UN envoy urges 'uniting for youth' with first in series of virtual Google+ Hangouts

Youth Envoy Ahmad Alhendawi. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

17 May 2013 – The United Nations special envoy on youth went online today to encourage young people to join the UN's work, and detailed some of the initiatives he will undertake to work with and for youth.

“Engage with the United Nations,” said the Secretary General's Special Envoy on Youth, Ahmad Alhendawi, as he urged participants in a Google+ Hangout – the first in a series meant to reach out to young people around the world – to get more involved in the world body's work.

He emphasized to those watching and listening in from around the world that they did not need to work at the United Nations or for the Organization directly. “United Nations is all about uniting, human rights, security, peace, justice, human dignity. These are the values of the United Nations. If you believe in these values, you can work with the United Nations,” he stressed.

Speaking alongside Executive Coordinator of UN Volunteers, Richard Dictus and Prateek Awasthi, Programme Analyst at the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) which co-chairs the UN Co-chair of the Inter-Agency Network on Youth Development (IANYD), Mr. Alhendawi said one of his goals is to promote mechanisms that bring youth closer to the work of the UN and advocate for putting youth into the post-2015 development agenda.

Joined also by Lloyd Russell-Moyle, Vice-President of the European Youth Forum; Danae Espinoza, Project Manager at the Integrated Platform for Sustainable Development (PIDES) and Rime Asselman, youth advocate and consultant at UN-Habitat, Mr. Alhendawi fed the panellists questions from Facebook and Twitter ranging from employment, to how youth can be more involved in climate change talks organized under the auspices of the UN Framework on Climate Change Convention (UNFCCC) and the role of youth in women's empowerment.

The current global cohort of young people are part of a group of 1.2 billion – the largest ever population of youth in history. To harness their energy and creativity for the benefit of all, the United Nations, has launched a series of actions, including the appointment by the Secretary-General of a Youth Envoy, and the elaboration of the System-Wide Action Plan on youth (SWAP).

Another way the UN is trying to harness the power of youth is through the UN Volunteer programme, which is “mobilizing an armada” of young people from the north and south to join the organization on a temporary basis in the UN family, including UNFPA, UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), UN World Food Programme (WFP), UN World Health Organization (WHO), UN International Labour Organization (ILO) and the UN Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

“The average age of the UN staff is 42 and that says a lot about the way the youth voice is utilized,” Mr. Dictus said. He added that the Youth Modality programme will allow young people to serve as “catalysts in the way the Organization shifts its mind and integrates the ideas of youth in its work.”

Mr. Awasthi highlighted the leading role the IANYD has in coordinating the compilations of commitments from the more than 30 UN entities on issues related to young people.

“For the first time, this allows young people to hold us accountable,” Mr. Awasthi said noting that the UN and not just Member States can be held to account for by youth.


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