Actively engaging for the future of youth

Young People at Unprecedented Security Council Event (UN Photo Paulo Filgueiras)

Young people possess important perspectives and opinions that are often unheard. Active participation empowers them and can play a vital role in their own development. To increase involvement, there needs to be a more collective and improved understanding of what youth participation involves and how it can be realized for children and adolescents.

The UN Programme on Youth and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) hosted a briefing session on Youth Participation, as part of the international Year of Youth, at the UNICEF House in New York on 12 April. The session opened with the video “Young People in Action: A Film on Young People’s Participation”, followed by a panel discussion with young people, civil society and UN experts.

Ravi Karkara, Specialist in Child and Adolescent Participation of UNICEF, discussed the importance of youth participation in social change, economic growth and technological innovation issues. He highlighted the need to include input from young people to determine the most effective learning methods, stating, “Youth issues will not get high on the radar without youth participation.”

Members of the Child Friendly Communities East Harlem, in collaboration with Child Environmental Research Group, CTM DREAMS, and Isaacs Center have taken the initiative to help ensure that the rights of young people are being fulfilled. These organizations are using a bottom-up approach to assess communication levels and taking actions in communities. 

The proactive youth (from ages 15 to 18) of the Stanley M. Isaacs Neighborhood Center, conducted a survey of young people living in Harlem on the degree to which they felt their opinions were heard. They presented their results in an interactive scene, emphasizing the lack of recognition of the opinions of adolescents.

Prateek Awasthi, Programme Analyst of the Adolescent and Youth Programme of UNFPA, discussed the importance of coordination in program design. “It is not that young people need to learn to work with adults, but adults need to learn to work with young people.” Incorporating these opinions can shape and improve the design of programs to something more practical and effective.

To enhance motivation and increase engagement, there needs to be more dialogue and exposure to learning. What young people want is a way to do this,  “just give us an opportunity and we’ll take it.”

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