147 Dreams – #147NotJustANumber #Garissa

garissa vigil

On April 2nd, 2015 four gunmen stormed into Garissa University College, in Garissa, Kenya and took students hostage for hours of panic and pain. This was the deadliest terrorist attack in Kenya since 1998, killing 147 students, and injuring many others.

Today the UN family gathered in a vigil to honor those lives taken away.

147 is not just a number. They were daughters and sons, they were brothers and sisters, they were friends, more than anything they were human beings who were pursuing their education to fulfill their dreams, their hopes and aspirations.

The shocking images of that bloody Thursday will haunt us, and will be sadly remembered.  The reckless attack on university students was a direct attack on the future of Kenya. Those 147 young people killed are no longer able to contribute their talents neither to fulfilling their dreams.

The barbaric attack took away from Kenya 147 unique opportunities. Those youth will no longer grow to become doctors, or teachers, lawyers or musicians, will not become engineers neither politicians. 147 lives cut short, 147 dreams terminated before they had the chance to make a difference.

That is why today the UN family in Nairobi united in their honor. We want to remember the victims not just as another tragic number, but recognize their lives and stories and honor their passions and their dreams.

The vigil hosted today at the United Nations Campus in Gigiri, Nairobi was accompanied by Andrew Cox, UN-Habitat Chief of Staff and James Ohayo, President of the UN Nairobi Staff Union.


The Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth Ahmad Alhendawi sent his message of condolence, but as well expressed strong support for the people of Kenya in their time of need.

The vigil was an opportunity for staff members to pay respect to the young men and women whose lives were so needlessly cut short, remembering the bereaved families and praying for the recovery and emotional restoration of those who were injured, as well as hundreds of students who were traumatized by this heinous and despicable attack.


147 is not just a number, today the UN honor the loss of 147 dreams.


The 25th UN-Habitat Governing Council- What’s in it for #Youth? – #GC25 #Habitat3

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My name is Tone Vesterhus, I am the youth delegate for Norway to the 25th Governing Council. I have been following UN-Habitat and the Habitat III process since the beginning of 2014.

Unfortunately there were not many youth delegates in the official government delegations at the Governing Council this year, Brazil was the only other delegation to have a youth delegate. This comes to show that we have to stress the importance of delegations including youth delegates, as the Governing Council really only does consist of the member states of UN-Habitat, and there is not much space for civil society, at least not formally.

I will try to give a recap of the most important things that happened at the Governing Council, especially youth related issues. First, I will give an overview of the most important resolutions that were discussed.


Strategic plan for 2014–2019 and the work programme and budget of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme for the biennium 2016–2017

The work program and the attached budget is the most instrumental tool for the work of UN-Habitat, and what goes in there, goes. This, in addition to the omnibus is the most important resolution that the Governing Council discusses and adopts.

The work programme and budget resolution can be read here: https://papersmart.unon.org/habitatgc25/sites/papersmart.unon.org.habitatgc25/files/K1501210.pdf

Omnibus: Implementation of the strategic plan for 2014–2019

This resolution gives direction on how to implement the strategic plan of UN-Habitat. The initial idea for this Governing Council was to have an “omnibus” resolution, a resolution that touches upon most of the substantive issues regarding the work of UN-Habitat. This was instead of there being 20 different resolutions for the different themes. Although there was a fair few other resolutions that came up anywas, it contributed to reduce the amount substantially.

The omnibus resolution can be read here: https://papersmart.unon.org/habitatgc25/sites/papersmart.unon.org.habitatgc25/files/K1501218.pdf

In addition to these two, there was a resolution on the special theme for the Governing Council, namely UN-Habitats contribution towards the post-2015 agenda, a resolution on the Habitat III process, a resolution on strengthening the national ownership and operational capacity as well as a resolution on international guidelines on urban and territorial planning. They can all be read here:  https://papersmart.unon.org/habitatgc25/?q=taxonomy/term/22


Youth highlights

Mainstreaming of youth in UN-Habitat and the financing of it

The most important thing that the Governing Council adopted (youth related anyways), was the mainstreaming of youth in UN-Habitat. In the omnibus resolution the following paragraph was agreed upon:

The governing council requests the Executive Director to continue to pursue the mainstreaming of youth and gender equality perspectives in the normative work and operational programmes of the United Nations Human Settlements programme and to ensure that youth and gender equality and empowerment remain an important part of the preparatory process for Habitat III and of the substantive content of the New Urban Agenda;

Even more importantly, a similar paragraph was adopted in the work program and budget, with the additional wording “and that the resources be allocated accordingly”, meaning, we do not just agree upon the mainstreaming of youth, we actually request the executive director to spend the amount of resources needed in order for that to be achieved. All in all, a pretty good achievement. There was a lot of discussions on this paragraph in both resolutions, as some member states were reluctant to, quite frankly, spend money on this. Luckily it remained in there.

