Youth 21: Building an Architecture for Youth Engagement in the UN System

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This report explores how youth can be more meaningfully engaged in governance at the global level, specifically within the UN system. The UN has recognized the unique role that youth play in development since its inception. This recognition has come through such global initiatives as the International Year of Youth (IYY), and through policy declarations such as the World Programme of Action for Youth (WPAY). Following the completion of the most recent IYY, there was a renewed commitment by the UN expressed in paragraph 26 (GA/RES/65/312) to evaluate the achievements and shortcomings of UN programmes and from this evaluation input forward recommendations on how to more effectively address youth issues and youth engagement. UN-HABITAT, the lead agency authoring this report, was tasked by its Governing Council (HSP/GC/23/7) to work together with member states and other UN agencies to enhance youth engagement in the UN system. UN-HABITAT recognizes the global importance of youth. Since 2007, more than half of the world’s population lives in an urban context, and the most marginalized of those are often young women and men. It is estimated that as many as 60% of all urban dwellers will be under the age of 18 by 2030. It is under the framework of the aforementioned resolution, the WPAY and in the spirit of advancing the issues of youth globally, that UN-HABITAT as a member of the Inter-Agency Network on Youth and Development (IANYD) has authored this report. This report seizes on the opportunity provided by paragraph 26 from the outcome document from High-Level Meeting on Youth in July 2011, and has put forward four possible scenarios that may facilitate improved engagement of youth. These scenarios, found in detail in part 3, are as follows: Scenario 1: Scale up the UN DESA Youth Program to an Institutional Level Scenario 2: Establish a Special Representative of the Secretary General on Youth Scenario 3: Establish a UN Permanent Forum on Youth, inclusive of a Youth Platform Assembly, and Special Representative on Youth In conclusion, this report finds that the UN has historically worked to engage youth with a number of UN agencies working independently and across the agency to address key issues that impact the lives of youth globally. Yet, though there have been many policy statements made that reference the need to engage youth more meaningfully within the UN system, these have remained on paper. Scenarios 1-3 proposed here describe a range of options to better engage youth. This report finds Scenario 3 to be the most comprehensive and the best option.


Douglas Ragan, Jon-Andreas Solberg, Ravi Karkara

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