In September 2017, Jayathma Wickramanayake became the second person to be the UN Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth. Originally from Sri Lanka, she was the country’s first UN Youth Delegate, is an experienced organiser of international youth events, and wrote her master thesis on youth policy. Yet, she says that she’s often considered ‘too young to be true’ – especially by her older, male colleagues. But taking the reins as the highest official on youth at the UN, has got off to a challenging start: her office is in debt to the UN system. We caught up with Jayathma on the sidelines of International Civil Society Week to talk about her, her role, and her ambitions for the years ahead.
At the First Global Forum on Youth Policies, held in 2014, the UN co-conveners – the Youth Envoy, UNDP, UNESCO – committed to ten global actions to strengthen youth policies. Taking stock of the achievements, more than three years later, is not a pretty sight. Despite the impressive backlog of unfulfilled commitments from the Global Forum, the 2018 Ecosoc Youth Forum concluded with a slapstick commitment session. And we here at youthpolicy.org haven’t exactly covered ourselves with glory trying to live up to our own commitments made in 2014. What is the story behind this almost comical relationship of the youth sector to its own commitments?
At the Palais de Nations in Geneva, the Committee on the Rights of the Child launched the most important articulation of adolescent rights since the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989. Significantly, the General Comment takes the strongest positions adopted so far by the UN in outlining how age-related legislation should be used, reformed and abolished in terms of governing the ability of adolescents to access services, make independent choices, and realise their rights. This article captures discussions from the launch, provides context and makes our own recommendations.
During the quieter summer time, we have updated our Structures, Spaces & Places page, which provides details of the regional forums, global movements and international processes that young people can participate in. This short blog post outlines some immediate reflections from the research process, notably the absence of regional platforms in Asia and South America, confusion over the legitimate youth organisation in Africa, a reduction in the number of global youth events, and the refocusing of youth organisations in a post Post-2015 world.
The third working paper looks at recent trends in child and youth participation. It explores academic literature, recent publications and considers the relevance of traditional participation models – particularly seen in the rise of international youth structures, summits and events – against a wave social uprisings and civil unrest that has demonstrated young people’s willingness confront powerful regimes and institutions. Crucially, youth participation often lacks real power; but when it does, young people can drive real policy, institutional and social change.
Ready to discuss youth policy? Welcome to the launch of the Youth Policy Working Paper series! The new series will present research findings on youth and public policy from around the world for discussion and critical comment. The series includes papers on conceptual approaches and design issues, as well as on the impact of public policy on young people. The first paper in the series discusses the emerging international consensus on principles of youth policy and highlights country examples.
Globally, youth work remains, to this day, a vastly under-supported profession. Much of the infrastructure is absent or lacking, from training and education to evaluation and monitoring. Financial backup is fragile, and too often play- or battleground for political negotiations. The Commonwealth seeks to play a key role in taking youth work forward through professionalisation, and hosted the 2nd Commonwealth Conference on Youth Work with 300+ youth work professionals in Pretoria, South Africa.