A strong focus on youth unemployment and job creation for youth

In the omnibus resolution there were two paragraphs that highlighted the need for a focus on youth unemployment, and that UN-Habitat needs to work on this issue.

The Governing Council Requests the Executive Director to address the high rates of youth unemployment by developing high-level programmes and policies, thereby enabling the United Nations Human Settlements Programme to work with member States and local authorities to develop and implement targeted and integrated local and national youth              employment and entrepreneurship programmes and policies for inclusive, sustainable and innovative job creation;

The Governing Council invites member States to work towards the prevention of slums, the empowerment of slum communities and the strengthening of institutional mechanisms equipping slum dwellers to contribute to the improvement of the living environment, aiming   at promoting social, economic and political inclusion and poverty eradication through, among other things, access to sustainable mobility, skills and capacity development, the creation of job opportunities, in particular for women and young people, public spaces and respect for cultural diversity, and by strengthening linkages to the formal settings in the rural and urban surroundings of slum settlements;

These were both paragraphs that all member states more or less agreed upon from the beginning, and there was no sign of reluctance towards mentioning youth specifically as a key actor in sustainable urbanization. This is historic. Youth has previously been a highly contested issue.

Maybe then, we have reached a point where we can all just agree upon the simple fact that youth are a driving force of positive change, and that youthless development is useless development.


Youth Caucus – Thursday – 23rd April 2015

Today, we started the Youth Caucus with a presentation by Marco Kamiya, from the UN-Habitat Urban Economy Branch on the Economics of the Three Legged Approach.

We looked into UN-Habitat’s model for city development called “City Development Triangle” that has three parts:

  • Planning Urban Expansion,
  • The Legal Framework and Governance
  • Urban Economy & Finance

The triangle is a more integrated approach advocated by UN-Habitat that can guarantee properly balanced urbanization.


We than looked specifically into the guiding principles of each one of the legs, and finalized by discussing how to keep the “house” in order, by strengthening our base with the three legged approach, and incorporating the various cross-cutting issues such as human rights, gender, youth and climate change.

You can download Marco’s full presentation here: Youth Caucus The Economics of 3LA

We moved into a specific discussion about entry points for you within the three legged approach. One of the most obvious ones, are:

  • The need to better understand how young people relate to the city, and use this to discuss urban planning, and particularly how young people can be actively shaping public spaces.
  • In regards to legal frameworks and governance, youth rights come into play very strongly. Legal frameworks need to recognize youth as important stakeholders, and provide them with an enabling environment if they are to engage in the governance of cities and public space.
  • Finally, the economic argument is huge, and the linkages between youth and job creation are already a given. However, more work needs to be done in terms of better articulating the needs of young people in regards to employment, particularly trying to tackle the challenges of informality of jobs.

We also discussed the importance of ensuring our cities are inclusive of people with disabilities, trying to tackle issues of accessibility and inclusiveness of disable youth in programmes and policies of UN-Habitat, as well as incorporating disable people as one of the core cross-cutting issues.

As well as we looked into how the environment is integrated into the three legged approach: environmental-friendly urban planning using green technology and architecture; also the introduction of environmental conservation and protection legislation into the urban context and the economic opportunities created by new green-technology, green-jobs, etc.

Finally, we briefly discussed Climate Change, and particularly the role UN-Habitat should play in disaster risk reduction and disaster prevention, and how we must incorporate DRR into our planning efforts to rethink resilient cities. Understanding DRR as an investment rather than spending to the municipalities.

Negotiations Update – Morning of 23rd April

Last night, the negotiations went through the whole night, but they managed to finish the Omnibus Resolution. While we don’t have the final updates, it seems that most of the cross-cutting elements were kept, including the references to financing both at the work programme and budget.

