UNESCO’s Partners’ Forum: Young Leaders gather in Paris for Youth Empowerment for Peace

“I always wanted to create my own educational radio programme. But as a young journalist and woman in Lebanon, I was only given the opportunity to become another ordinary moderator for entertainment programmes. 4 years ago, I decided to join the UNESCO-EU NET-MED Youth Project, far from knowing how it would change my life. I am proud to tell you that today, I am the moderator of my own radio show, where I am able to talk about youth issues with young people from all the Region”, said Laetitia El Haddad, 25 years old journalist from Lebanon, during UNESCO’s Partners’ Forum.

The thematic panel on Youth Empowerment for Peace, held in the framework of UNESCO’s Partners’ Forum, welcomed young leaders who shared their stories of how UNESCO played a crucial role in their journeys in becoming empowered and engaged global citizens, at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, on 11 September 2018. The forum highlighted UNESCO’s involvement in peacebuilding in educational, artistic, sport, media and ICT-focused programmes that foster youth’s freedom of expression, intercultural dialogue and mediation.

Built on the premise of an inclusive, two-way interaction with the ever-growing youth to develop a sustainable future, UNESCO’s youth empowerment agenda was at the heart of this event. The event was moderated by Mr Lawrence Muli, the Assistant Programme officer of the Commonwealth Secretariat Youth Division and the featured speakers of the event were:

•    Ms Nicole Tiamzon, member of the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Youth and Sport Task Force, which aims at supporting local youth engagement and community development via participation in sports.
•    Mr José Pedro Gioscia, developer of the interactive game Public Space, which raises awareness on sexual harassment. He is also the winner of the 2016 ‘Estamos Comprometidos’ award in Latin America and the Caribbean and participant of the 10th UNESCO Youth Forum.
•    Ms Laetitia El Haddad, member of the NET-MED Youth Project and journalist for a radio show that raises awareness on sustainable development goals.
•    Ms Adama Lee Bah, head of the UNESCO Global Alliance for Media and Information Literacy (MIL) Youth Committee, and teacher for children in Gambia on media ethics and children’s rights.
•    Mr Christophe Masson, Policy Officer, DG NEAR, from the European Commission.

© UNESCO / E. Dejasse

While all of the featured participants shared their unique and impressive stories, certain common themes were highlighted in their speeches, such as global alliance, professional guidance and increased credibility and awareness for their projects. With the support of UNESCO, their voices were able to reach all around the globe, and such exposure provided them with different insights and solutions to their problems, as well as giving them hope about change towards a better future.

“Sport is non-political, it is not discriminating and encourages everyone to engage. Sport is not only physical, but also mental and it promotes good habits. Sport is an enabler that we can use for community development, especially in the grassroots level. The partnership with UNESCO changed my life; I have founded a new programme for our community in the Philippines and I can use the knowledge that I gained from UNESCO to measure the impact of the programme to the community”, said Nicole Tiamzon in her speech.

The panel also shed light on a unique 5-year project, NET-MED Youth (Networks of Mediterranean Youth), implemented by UNESCO and funded by the European Union, and one of the most engaging youth-relevant projects in the region according to Mr Masson. This project focuses on improving access and effective participation of young people in national planning and policy making in Southern Mediterranean countries while addressing three areas in particular: Youth Policy, Youth and Media, and, Youth and Employment.  Also, H.E. M Ayotte, the Ambassador of Canada to UNESCO spoke during the event about the UNESCO/UNOCT project ‘Prevention of Violent Extremism through youth empowerment in Jordan, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia’, co-funded by Canada, and how this unique partnership benefits from each institution’s expertise and constituency.

At the end of the panel, Ms Nada Al-Nashif, Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences at UNESCO, presented her gratitude to the featuring participants and reached out to young people in all of UNESCO’s fields of competence for their active engagements for the benefit of global development and peace.

“To succeed, we need the continued and resilient commitment of young people in all of UNESCO’s fields of competence. Our efforts must be joint, in the spirit of a true partnership. It is time to engage more innovatively with young women and men, as we put our respective resources and talents together to make good on the promise ‘to leave no one behind’, for the benefit of global development and peace.”