“Youth should be given a chance to take an active part in the decision-making of local, national and global levels.”
United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon
Participation is a fundamental right. It is one of the guiding principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that has been reiterated in many other Conventions and Declarations. Through active participation, young people are empowered to play a vital role in their own development as well as in that of their communities, helping them to learn vital life-skills, develop knowledge on human rights and citizenship and to promote positive civic action. To participate effectively, young people must be given the proper tools, such as information, education about and access to their civil rights.
The UN has long recognized that young people are a major human resource for development and key agents for social change, economic growth and technological innovation. Participation in decision-making is a key priority area of the UN agenda on youth.
“…The United Nations is doing a considerable amount to invest in youth. We are acquiring knowledge and best practices about the issues affecting young people today. And we are making greater efforts to engage youth in our negotiating and decision-making processes. Still, I do not think we have gone nearly far enough…” – Secretary-General’s Remarks to General Assembly High-Level Meeting on Youth, 2011
In addition The Secretary-General’s Five-Year Action Agenda in his 2nd Term priorities have clearly made commitment to boost Youth agenda in the UN system. He stated,
“…Address the needs of the largest generation of young people the world has ever known by deepening the youth focus of existing programmes on employment, entrepreneurship, political inclusion, citizenship and protection of rights, and education, including on reproductive health. To help advance this agenda, the UN system will develop and implement an action plan, create a youth volunteer programme under the umbrella of the UN Volunteers and appoint a new Special Adviser for Youth”
The UN system is coming together to develop the UN system wide action plan on youth. This process saw engagement of young people by bringing their voices on an online platform that got over 16,000 replies. There is a stronger focus on youth participation and greater recognition to youth led organizations. The proposed changes at the UN mark a shift that needs to be recognised in the time to come and the greatest test will be how youth worldwide are recognised through their voice, action and partnership in the UN systems and beyond.
Ravi is an Expert Advisor on Children & Youth, Partners and Youth Branch, at UN-HABITAT in New York. He has held positions at UNICEF Headquarters, Save the Children Sweden and UK and various other advisory and consultant positions at civil society organisations globally. He has been a global advocate on the human rights based approach to development and an advocate for social development, social inclusion and social justice.