The resolutions can be found at: https://papersmart.unon.org/habitatgc25/?q=taxonomy/term/22 

Quick evaluation of the youth participation at the 25th Governing Council

Since this was our last Youth Caucus for the 25th GC, we did a quick round of evaluations and feedback, some of the main lessons highlighted were:

– Judging by the positive impact with the Norwegian Youth Delegate, Tone, it was consensus that we should really try to promote more the Youth Delegates programme, and encourage governments to include youth representatives in their official delegations.

– We also need to ensure more clarity over the process, so that civil society – particularly civil society youth – could engagement more meaningfully throughout the process.

– This is the first GC that the role of youth in the Habitat agenda has not being questioned, and in general we feel quite positive that member states finally realized the crucial role young people play in the development of our cities.

– We need to work closer with the Major Group for Children and Youth to ensure more preparatory work is doing in between events, lobbying missions in NY, and capitals to prepare the grounds for next Governing Council.

Youth @ The 25th UN-Habitat Governing Council – 4th DAY – WRAP UP!

Youth Caucus – Wednesday – 22/04

Today we kicked off our Youth Caucus with a presentation about “Youth and Urbanization – A strategy for youth in UN-Habitat”, led by Helene Opsal from the UN-Habitat Youth Unit. The presentation explored some of the data we have about youth population in the urban world, and why it is so important to think about the youth perspective when it comes to urbanization.

The presentation emphasized that UN-Habitat recognizes youth as right-holders and apply the 5 Principles of Youth-Led Development in it’s youth programming, which are:

1.Youth define their own development goals and objectives;

2.Youth have a social and physical space to participate in development and to be regularly consulted;

3.Adult mentorship and peer-to-peer mentorship are encouraged;

4.Youth act as role models to help other youth engage in development; and

5.Youth are integrated into all local and national development programs and frameworks.

The presentation also covered the UN-Habitat proposed “three legged approach” which consist of:

– Urban Planning and Design – directs urbanization

– Legislation – guides implementation of plans

– Urban Finance – pays for planned and legislated urbanization

And we discussed some of the entry points for youth.

You can download the entire presentation here: Youth and Urbanization Presentation (Three Legged Approach) 

We took the opportunity to discuss about the UN-Habitat Youth strategy, which guides the work of the agency and the need for rethinking and update the curernt strategy, which we are hoping to do collaboratively online (More about it in the next post!)

We than, moved into discussing the resolutions, and we dedicated some time to reading through the current version of the Omnibus Resolution, particularly looking into the paragraphs relevant to youth! You can download the version of the resolution here: K1500938-HSP-GC-25-3-Add-1-ADVANCE markup

Side Event – “Using ICTs for youth participation in the design of public space projects” 

Organized by: UN-Habitat, Mojang, Mojang, Major Group for Children and Youth and Kounkuey Design Initiative.


The event was organized considering the proposed Sustainable Development Goal 11 (SDG 11), on making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. It looked at the opportunities presented by SDG 11 for an enhanced focus on urban public spaces while debating how young people can take active part in implementing, monitoring and reporting on the “urban goal” with particular focus on target 11.7 which aims to provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces, particularly for women and children, older persons and persons with disabilities by 2030.

The event addressed young people’s ability to design and plan for safe, inclusive and accessible urban public spaces that provide opportunities for knowledge, civic engagement, employment as well as leisure activities. It presented the methodology of using Minecraft as a community participation tool and showcase case studies from around the world as successful examples of ICT’s potential in creating local ownership and engagement.

As cities grow and densify, access to well-designed and pleasant public spaces are becoming increasingly important. This is particularly true for those citizens – for example single mothers, the elderly and young people with low income – whose living circumstances are lacking in quality and comfort, or who are in special need of decent road infrastructure and communal spaces for health, recreation and socialization. Improving access to public spaces on the part of vulnerable urban residents is a powerful tool to improve equity in the city.

Chris Dekki, from the UN Major Group for Children and Youth, spoke about the crucial role young people can make in shaping communities and the importance of ensuring youth is part of the decision-making table.

