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younited - how youth can affect change through policy and action

ICJW Representives in New York, Fran Butensky and Madeleine Brecher, report on a Youth Representatives event on November 2, 2017.

In 2009, the United Nations Department of Information (DPI) initiated a Youth
Representatives Program whose goal was to build the capacity, knowledge and skills of
young people working in non-governmental organizations associated with the department. It
offers the opportunity for youth, identified as ages 18 to 30, to engage on global platforms as
well as exchange ideas and share best practices on important issues discussed at the UN.
They serve as liaisons for their NGOs creating opportunities for intergenerational dialogue
and mentorship. Young people are not at the center of decision making even though half the
world’s population is under thirty years old. Less than 6% of global parliamentarians are
under 35 years old. (The average parliamentarian age is 53 years old.)

These youth led programs are held annually. They have been very popular and well attended. We have always been very impressed by the poise, maturity and enthusiasm that all these young, exceptional leaders demonstrate when putting together these panel discussions.

All of today’s panel members are involved in youth programs and initiatives at their
respective NGOs:

Moderator Steve Chui is the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation’s Youth Representative to the  UN.
• Youth are not just youth of tomorrow but also leaders of today.
• He is learning the UN system and what UN youth have done as activists to engage in
affecting change.
• We have a seat at the table and actually help lead the table.
Annie Weaver is a Program Support Consultant in the Office of the Secretary-General’s
Envoy on Youth.
• Inspired by the Nigerian example, the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth
initiated the Not Too Young to Run Global Campaign to provide young people with a central
platform through which to advocate.
• As many as 10 million global citizens provided input for the 17 SDGs. Seven million of these
were from the 18 to 30 “youth” demographic.
• Youth must show up, learn the issues, challenge the system, and hold governments
accountable.

Shakira McKnight is an Advisor to the Newark, NJ Youth Ambassadors under the current  administration.
• She is implementing plans to place young people in each of Newark’s 5 wards.
• They have a youth office at City Hall and meet with the mayor every month for training and
to study policies.
• They actually help to make plans to affect change in their schools.
• The mayor has given them support tools and a platform to capitalize on their way of
thinking and their strengths to use as a catalyst for change.

Omar A. Almutawa is the Youth Representative of the United Arab Emirates to the UN. He  is currently the director of strategic development at the United Ambassadors in New York.
• The UAE is a young country with a youth agenda to promote entrepreneurship and game
changing policies.
• They encourage youth retreats, youth brain-storming and listen to youth’s
recommendations.
• Embrace the youngest in the room, create expectations, encourage engagement for the
sake of value and teach that YOUR VOICE IS AN ASSET!

Lauren Horn is the Senior Program Manager for The Resolution Project that identifies and  empowers undergraduate students who wish to launch new social ventures.
• There are 350 youth representatives in over 70 countries.
• They are provided with expertise, funding, mentorship and resources that give them the
tools to help impact young lives
• Their fellows are doing incredible work around the world.

This presentation drove home these salient points:
• Empowered young men and women can play a critical role in preventing conflicts and
ensuring peace.
• Young people are an opportunity for building peace.
• Young women and men are essential partners in promoting human rights and development.