Youth 21 Initiative

Youth 21: Building an better architecture to engage youth in the UN System

UN-HABITAT was tasked by its Governing Council (GC Res. 23/7) in April 2011 to work together with member states and other UN agencies to enhance youth engagement in the UN system, initiating the Youth 21 Initiative.

To kick off the process of rethinking youth participation, a report was launched suggesting different scenarios for how youth could be more meaningfully engaged in governance at the global level, specifically within the UN.

The report explored different options, including the establishment of a UN youth agency, the appointment of a high-level representative of youth as well as the establishment of a permanent forum on youth issues.

I was fortunate to work as part of a small team that coordinated this initiative from the very beginning. I have led a series of youth consultations and strategic advocacy efforts which included a international multi-stakeholder meeting for 300 young people in Kenya, high-level ministerial meetings in Brazil, Italy, Norway and the US, advocacy missions to UNHQ and donor countries and of course, a lot of grassroots work to mobilise youth-led organisations to support the youth 21 process.

It is exciting to look back and realise that some of the big aspirations of the Youth 21 process have been already achieved by the UN. For instance, the appointment of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth provided a clear high-level representation for young people in the UN system, while institutionalization of the annual ECOSOC Youth Forum have created a permanent forum for young people to meet and deliberate with representatives from the UN and member states.

You can read more about the initiative in its comprehensive final report available here.

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