Youth Caucus Prepares Young People for the Global Summit

At the youth caucus, young people hammered out advocacy message to bring to the high-level meeting. Photo: UNFPA/Janet Jensen
  • 25 July 2011

UNITED NATIONS, New York — This year’s High-Level Meeting on Youth, is themed Dialogue and Mutual Understanding. Sixty young people from 45 countries worked much of the weekend before the official meeting to make sure that it lives up to its billing.

They met  all day Sunday in a caucus crafting responses and refining messages that will help them play a meaningful role in the dialogue that will be taking place in formal and informal settings throughout the next few days (The word ‘meaningful’ is key, said one participant. “We want more than to be ‘involved’).

UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin is also a proponent of real participation. "It goes beyond tokenism," he said in his address at a General Assembly panel on Monday.  "It's about ensuring that young people help design, implement and monitor programmes."

Sunday’s caucus was organized by a coalition of youth-led organizations with support from UNFPA. The individuals at the weekend caucus were sponsored by NGOs, youth coalitions, government missions and UNFPA.

Inclusiveness highlighted

Aniyamuzaala James Rwampigi, a hearing-impaired social development expert from Uganda, said he wants to make sure that young people with disabilities do not get left out of discussions. “WHO estimates that about 10 per cent of people have disabilities,” he said. “That adds up to about 3.3 million in Uganda, and many of them are young people.”

He is one of four young leaders whose participation is being sponsored by UNFPA, and who will take their places on panels with high profile international leaders. Wissam M. Samhat, a 23-year-old who has experienced conflict and dislocation in Lebanon, is another.  He said he was listening carefully to the caucus discussions, so that the views he puts forth at a high-level panel on Monday will represent perspectives from various regions.

Others argued for inclusion of young people marginalized by poverty, illness and sexual orientation.

Building on international agreements about youth

All Sunday morning the young people worked in small groups armed with summaries of commitments from major international agreements on the subjects of gender, reproductive rights, adolescent services, and participation, among other things. “We’re learning how we can use international agreements to make leaders accountable,” said one participant.

Each group took up a different subject, and, informed by their own experiences, international commitments, survey results and their own discussions, came up with messages to be communicated in official and unofficial discussions that will be taking place over the next few days, as well as in an outcome document that they will produce this week.

“Most sexuality education isn’t human-rights based, according to survey results,” said the rapporteur from the group that was working on young people’s right to reproductive health information. “Guidelines exist, but are not used. There is a lack of resources, and well-trained teachers.”

Amplifying their voices through social media

Eight of the young people who are part of the UNFPA Youth Fellows programme are also reporting and live blogging about their experiences on Conversations for a Better World, UNFPA’s social media platform on youth issues – and they welcome comments from young people who are unable to be at the meeting itself.

“This is a great meeting for young people,” writes Criston Zimbizi, a UNFPA Youth Fellow from Zimbabwe, “and it gives us an opportunity to interact with world leaders and tell them our issues."

At this week’s High-Level Meeting on Youth, UNFPA will urge world leaders to include young people’s challenges and visions in their policies, promote their human rights and development needs, and ensure their participation in decisions affecting them. The Fund will also organize and participate in several events during the meeting that will take place this week.


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