ICT in the hands of youth can improve urban development, governance and livelihood opportunities, including by addressing issues of public space. Mobile phones with access to social media allow young people to engage local government on their own terms, expressing voice and engaging in community life. Building on existing social networks to extend into areas of governance can help improve local services and transparency and fight corruption. User generated data through social media and data-gathering apps can be used to promote opportunities which help local governments understand preferences of citizens, as well as to monitor service delivery and provide feedback to government. ICT provides a range of avenues for participatory planning that can improve urban public spaces.

Minecraft is a ‘sandbox’ computer game developed by Mojang and launched in 2011. The game has sold over 60 million copies worldwide, making it one of the world’s best-selling computer games. The gameplay is perhaps best imagined as a complex ‘digital Lego’. The creative aspects of Minecraft allow players to build structures out of textured cubes in a three-dimensional generated world, thus creating buildings similar to those produced by complex 3D modelling software.

Minecraft has been shown to be a useful tool in engaging young people in the design of urban public space projects. As part of the public space implementation process, participatory planning workshops are held with local youth in which they provide input into the design and eventual implementation and management of spaces. By using Minecraft in this way, young people are given the confidence to make urban professionals and policy makers listen to their ideas for improving the city. You can learn more about the project here: http://blockbyblock.org/about

You can watch the message by Lydia Winters, Director of Communications at Mojang, which explains a bit about how Minecraft is being used as a tool among young people: 

Community participation workshops with youth and Minecraft have been held in Kenya, Haiti, Mexico, Nigeria, Somalia, Peru, Nepal, Philippines and Bangladesh. The projects implemented so far show that using Minecraft adds value to community participation processes. Power relationships are changed, communities are engaged in new ways and the process presents great opportunities to engage hard-to-reach groups, particularly young people.

Bukonola Ngobi, from Kounkuey Design Initiative (http://www.kounkuey.org/) concluded the event bringing a strong hands-on example of how young people are already transforming their communities using ICTs. You can see her full presentation here: UN-Habitat Side Event 22-04-2014


Statement of Pax Romana / UN Major Group for Children and Youth to the 25th UN-Habitat Governing Council

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Statement of Pax Romana / MGCY to 25th Governing Council of UN-HABITAT

“On behalf of the International Movement of Catholic Students – Pax Romana, one of the world’s largest youth-led organizations, as well as the UN Major Group for Children and Youth, the officially mandated platform for children and youth participation in official UN processes, we would like to remind you that children and young people play an indispensable  role in ensuring that policies negotiated in fora like this are transformative, practical, and positive for people at the grassroot level.

First, we would like to echo Dr. Clos in calling for the mainstreaming of youth and gender in the work of UN-HABITAT.  We thank Dr. Clos for this call and urge the Member States gathered here to take seriously this motion.

Secondly, we would like to remind you that the world’s population has never been younger.  Youth must be better involved in decision making at all levels, through inclusive and permanent mechanisms of participation that contribute to youth-led development, and partnerships between youth-led organizations and local, regional, and national governments, as well as the UN system.  We encourage the UN-HABITAT Youth and Livelihoods Unit continued endeavors in  strengthening the role and participation of young men and women, civil society, and other stakeholders at all levels of governance, emphasizing local governance, encouraging the inclusion of youth delegates in national delegations to the UN, and working towards the establishment of  permanent mechanisms for youth participation within the UN, for instance; through a UN Permanent Forum on Youth as well as well constructed and integrated Youth Advisory Boards within UN entities.

Finally, we urge UN-HABITAT to address the high rates of youth unemployment, underemployment, vulnerable employment, and informal employment in urban areas through the development of pilot programs and policies, such as scaling up the Urban Youth Fund and the One Stop Youth Resource Centre model.  These will enable the agency to work with Member States and local authorities towards the development and implementation of targeted and integrated local and national youth employment policies for inclusive, and sustainable job creation.

Children and young people are not simply the leaders of tomorrow, but also the leaders of today.  We are also the bridge between present and future generations.  Any policies made in this forum or any other must include the voices of young people and concerns of future generations.

Thank you very much.”


