The DESA Focal Point on Youth aims to build an awareness of the global situation of young people, as well as promote their rights and aspirations. The Focal Point also works towards greater participation of young people in decision-making as a means of achieving peace and development.

The Youth Focal Point is part of the Social Integration Branch, which falls within the Division for Social Policy and Development (DSPD) of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) in the United Nations Secretariat.

1) The Mandate

The mandate of the Focal Point on Youth is predominantly based on the World Programme of Action for Youth. It has been set up to:

  • enhance awareness of the global situation of youth and increase recognition of the rights and aspirations of youth;
  • promote national youth policies, national youth coordinating mechanisms and national youth programmes of action as integral parts of social and economic development, in cooperation with both governmental and non-governmental organizations;
  • and strengthen the participation of youth in decision-making processes at all levels in order to increase their impact on national development and international cooperation.

2) How has the Focal Point on Youth made a difference?

In 1995, on the tenth anniversary of International Youth Year, the United Nations strengthened its commitment to young people by directing the international community’s response to the challenges to youth into the next millennium. It did this by adopting an international strategy — the World Programme of Action for Youth to the Year 2000 and Beyond — to address more effectively the problems of young men and women and to increase opportunities for their participation in society. This World Programme seeks to make Governments more responsive to the aspirations of youth for a better world, as well as to the demands of youth to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

One of the key ways the Focal Point on Youth works to enhance youth issues is via its role as permanent co-chair of the Inter-agency Network on Youth Development (IANYD). The IANYD is a network consisting of UN entities, represented primarily at the headquarters level, whose work is relevant to youth. The aim of the Network is to increase the effectiveness of UN work in youth development by strengthening collaboration and exchange among all relevant UN entities, while respecting and harnessing the benefits of their individual strengths and unique approaches and mandates.

The Focal Point on Youth coordinates the administrative functions of the Network and provides support and continuity to the other co-chair and the Network as required.

The United Nations Department of Economic Social Affairs Youth Focal Point presents a number of opportunities for young people to engage with the UN System, specifically through the Youth Delegate Programme.

3) The Youth Delegate Programme

Participation in decision-making is one of the key priority areas of the United Nations agenda on youth. One form of youth participation at the United Nations is through the inclusion of youth delegates in a country’s official delegation to the United Nations General Assembly and various functional Commissions of the Economic and Social Council. The youth delegate programme is coordinated by the Focal Point on Youth at the global level, but it is the responsibility of the Member States to establish a youth delegate programme at the national level, and to decide who will represent the young people of their country. The roles of a youth representative varies from country to country, but normally includes providing input to their delegation on issues related to youth and participate in their delegation’s general work through attending meetings and informal negotiations.

Youth delegates can participate in several intergovernmental meetings at the United Nations. Most official youth delegates participate in the General Assembly, but some also attend functional Commissions of the Economic and Social Council.

– How to become a youth delegate?

  • Some countries have existing programmes to select youth delegates. You can determine this by looking at the list of youth delegates for previous years. If your country does not have a programme in place to select a youth delegate, your task will be two-fold:
  • First, you have to convince your country on the importance of having a youth representative in its delegation to the UN General Assembly.
  • And secondly, once they’ve established the position, you will have to initiate a selection process.
  • Some steps you may consider include:
  • Determine whether or not your country currently has a youth representative programme. If it does, inquire through your department of foreign affairs or a national youth council about how the application process works.
  • If your country does not currently have a youth representative programme, you will have to lobby to have one created. This can be done most effectively by working in cooperation with existing youth organizations in your country.
  • Sometimes the process may work very quickly, and sometimes it may take a greater effort to have youth delegates become part of government policy.
  • Some steps you might take would include:
  • Write to your minister of foreign affairs (or equivalent), outline the merits of youth delegates, and offer to meet to discuss it further.
  • Contact the Minister for Youth (or equivalent), senior public servants, the Ambassador to the UN, or even the Head of State.
  • You might also try to get letters of endorsement from all of the above, plus key civil society leaders, national and international.
  • After the proposal has been accepted, and a nomination and selection procedure established, the next step would be to apply for the position.

– Where Can Youth Delegates Participate?

Youth delegates can participate in several intergovernmental meetings at the United Nations. Most official youth delegates participate in the General Assembly, but some also attend functional Commissions of the Economic and Social Council.

Third Committee of the General Assembly

The Third Committee, the arm of the General Assembly that deliberates on Social, Cultural and Humanitarian Issues. Matters that pertain specifically to youth currently fall under the agenda item called “Social development, including questions relating to the world social situation and to youth, ageing, persons with disabilities and the family”. Generally, this agenda item is considered in the Third Committee of the General Assembly during the month of October, however, this is subject to change based on the annual programmes of work adopted by Member States. The agenda of the General Assembly, including that of its Third Committee, is usually available in late summer at:

Youth delegates to the Commission for Social Development (CSocD)

The Commission for Social Development is a functional commission of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The body is in charge of the follow-up and implementation of the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action of the World Summit for Social Development and meets annually in February for one and a half weeks. It covers key social development themes such as poverty, employment and social integration and the issue of youth falls within the latter.

A youth resolution is traditionally adopted every two years. Typically youth delegates that have been selected for the General Assembly also participate in the Commission for Social Development, since the work of the two bodies is closely interlinked.

The agenda of the Commission for Social Development, is available.

4) UN Youth Library

The DESA’s Focal Point on Youth also provides a library for:
1) All  Secretary General’s Report on Youth
2) UN resolutions related to Youth

The Focal Point on Youth can be reached by email at

You can also join the Facebook page and follow the UNDESA Focal Point on Youth on Twitter

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