mediterranean Youth Forum on “Intercultural and Interfaith Dialogue to Ensure Peace” was held in Cyprus, from the 16th to the 19th of November 2006.

The Forum was organized by UNESCO in cooperation with the Cyprus National Commission for UNESCO and provided its young participants the opportunity to exchange views and reflect on the different aspects of intercultural and interfaith dialogue in the region.

Read the report [PDF, 534 KB]
It provides detailed information on the Forum’s preparations, running, participants, statistics, outcome, follow-up and evaluation.

Background

The Euro-Med Youth Forum was the second of a series of six regional youth forums that UNESCO is organizing in 2006-2007, following the relevant recommendations adopted at the Youth Forum of the 33rd UNESCO General Conference. The main theme was “Young people and Dialogue among Civilisations, Cultures and Peoples”, with a specific focus on “Intercultural and Interfaith Dialogue to Ensure Peace” and “ Education for Sustainable development”.

This series of Regional Youth Forums, each following the model of the UNESCO Youth Forum, was crucial for harnessing the immense potential of youth-driven initiatives for concrete action at regional level and for allowing youth delegates to share experiences and to address regional issues and related recommendations for action. The Regional Youth Forums also provided young participants the opportunity to voice their region’s concerns and channel relevant recommendations to the Youth Forum of the 34th UNESCO General Conference (12-13 October 2007)

E-dialogue for the determination of the Forum’s sub-themes

Aiming at involving young people in the preparation of the Forum’s agenda, UNESCO's Section for Youth launched an online consultation process through a UNESCO Euromed listserv. Young people, aged between 18-30, nominated by National Commissions, national youth councils, UNITWIN Chairs, youth NGOs, organizations and networks in the Euro-Med region participated in this 6-week process which allowed for the elaboration of the Forum’s sub-themes. The young subscribers’ responses to the questions posted by the Section, were consistently reflective, sometimes surprising, and never dull. They came up with ideas, argued for and against, reviewed their positions and brought a personal touch to the discussion. Based on their discussions, three sub-themes were identified for the forum:

  1. The role of communication and media in facilitating or hampering intercultural and interfaith dialogue.
  2. Intercultural and Interfaith Values: Shared values and culturally and faith specific values (universalism vs. cultural relativism): does the opposition exist?
  3. Deligitimizing violence through intercultural and interfaith dialogue.

Participants

In total, 86 people participated at the Forum: 51 youth delegates, 6 facilitators/experts, 21 observers and 14 young volunteers and resource persons.

Youth delegates were nominated by both the National Commissions for UNESCO and the national youth councils of the participating countries (or, in the absence of a national youth council, the most appropriate national youth structure). The majority of them had prior experience of youth forums and working with youth organisations and NGOs, and demonstrated great written and oral expression, synthesis and communication skills. They were all very enthusiastic, open-minded, eager to contribute and clearly committed to the objectives of the Forum and they put forward quite a few innovative ideas and concrete suggestions. There were 26 female and 25 male delegates, ensuring gender parity, while just under 50% were between 25 and 29 years old. The 6 people selected by UNESCO to facilitate discussions in working groups (two facilitators per sub-theme) had expertise in the Forum’s sub-themes and/or on youth issues, policies and action in the Euro-Mediterranean region.

Observers came from the UNESCO Office Ramallah, the Swedish and the Korean National Commissions for UNESCO, the GLOCAL Forum, the European Youth Forum, WFUCA, International Young Catholic Students (IYCS-JECI), the Cyprus Permanent Delegation to UNESCO and the Cyprus Youth Board.

Volunteers were all provided and coordinated by the Cyprus Youth Council.

The outcome

The unanimous adoption of the Final Report [PDF, 177 KB] marked the conclusion of the 3-day Forum and presented:

  • A problem analysis on all three sub-themes
  • Salient recommendations for action and follow-up (in the fields of Media, Training, Education and Awareness and Youth Empowerment Through Networking), to be channelled into the preparations for the 5th UNESCO Youth Forum
  • A sequential structure for project implementation and a series of supported project

In order to harness the delegates’ enthusiasm and to support their ideas and recommendations for concrete action promoting Intercultural and Interfaith dialogue in the Euro-Med region, UNESCO identified 5 main avenues for follow-up action:

  1. Examine the potential for support and cooperation with the Permanent Delegations of the 49 countries of the Euro-Mediterranean region that were invited to the Forum, especially with regards to regional programs
  2. Involve the region's network of National Commissions ensuring that the young delegates are also involved in this process
  3. Cooperate with UNESCO Chairs and related academic initiatives
  4. Involve national youth councils, regional youth networks, IGOs, INGOs, youth organizations and structures
  5. Cooperate with UNESCO Secretariat: approach and work with all Sectors and Field Offices, especially those that were actively involved in the Forum
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