About Pax Romana

IMCS – Pax Romana brings together over 80 diverse national federations, associations, and movements of Catholic university and tertiary students from six regions. IMCS is part of the International Co-ordination Meeting of Youth Organisations (ICMYO), a network of membership-based, democratic, representative and accountable International Youth NGOs and Regional Youth Platforms. For more information: www.imcs-miec.org and www.icmyo.org

About the UN Major Group for Children and Youth (MGCY)
The UN MGCY is the official UN mandated platform for engaging children and young people in policy processes. The MGCY is involved in a number of processes, including the World Humanitarian Summit, the Post-2015 Development Agenda, Financing for Development, Disaster Risk Reduction, and others. The MGCY is open to all individuals 30 and under, as well as youth-led organizations, youth-supporting organizations, and child-focused agencies. For more information or to join, please visit childrenyouth.org.

Youth @ THE 25TH UN-Habitat Governing Council – 3RD DAY WRAP-UP!

Youth Caucus – Tuesday – 21/04


Today at the Youth Caucus we started by sharing some of the side-events and activities that happened the day before. Special attention to:

  • “Human Rights in Cities and Cities for All” – which discussed human rights in the context of sustainable urban development, particularly discussing the “right to the city”. The side event also discussed the role and mandate of UN-Habitat within the framework of Habitat III and the Post-2015 Agenda.
  • “The Road from Sendai: Urban Sustainable Development in 2015 and Beyond” – which was a very interesting session attended by quite a few of the participants from the Youth Caucus, where it was discussed how can we move forward from the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, recently held in Sendai, Japan. The panel marked the beginning of a global commitment to prevent and mitigate the negative consequences of disaster, particularly in the urban context. The session was particularly interesting because it recognized the important role of youth and women have in disaster risk reduction and in community resilience.

Building on the reports from the previous session, we went a bit deeper into the discussions about what happened during the UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, learning from the experience of representatives from the MGCY that were highly active from the very beginning. From the early stages and PrepComs until the very end, young people have been at the forefront of advocacy. At the conference in Sendai itself, the MGCY hosted a massive children and youth forum that engaged young people in the WCDRR and provided a platform for final inputs and advocacy into the outcome documents, the Second Hyogo Framework for Action on Disaster Risk Reduction. The children and youth forum was attended by over 300 young people and was attended by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon himself.

Esther Muiruri, from the MGCY who attended the event in Japan, shared her experience, and told us that after Sendai, some of the participants decided to have a follow up beyond from the African Region, and among other things, facilitated a mentorship program for the forum participants, bringing the youth participants to meet and learn from some of the African Leaders who attended the conference.

Esther also told us that they form the “Africa Resilient Youth” which is a platform for youth engagement in DRR implementation in the African Region. They are currently finalizing on the implementation document which outlines our commitment to capacity build fellow young people and mobilize DRR Implementation action across Africa. For those who would like to get further information, and to get involved in this process, you can e-mail her directly: esthermuiruri@gmail.com

In terms of the Negotiations, Tune, the Norwegian Youth Delegate gave us a brief update on the process, which is moving very slowly at this stage. So far, only 2 resolutions being negotiated and there is nothing on youth yet. Special attention needs to be paid for the Omnibus Resolution, to ensure language on youth is strengthened and youth is mainstreamed throughout the resolutions.

The second part of the Youth Caucus was reserved to presentations about the work UN-Habitat is doing in regards to youth:

  • Youth And Urbanization

Cities are home to an increasing number of youth. This brings new issues to the forefront of economic, political and human development globally, given that the majority of these youth overall are better connected, educated and informed than previous generations.

At the same time, inequalities are putting obstacles in the ways of youth inclusive development. Youth find themselves at challenge with lower salaries and less job opportunities (underemployment and unemployment), limited control over assets and property, and unequal participation in governance and public and private decision-making.

This type of marginalization is a barrier in terms of the collective productivity and progress of cities and countries. Urbanization requires new solutions that bring youth on-board as partners to find legitimate and inclusive ways to enhance the sustainability and quality of life for all living in cities; ultimately supporting the realization of people’s human rights.

  • Youth and Urban Public Spaces

UN-Habitat has as a core mandate the development of inclusive urban public space. Research by UN-Habitat has shown that youth are one of the principle users of urban space, due both to their large demographic presence in cities, as well as to their utilization of public amenities and space. The research is also clearly pointing towards the need for a stronger focus on young women and urban public space to address issues of dual discrimination in terms of age and gender. UN-Habitat’s State of the Indian Urban Youth Report (2012/2013) shows that young women are barred from using urban public space due to safety concerns, as they “cannot hang out on street corners the same way as young men”.

