In honour of International Youth Day, Tania Martínez, coordinator of ACT!2030 Mexico, looks back on the ECOSOC Youth Forum which took place in January 2017.
The link between youth, the United Nations and its Member States
The ECOSOC Youth Forum, organized at the United Nations, is the Forum with the largest participation of young people from around the world, making it a unique experience. The opportunity to participate, to be surrounded by young people who are not only experts in diverse topics (human rights, health, climate change, political participation, among others), but also live in such different circumstances, favours the exchange of experiences and good practices for advancing those key issues for the development of youth.
The objective of the Youth Forum is to provide a space for young people to have a dialogue with the Member States of the United Nations, in order to collaborate in solving global problems; so the Forum is the opportunity to know realities, share, discuss and build among young people and decision makers.
Before continuing, two of the concepts that must be clear in this type of events are: youth participation and youth perspective. The first one "involves the inclusion of young people in the decision-making through different transparent and inclusive platforms at all levels. [...]; The second refers to the "[...] tools of reflection through which to generate policy", that is to say, the youth perspective "also serves to question and rethink the scaffolding of public policies aimed at young people, being sensitive to the needs and realities of this population group."
During the Forum, young people were recognized as key allies for decision-makers, since their experience, knowledge and relevance in policy-making were always noted. It was in the ministerial discussions, in the thematic and regional sessions, as well as in the plenary sessions where youth had a preponderant role in exposing specific needs and proposals that would improve the current circumstances of young people.
However, it shouldn’t be only once a year when young people is in the United Nations, when they are considered as fundamental allies or when they have direct contact with representatives of government and/or decision makers. The presence and significant participation of youth in the United Nations, in their National Delegations and in the processes that affect their lives must be constant.
Saskia Schellekens, special adviser to the former UN Youth Envoy, stressed in one of the Forum's side events how it’s possible to integrate youth in the definition of agendas (at the local, national, regional and global level) that affect their lives. Saskia indicated that in the Netherlands each Ministry has a youth representative, who meet at least once a month to jointly address the needs of young people and respond to them through the collaboration and coordination between each Ministry; she also mentioned that the Netherlands has a permanent youth delegate in its Mission to the United Nations and that it’s the only country that has a young delegate of sexual and reproductive health and rights in UN (a fundamental factor when denying the needs of young people related to their sexual health and rights is an everyday life issue).
It’s important to rescue the example of the Netherlands as a good practice to emulate in Mexico and in other nations, as mentioned by the first Youth Envoy Ahmad Alhendawi: "Half of the population can not be called future, when they are here, now". So, not only the speech, but in reality, young people must be recognized as allies and integrated to processes as agents of change since only they can, from their expertise, make proposals that contribute to the solution of their problems and that favor their full development at the same time.
In this sense, the Youth Forum represents a practice that can bring to everyday life the need to integrate the youth perspective as a transversal axis in the development agendas, as well as sustained youth participation in the processes that affect the lives of young people now and in the years to come.
Views and opinions expressed in these blogs are those of the authors, and do not necessarily represent those of the organizations that support this initiative, nor is the publishing of these blogs an endorsement. This space is provided for youth advocates to freely express their views on issues that affect them and relate to their work.