Why a UNESCO Youth Forum?

© Flickr / Espen Faugstad

The energy and innovative and creative ideas of young people are vital for the development of all societies. In 1999 UNESCO formally strengthened its commitment to youth by establishing a Youth Forum as an integral part of the Organization’s highest decision-making body, its General Conference.

Establishing a Youth Forum emerged as an important process in the creation of synergies between UNESCO’s work on youth, youth organizations and public institutions working on youth, thereby striving to create interaction between young women and men across the world, policy makers, the civil society, the private sector and the international community.

This year, around 500 young participants from all over the world will gather on the occasion of the 8th UNESCO Youth Forum, from 29 to 31 October 2013 at UNESCO’s Headquarters in Paris, to exchange views, share experiences, reflect together and, above all, identify common preoccupations and problems.

As requested by young women and men themselves, the 8th UNESCO Youth Forum will be one of change and innovation! Taking up the evaluation of the 7th Forum (2011) and consultations with youth, this edition strives to improve their effective participation, ownership and co-management of the event, in order to build strong bridges between the Organization, its Member States, youth and their organizations. Importantly, it also aims at reinforcing the competencies of young people as key actors driving change in their communities, and active partners in peace building and the promotion of sustainable development.

The 8th Edition is conceived to have more time dedicated to break-out sessions and space for exchange and dialogue, giving youth delegates, observers and other young participants, sufficient opportunities to exchange, to reinforce their skills, as well as to showcase their struggles, paths and innovative initiatives.

Building on the opinions and proposals of youth though an online consultation, the theme of this 8th edition will be “Youth and Social Inclusion: Civic Engagement, Dialogue and Skills Development”. As such, it will discuss youth civic engagement issues and the ways in which youth can engage in building democratic and sustainable communities. It will also look into the skills and competencies for young people to successfully enter the active life and to put their innovation, creativity and entrepreneurialism into practice. In addition, the debates at the Forum will include a focus on challenges related to social inclusion and intercultural dialogue.

As requested by UNESCO Member States, this global theme will be articulated around the Operational Strategy on Youth 2014-2021, that outlines the Organization’s focus and vision in its work on youth, addressing them as beneficiaries, actors and partners, and aiming to empower them as change-makers for peace and sustainable development. The UNESCO-wide vision on youth operationalized through the Strategy is expressed through three complementary and transversal axes of work that will direct the Forum’s work:

  1. Policy formulation and review with the participation of youth;
  2. Capacity development for the transition to adulthood; and
  3. Civic engagement, democratic participation and social innovation.

Thanks to the input from young people through a second online consultation, the Forum presents two main innovative features, which takes it a step further in improving its methods to engaging youth as true actors and partners:

  • In addition to strategic recommendations, the Forum will identify a series of action projects, to be implemented by and for young people and relating to the Operational Strategy on Youth. Following a call for proposals launched on 15 July 2013, the youth participants will select 15 action projects (three by region), which will receive the label “8th UNESCO Youth Forum”.
  • Another key innovation consists in providing the youth delegates with multiple and varied tools to reinforce their capacities, thereby allowing them be more operational upon their return to their countries. Thus, during the Forum coaching and mentoring sessions will be organized by diversifying approaches and modalities, in particular through face-to-face exchanges and consultations with UNESCO staff, private sector partners and civil society actors, as well as by UN agencies.
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