Perceived as a threat or challenge, youth often encounter numerous difficulties in accessing public spaces for their social, cultural and material development. Concerns over security and criminal gangs translate into the exclusion of urban youth, especially those from low-income and minority groups.

Public space is not only a venue for recreation and social interaction. Urban public spaces are critical for youth to use for shelter, community innovation and entrepreneurship in support of economic development. As a means to this end, ensuring youth engagement in the design and governance of public spaces has been shown to foster community ownership and social cohesion, something which is a fundamental component to stable, prosperous and safe cities.

  • The One Stop Youth Centre Model

The Youth Unit has developed different models to address issues of youth and urban public space, with the most well-known model being the One Stop Youth Resource Centres. This model addresses the need to create a safe and generative space where young men and women can access services in areas such as health and recreation, develop their skills and receive training based on existing needs. These activities, primarily designed by youth themselves, contribute to improved livelihoods, acquisition of skills, and increased employability.

UN-Habitat seeks to further develop the model, and is working with key regional and national partners to refine the model to scale. The model has already been adopted by the governments of Rwanda and Uganda where UN-Habitat has provided experience and knowledge in support of these efforts. UN-Habitat is also currently working to establish the model in Mogadishu in collaboration with the Federal Government of Somalia, supporting urban reconstruction and local economic development for youth.

We also heard the experience from the One Stop Centre in Kigali – for info on that project specifically: www.yeyo.gov.rw

  • Action Research on Youth and Land

Utilizing the knowledge gained through research and evaluation of the Urban Youth Fund to develop better policy at the local and national levels has been a core focus of UN-Habitat. Along this line, the Youth Unit partnered with the Global Land Tool Network to undertake a 2-year action research project on youth and land.

GLTN and the Youth Unit evaluated and selected 5 best practices from the Fund that focused on youth and land issues, and refunded them to for two years to focus on refining and expanding their work. Concluding at the end of 2014, the project has already resulted in a strengthened knowledge base on youth’s access to land and public space. Youth responsiveness criteria for land governance and tangible youth and land tools have been developed, building the capacity and awareness of youth on land challenges in the cities of Sao Paulo, Brazil; Kathmandu, Nepal; Sana’a, Yemen; Nairobi, Kenya; and Harare, Zimbabwe.

  • Youth as Development Partners

Key to the work on UN-Habitat is the recognition and support of youth as development partners, versus youth as clients. The anchor program of this focus area is the Urban Youth Fund with its various components (grants, training and capacity building, e-learning, and mentor program) which has now been running for 4 years, supported over 240 youth-led groups, based in 63 countries and 172 cities. The Fund is unique in the UN and multilateral system in that it supports youth-led agencies directly to achieve specific development goals through projects developed by the youth themselves, aligned with UN-Habitat’s thematic areas. The key significance of the Urban Youth Fund for UN-Habitat is the direct access to lessons-learnt and data on youth-led development to inform the normative policies of UN-Habitat.

  • Youth Engagement and Inclusive Governance

UN-Habitat supports the inclusion of youth in the social and economic life of cities. The issue of inclusion in either area is dependent upon the other – youth cannot have a sustainable and decent livelihood without being able to participate in decisions which directly affect their own and the life of their communities, and vice versa.

UN-Habitat works at a programmatic and normative level to engage youth in the social and economic life locally, nationally and internationally. The Youth 21 initiative was created by UN-Habitat, youth organizations and member states in 2011 to seek ways to better engage youth in international governance, specifically within the UN system. Youth 21 was expanded at the request of the stakeholders involved to include the engagement of youth using a multi-level governance model, which allows youth entry to governance at any point – locally, nationally and internationally.

Core to this focus area for the period 2014-2016 will be the Habitat III process. Women and youth organizations were actively involved in the processes towards Habitat II in Istanbul in 1996, and contributed to the fact that there are strong references to youth, women, gender and gender equality in the Istanbul Declaration and in the Habitat Agenda. The Habitat Agenda that came out of the Habitat II conference in 1996 in Istanbul, Turkey is one of the strongest UN documents on the right of participation of civil society, including youth groups.

