Dispatch

27 July 2011

Out-of-the-Box Advocacy: New Ways of Communicating for a New Generation

UNITED NATIONS, New York – “So far we have only seen a glimpse of the innovative ways that young people are able to spread messages, and use new tools to transform societies and cultures, and tackle global challenges,” said Safiye Cagar, UNFPA’s Director of Information and External Relations at a side event during the High-level Meeting on Youth.

Those innovative ways of spreading messages were on display throughout the 2-day conference. The halls of the UN were alive with the sound of cell phone conversations. Texting was an even-more popular form of communication. In the visitors’ section of the General Assembly, most of the young people who filled the seats were fully ‘plugged’ in. As one observer noted:

“The visitor's gallery was packed with young people from all over the world. In all the years I have attended events at the UN, I have never seen so much multitasking taking place in the gallery. Most of the young people were handling one or two devices: lap tops, cellphones, cameras, digital recorders -- actively entering information, quotes, sharing their impressions, taking photos and recording the moment.

A number of them were live-blogging or Tweeting for Conversations for a Better World, or other social media platforms.

Where will this all lead? Tuesday’s panel, entitled ‘Out of the Box Advocacy’ and organized by UNFPA, provided a hint, with examples of social media youth campaigns that are gaining traction.

Each of the other panelists, bringing with them campaign experience from different youth organizations, shared some of their most successful campaigns.

Ana Rizescu of Y-PEER spoke about the recent 10 Days of Activism campaign. Known by the hashtag #10DoA on Twitter, the cyber-activism campaign has reached young people in more than 52 countries through celebrity blog-posts, social media activities, seminars on the ground and partnerships with other blog platforms. One highlight was being addressed in a blog-post about the world of 7 billion by UNFPA’s Executive Director.

Renata Daunoraviciute of IPPF spoke about campaign I Heart Being a Girl - an initiative that is led by YSAFE, a IPPF Youth network. Through Youtube and blogging, the campaign aims to collects stories of young women from across the world who are empowered through the experience of being a girl. So far, visitors from 82 countries have visited the campaign blog, and the initiative has been featured at the International AIDS Conference in Vienna.

Sos Nalghranyan of YouAct opened his presentation with some basic facts: Some 722 million people use Facebook, spending a total of 7 billion minutes on the platform each month. The biggest growth in from users in Asia and Africa. “Many young people don’t have access to technology in the developing world,” he added, “So we must create campaigns that reach them, too.”

The recently launched European Youth Demand Change campaign aims to increase European political and financial commitment towards adolescent sexual and reproductive health issues by engaging with decision makers and stakeholders alike.

Lindsay Mernard-Freeman of the Global Youth Coalition on HIV/AIDS talked about the online campaign Global Creative Contest for young people aged 15 to 29. “Art can also be a great activist tool as it can move people in a way that words cannot do.” The contest, which ended in June, 2011, gathered 39 artists, and the winning submissions were identified via online voting.

Ms. Cagar reminded the audience how important it is to keep up the momentum, beyond the International Year of Youth, in order to strengthen the youth agenda: “Young people must continue to raise their voices, using various platforms.”