Tomorrow's Decision Makers:
Youth at the UN DPI/NGO Conference
In June, a delegation of youth representatives travelled to Gyeongju in the Republic of Korea to attend the 66th UN Department of Information/Non-Governmental Organizations Conference. The conference organizers invited youth representing different regions around the world to promote and participate in all conference events, including on-line and off-line youth activities. The young participants undertook a process of knowledge sharing, consultation and drafting, in order to develop a Youth Declaration to disseminate their united perspective and recommendations to the Gyeongju Action Plan, to support global education and implementation of the SDGs worldwide.
Almost 1,600 youth pre-registered for the conference, of which approximately 300 participated in the Youth activities. As consultations amongst the youth unfolded, an issue that came up repeatedly concerned youth participation — both in decision making processes on education, that have deep and lasting impacts on young people, as well as a more broad engagement.
Integrating young people into formal structures of power is of course advantageous for a variety of reasons, particularly because youth bring fresh perspectives, innovative solutions and creativity, enthusiasm, open mindedness and a spirit of service to these spaces. Young people are needed as leaders and decision makers, not only in youth forums and special-purpose councils, but in those spaces where the course and direction of society as a whole are determined. This may well require the development of new systems of decision-making and collaboration — systems characterized by an unbiased search for truth, an attitude of cooperation and reciprocity, and an appreciation for the vital role every individual can play in the betterment of the whole.
Youth are active agents of change
While many current education systems are not meeting the evolving needs of young people, the youth at the Conference recognized that they are active agents of change and have much to contribute towards strengthening educational processes at all levels. In the Youth Declaration, they listed a range of contributions they can make to empower others to make change. They then call on Member States to prioritized strong education systems, empower youth and create an enabling environment for young people's full participation in education systems and society.
On the final morning of the Conference, the Gyeongju Youth Declaration was presented at a Press Briefing attended by the UN DPI's Communications Officer, Youth Rapporteurs, Youth Sub-Committee and the Korean Press. The three Youth Co-Chairs of the Conference spoke of what the youth have achieved during the conference, including the activities of the Youth Caucus, Youth Hub, Flash Mob, Youth Hangouts and other spaces for consultation.
The Youth Declaration was presented, main points were highlighted and a youth initiative to improve access and quality education was demonstrated, showing that youth are already acting on their words to contribute to a better world. Ahmad Alhendawi (Secretary General's Special Envoy for Youth), Cristina Gallach (Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information) and Maher Nasser (Director, Outreach Division, DPI) — all responded to the Youth Declaration, offering their congratulations, admiration and support to this generation of youth.
Youth participants around the world will now promote both the Gyeongju Action Plan as well as the Gyeongju Youth Declaration, as they find ways to rally civil society and governments around these documents and start implementing commitments. The youth in New York will coordinate a restructure of the Youth Representatives and Young Professionals Program, so as to facilitate wide participation and coordination of the implementation of these Declarations in the United Nations system in New York City, and within their respective networks.