As the unique regular platform, within the UN System, allowing youth to submit recommendations to Member States representatives at the highest decision-making level, the UNESCO Youth Forum held from 17 to 20 October 2011, brought together more than 500 youth voices from across the world to debate “How youth drive change”.
From the Arab Spring to the many youth-led social innovation projects implemented in their communities, the Forum showcased the important contributions that young women and men can make towards peace, democracy and development.
The Forum was also the first global UN event after the end of the International Year of Youth on Dialogue and Mutual Understanding that took stock of the achievements of the Year and discussed the way forward.
Rallying the support of high profile figures and partners, such as UNESCO Goodwill Ambassadors Nizan Guanaes and Forest Whitaker, the UN Youth Champion Monique Coleman and author Paulo Coelho, it was innovative in many ways. A capacity-building pre-day for the youth delegates and a 3-month online preparatory process through social media campaigns were among its features.
The main theme of this edition of the Forum was How youth drive change.
The sub-themes were:
- Citizens in action: youth in political and public life
- Countering youth exclusion, vulnerability and violence
- Breaking through employment barriers
The output of the Youth Forum was a Final Report drafted by youth participants containing key recommendations that were presented to the UNESCO General Conference at its 36th Session.
The youth voice for change!
The Forum brought together a diversity of young voices: young women and men from Member States, youth activists, young social entrepreneurs, youth bloggers, members of youth NGOs and other civil society organizations, youth with disability and youth from “favelas”, former gang members and ex militia. They have told us:
- “Change really begins when you find the issue that really breaks your heart. Find that issue and take it personally!”
- “Youth are designers of a new social architecture”
- “Why call youth “the future” when they are here now making change.
- “It is necessary to support the creative freedom of young people worldwide”
- “When we do not have statistics on a key segment of the population then that is a form of exclusion”
- “What can youth do for a better inclusion of youth living with disability?”
- “How can we bring employers into the classroom, so learning can be relevant?”
- “What is the change we want to create?”