• Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth Ahmad Alhendawi. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

UN envoy leads call for action, resources to ensure meaningful role for youths in policy talks

(UN News Centre) 27 October 2014 – Meeting for the first time since arriving in Azerbaijan for the United Nations-backed Global Forum on Youth Policies, dozens of youth experts and activists today deliberated a “common narrative” that will best engage other stakeholders and help transform youth policy rhetoric into solid reality.

“We must take the conversation from talking to each other to talking to ‘the other,’” said the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, Ahmad Alhendawi, today, as he spearheaded an informal discussion on how to strengthen communication and collaboration.

Because the issues and interests of today’s youth are so expansive, it will take engaging non-traditional actors to get support and real commitment. That includes getting Ministries of Labour, Finance, and Education involved in a dialogue with youth activists and experts, he added.

The Global Forum on Youth Policies kicks off tomorrow in Azerbaijan’s coastal capital city Baku, where 700 youth experts from governments and parliaments, youth networks and movement, research and development communities will gather for three days to discuss an array of concerns concerning young people from employment and mental health to crime and security.

The Forum runs through 30 October and is expected to produce at outcome document outlining on how to strengthen implementation of the World Programme of Action on Youth – adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1995.

Spotlighting the connection between resources and countries’ ability to do something tangible, Mr. Alhendawi said that “youth policy without a budget is a mental exercise.”

Several other participants pointed out that some countries simply do not have the capacity to address youth concerns. Developing countries in particular struggle to find the resources. The budget allocated to youth policy of one nation might 100 times larger than the budget of a poor country.

One way of dealing with this is to hone the focus on several goals or areas of interest rather than just one, said University of South Wales Professor, Howard Williamson, who also spoke on behalf of the Council of Europe, a Forum co-convener. Youth policy, he added, does not need rewriting but refreshing. Most countries have similar youth policy, the main different is their economic resources.

One youth delegate participating in today’s informal talks, said even more crucial is simplifying youth policy so that it is understood by the people it targets. “We cannot spend two hours reading something to understand what youth policy is all about,” said 27-year-old Vinicius Tsugue, President of the student-run International Association of Students in Economic and Commercial Sciences (AISEC).

Travelling from Brazil, he said the Forum is “extremely” important for his organization, he described as “run by youth, for youth.” Present in over 113 countries, AIESEC’s work and direction for the next five years will be directly shaped by the outcome of this week’s forum.

After all, to be effective youth organizations must align what is happening internally with what is happening to global youth policy. Hence, youth policy must be simple, practical, and understandable.

“I hope policy becomes something that is implementable, something that I am doing by volunteering, having my own start-up and where I could see that these youth policies are supporting me because if the youth policy is too complicated, it’s something that we are not going to use so much.” Mr. Tsugue added.

Already putting that philosophy into practice is local student, Gamar Alizade, 20, who in the midst of completing her law degree at Baku, University, has managed to volunteer at “seven or eight” international events held in Azerbaijan since freshman year.

“Volunteering is a good way for young people to express themselves, to take part in new events, meet new people, discover new cultures, and in a way, even discover themselves,” Ms. Alizade said.

Taking a front row seat next to experts from various UN agencies and international partners, Ms. Alizade assists in organizing participants and making sure the meeting runs smoothly. She said that while she is not paid, by volunteering she is gaining real world experience.

“It’s a good way to develop skills and become a better professional in the future. We are getting the same experience as those who are employed. And also it’s a good policy of the State to get young people attracted in volunteering because it develops really good leaders in the future,” she added.

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