A View from the Stage of the 9th UNESCO Youth Forum
By Nada Elfeituri
What do youth, climate change and a global agenda for sustainability have in common? That’s exactly what we went to find out about at the 9th UNESCO Youth Forum, which took place in Paris late last October. By ‘we’, I mean 500 active youth from across the globe, each with a wealth of experience, passion, and, most importantly, a keenness to talk about the future.
If you were surprised to hear that 500 youth were brought together in one place, then you can imagine my reaction when I found out that I was supposed to give a speech to them. Five hundred young individuals, each with a remarkable story of their own, would be listening to me for inspiration. Yeah, I was definitely sweating a little on that stage.
But looking out at the sea of attentive faces, I realized that I wasn’t giving a formal speech to a passive audience. I was continuing a conversation that started at the booths of the Forum’s marketplace and continued in the rooms and hallways of the UNESCO building throughout the Forum’s three-day duration. So I picked up the thread of those conversations and spoke in detail about the work I was doing in Libya to promote and advocate for the Sustainable Development Goals among my fellow peers. I spoke about the challenges and obstacles we faced in Libya, about how these goals would strengthen our work, and how we are determined to continue being part of the global youth conversation.
In this day and age, with the amount of bleak news we hear coming from around the world, it’s hard to imagine that hundreds of youth, each coming from very diverse backgrounds and speaking a plethora of languages, could work together and come up with a unified vision. But that’s exactly what happened on the last day of the Forum, proving, time and again, that youth should never be underestimated. The core of this vision was a set of recommendations on the 2030 development agenda, which included, among other things, the promotion of cultural diversity, increased advocacy on the importance of biodiversity and encouragement of personal development through community-built knowledge.
It’s the empowerment of youth to work on these crucial issues that makes up the core of the Networks of Mediterranean Youth (NET-MED Youth), an EU-funded project implemented by UNESCO, to build the capacities of young people in the South Mediterranean countries. It was through NET-MED Youth that I learned about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and got a chance to speak at the Youth Forum. It’s because of programs like NET-MED Youth that we’re seeing youth play a greater role in creating change for the region. Whether it’s through education, media or the economy, youth are taking charge and making meaningful progress towards creating more resilient communities.
To answer the question at the start of this piece, sustainable development is intricately linked to climate change, and the latter must be addressed if we hope to achieve the former. Youth are the key towards achieving these goals, and by equipping them with the necessary knowledge and tools today, I am confident that we will have ensured a more sustainable planet for the future.
About the Author:
Nada Elfeituri is an architect-turned-activist from Benghazi, Libya. As part of her role in NET-MED Youth, Nada has been leading efforts in Libya to raise awareness on sustainable development. She is also the founder of the Young Writers of Benghazi, an organization that promotes self-expression through writing.
The 9th UNESCO Youth Forum – Young Global Citizens for a Sustainable Planet – took place in Paris, France from the 26th to the 28th October 2015. The Forum brought together over 500 young women and men from all over the world to focus on issues related to Climate Change and the 2030 Sustainable Development agenda to ensure that the voices of future generations remain front and center of the new development agenda. Discussions focused on how young people, committing themselves as global citizens, can contribute to the creation of a sustainable planet. The recommendations of the Forum were presented by the young participants at the Plenary Session of UNESCO's General Conference as well as during the debates of its five Programme Commissions. Participants will also present the recommendations at the upcoming Commonwealth Youth Forum (21-25 November, Malta), and later on at the Coy 11 (26-28 November 2015) and COP21 (30 November-12 December 2015) in Paris.
Watch the video on the Youth Forum recommendations here. Click here for more information on the outcomes of the Forum and for daily videos from the Forum.
The Inter-agency Network on Youth Development held its monthly meeting on 26 October 2015 in Paris, France, in the context of the 9th UNESCO Youth Forum. The Youth Forum took place under the theme ‘Young Global Citizens for a Sustainable Planet’ from 26th to the 28th October, drawing together over 700 young people, youth organizations, practitioners, UN staff, and academics. You can learn more about the UNESCO Youth Forum here.
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