Youth and policy makers join forces in pandemic recovery efforts
Central to the debate were the insights of the young researchers on the impact of the pandemic on youth well-being, learning, action, rights and use of technology.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating for young people, leaving many of them worried about their future. As the “Youth As Researchers on COVID-19” initiative revealed, youth were faced with poor educational experiences and a massive increase of mental health problems. At work, youth often faced the dual risk of COVID-19 exposure and of losing their jobs due to the pandemic. Young women were challenged by increased childcare and household responsibilities. Young entrepreneurs, lacked financial support and digital literacy for online operations. As a silver lining, a number of young people were actively engaged to provide pandemic relief in their communities. Also, globally youth felt safe online and they were able to identify misinformation.
These insights point to concrete actions for post-pandemic recovery that the young researchers recommended, including to
- Address the critical impact on youth mental health, particularly through remote and in person mental-health counselling;
- Strengthen the right of participation of young people in all aspects of public life
- Engage with young people to design, implement and monitor an equitable hybrid educational model;
- Integrate gender-sensitive and rights-based education about sexual and reproductive health into school curricula;
- establish legal and institutional frameworks to ensure safe and low-cost access to digital tools.
National policy makers directly addressed major youth recommendations by committing to
- develop public policies, action plans and indexes on youth mental health;
- strengthen youth participation by reviewing existing legislation, lifting barriers to participation and opening up spaces for youth to engage in national, provincial and municipal decision making; and
- establish institutional frameworks for easier access to digital tools.
They also committed to continue investing in quality education, particularly in policy measures that ensure the integration of gender-sensitive and right-based education on sexual and reproductive health, with a focus on out-of-school youth and on youth with disabilities.
As a result of the conference, the young participants will undertake to facilitate peer-to-peer knowledge-sharing and information campaigns about rights, based on evidence, fact-checking, and applying critical thinking to information sources. They stand ready to work with governments and educational institutions to develop and improve digital tools for a better virtual learning experience for both students and teachers. They will also continue to generate quality information to inform public policies and programmes, and to build intergenerational and inclusive partnerships in support of pandemic recovery efforts.
UNESCO announced a global coalition of actors to support pandemic recovery with, for and by young people. The Coalition will be open to a variety of global actors, including governments, civil society, the private sector, academia, and youth organizations. It will integrate a Global Grant Scheme to fund youth-led research and grassroots solutions.
Policy makers, participating in the conference, endorsed the Coalition and Global Grant Scheme and announced additional measures to support youth civic action, such as the creation of youth resource centers and the development of national youth volunteering schemes.
The conference is the culmination of 18 months of youth-led research under UNESCO’s “Youth As Researchers on COVID-19” initiative, which has been dedicated to the impact of the pandemic on young people’s well-being, learning, rights, action and use of technology. Launched in 2020, it is the largest youth-led capacity building project in response to COVID-19 in the world. It has engaged 270 young people – from over 70 countries – as youth researchers, and 10,000 in efforts to support 34 global, regional and national research teams. The participants in the initiative believe that through research, youth can become change-makers.
Given the overwhelming support and interest in the initiative, UNESCO will establish an annual Youth As Researchers platform focusing on key issues identified by young women and men to ensure that their voice is heard in policy development and implementation.
With youth civic space and participation shrinking in many countries, this is critical now more than ever! “It was the very first time for me that I felt my perspectives and ideas were taken into account (…). Knowing I had the space and power to lead was very empowering to me.” -- Moneera Yassien, Sudan, Youth Steering Committee
Maria Kypriotou, email@example.com