  • Resilience, Reconstruction and Post-Conflict

In cities like Mogadishu and Kabul, generations of youth have lived through conflict. Many of these young people have endured lives of insecure economic prospects, violence and traumatization, with young women often facing dual discrimination due to their gender and age. Increased pressure on urban infrastructure and services, uncertainty and outbreaks of violence, lack of resources and support mechanisms as well as a general mistrust in society serve to further side-line, and in some cases radicalize, youth, making post-conflict reconstruction and reconciliation even more challenging.

UN-Habitat supports countries in addressing issues such as these in countries including Somalia, Afghanistan, Palestine, Syria and Sri Lanka. Here, urban areas have faced a massive influx of displaced people and relief actors; breakdown of services; weakened institutions; and destruction of infrastructure and buildings.

Currently being developed, this portfolio seeks to utilize the decade long experience of the One Stop program and the Urban Youth Fund to develop a program which improves the livelihoods of youth and their communities particularly in post-conflict contexts, engaging youth as assets for development and bringing them on-board as development partners. Through this program, both normative and operational work on issues arising in line with the pace and scope of urban change as related to youth in conflict and post-conflict situations are underway.

  • Youth and Urban Sports

Pursuant to the Habitat Agenda, sports and recreation are designed to promote youth involvement in local governance and the improvement of human settlements. Pursuant to Governing

Council resolutions 19/3 and 20/1, using sports as an activity invites youth to partner in solving urban problems. Although many of the youth centres and youth fund recipients incorporate sports as part of their programme activities, sports and recreation also receives specific focus from UN-Habitat. Sports have been deployed as a way of engaging urban youth because of the passions that they inspire and the entertainment, health and economic benefits that accrue from them.

Programmes seek to empower participants and communities by engaging them in the design and delivery of activities, building local capacity, adhering to generally accepted principles of transparency and accountability, and pursuing sustainability through collaboration, partnerships and coordinated action.

For more information, you can go to our website: http://unhabitat.org/youth/

To access the various UN-Habitat Youth publications, you can download them at:  http://issuu.com/unhabitatyouthunit

Youth Statement – Plenary Session – Tuesday – 21/04

The Youth Delegate from Norway, Ms. Tone Vesterhus, delivered today at the Plenary Session of 25th UN-Habitat Governing Council, the youth statement on behalf of the Youth Caucus. You can find the full statement drafted by many hands here: https://unhabitatyab.wordpress.com/2015/04/21/youth-statement-at-the-plenary-of-the-25th-governing-council-21st-april-2015/


Harnessing the youth demographic dividend for a sustainable rural-urban development – Tuesday – 21/04


This event co-organized by IESCO (International Ecological Safety Collaborative Organization) explored the expansion of cities and large towns due to natural population growth within urban areas, as well as the administrative reclassification of land from rural to urban and migration from rural areas.

Traditionally the economic and territorial developments of rural and urban areas have been considered separate areas in both research and policy. Rural and urban areas are however becoming increasing integrated both physically and functionally and because of their distinct and complimentary endowments, their integration can benefit both and help achieve socio economic development. For example the areas surrounding urban centers generally have an important role in providing food for urban consumers, with proximity lowering the costs of transport and storage.

The global urbanization trends over the past 30 decades has facilitated unprecedented social, economic and environmental transformation in cities; but also accompanied by rural poverty despite the immense potential and opportunities in the rural sector. Those most affected are young people totaling nearly a quarter or 1.8 billion of a world population of 7.3 billion. About 90 per cent of young people are born in developing countries, where around half of the total population lives in rural areas which are synonymous with social and economic marginalization forcing most of them to migrate from rural areas to pursue better life opportunities in urban areas. While these youth populations in both rural and urban areas present enormous opportunities and human resource needed for economic development, social change and technological innovation, many of the countries with the largest portions of youth today are among the poorest in the world and face huge challenges in meeting the rapidly growing demand for jobs and income-earning opportunities. This calls for the development of policies that do not only boost rural economies but also create jobs for young people.

