Voices of youth at the UN General Assembly
As the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee opened its session last week; voices and concerns of young people from across the globe were conveyed. With commitment and a huge amount of enthusiasm, UN Youth Delegates took the stage to deliver messages on education, employment and other issues of importance to youth.
“This is one of the best moments in my life, because I represent youth at a crucial time,” said Caesar Suarez from Mexico. He also underscored the importance of youth participation, and making the voices of youth heard. “Look to the youth and let us participate in a responsible and democratic way,” he said.
As some 30 Youth Delegates had gathered in New York, DESA’s Division for Social Policy and Development, which oversees the UN Youth Delegate Programme on behalf of the UN, took the opportunity to bring them together for a briefing. The commitment of the UN and the Secretary-General’s pledge to prioritize youth issues were highlighted, along with the action plan being prepared and efforts to involve young people in the post-2015 development agenda.
Some of the representatives shared what it feels like to represent their country at the UN and also what key messages they conveyed to the Third Committee, which deals with social, humanitarian and cultural issues.
“We are so happy to be here. This is the first time that Kenya has youth representatives. We represent over 70 per cent of the Kenyan population,” said Rebecca Ndombi. Sharing some of the key points in her statement, Rebecca said, “I spoke about how education needs to be taken as an important step, and how more investments need to be made in order to educate and empower the youth of Kenya.” Rebecca also highlighted the role of ICTs as a very effective tool, as well as the importance of showcasing positive examples.
Gladwell Kahara, also representing Kenya, spoke about youth unemployment and about the importance of reaching out to young people, teaching them how to protect themselves from becoming infected with HIV and AIDS. Paula Lascano from Mexico also addressed unemployment and the importance of youth participation. She also highlighted her country’s commitment to people with disabilities.
“For me it was important to say something that I really, really believed in. Therefore I chose to speak about anti-racism, migration and the situation for people that had to leave their countries,” said Sweden’s youth delegate Milischia Rezai.
Panyarak Roque from Thailand shared his views about being a youth delegate, the honor it entails but also the responsibility that comes with this role. “One of the things we do as youth delegates, is to try to actually represent young people and to make sure that the youth delegation programmes at the UN are not only tokenistic programmes, but also have actual results and actual representation,” he said.
After participating in the Third Committee’s working session and in youth-focused side events, some of the delegates will leave UN Headquarters to return home at the end of October. But many will be back again early next year, making sure that the voices of youth are being heard as the Commission for Social Development opens its 51st session on 6 February 2013.