You can download the presentation made by Elizabeth Ssendiwala, Gender & Youth Coordinator, at IFAD-ESA here:UN Habitat – Harnessing Youth for Rural Urban Devt


Youth Cocktail – Tuesday – 21/04

11149287_10204055050789142_899974020133766907_nA Youth Cocktail was held in partnership with IESCO (International Ecological Safety Collaborative Organization) to celebrate the “Urban Youth Empowerment and Ecological Safety Project”.

The cocktail had speeches from Professor Oyebanji Oyeyinka, UN-Habitat Director/Chief Scientific Advisor, Dr. Jiang Mingjun, Director General of IESCO and Douglas Ragan, Chief of UN-Habitat Youth Unit.

During the cocktail, UN-Habitat/IESCO signed a MoU with CDO Orient, launched a call for nominations for the Youth Innovations Awards.

Youth Statement at the Plenary of the 25th Governing Council – 21st April 2015

The Youth Delegate from Norway, Ms. Tone Vesterhus (@ToneVe), delivered today at the Plenary Session of 25th UN-Habitat Governing Council, the youth statement on behalf of the Youth Caucus. Below, you can find the full statement drafted by many hands!


“I appreciate this opportunity to highlight some of the issues concerning youth that will be highly relevant in the post 2015 agenda and in the implementation of the sustainable development goals. This statement is emerging from the youth caucus at the 25th session of the governing council.


Youth represent both present and future leadership and possess an abiding interest in their communities.  This exclusion of youth from democratic processes is an obstacle to fully harnessing the capacities and potential of young people as agents of positive change. Youth must be secured a formal position in all governance structures, this is vital to both the development of policies and within the implementation of the sustainable development goals, especially considering goal 11 on inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities. Further, the work towards establishing permanent mechanisms for youth participation in the UN must be scaled up, we are at a point where different models for permanent participation can be explored.

Employment and education

The labour market outlook for young people has worsened in nearly every region of the world, and the youth unemployment and underemployment rates are increasing in both developed and developing countries. The labour market in many countries is characterized by informal practices and little or no job security. Young people are particularly vulnerable to these factors as well as general exploitation as workers due to the unequal economic growth and formal job growth and secondly, the mismatch in skills between those demanded by employers and those acquired in school. Member states must provide mechanisms that prevents the exploitation of youth related to the labour market and promotes decent work. Special focus is needed for the millions of youth NEETs (Not in Education, Employment, Training). Goal 8 must ensure a special focus on youth as we are such a large group in this context.

Education is important to give young people the opportunity to influence their own lives and to ensure access to the labor market. Governments have the responsibility to provide quality education and skill training which is needed in the labor market, as well as a responsibility for creating and maintaining sustainable jobs for youth.

The universal right to education is hindered by various factors, lack of mobility being one of them. Within the subject of urban planning there must be given attention to the abolishment of barriers against education, especially for young girls. Girls are more frequently victims of the lack of safety in cities, and are therefore to a greater extent prevented from accessing education due to lack of sufficiently safe infrastructure. In achieving both the suggested goal 4 and 5, this is vital.

Public space

Public space should inherently be a public good that must benefit all segments of the population. This, however, is not always the case. In relation to the suggested target 11.2, mobility should not only be a matter of developing transport infrastructure and services but as well promote all user rights towards access as well as sustainability especially in regard public transport with consideration to Non-Motorised Transport (NMT) and Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems. It has to be placed in a systemic context including city planning as a whole, to overcome the social, economic, political, and physical constraints of movement. Public space needs to be designed in a way that is not discriminating or excluding towards specific groups, and achieving this is profoundly about including these groups in the planning and development of the city and our common public spaces. An emphasis should be put on including youth in these processes, as they are both present and future users of the city, and can provide valuable input towards creating spaces that are welcoming to the whole public.”


Youth Caucus – Monday – 20/04


Today at the Youth Caucus, we dedicated a bit of time to better understand the structure and dynamic of the Governing Council, and how young people could influence the process.
We heard from Douglas Ragan – Chief of the UN-Habitat Youth Unit, about the differences between the processes happening at the Plenary, the Drafting Committee, and the Committee of the Whole. Also the importance of taking the opportunity to meet and discuss with government representatives that are attending the GC the issues that are more relevant to young people, and the importance of including those issues in the different resolutions.
Jon-Andreas Solberg, also from the Youth Unit, did a quick recap of the resolution process, including the Omnibus Resolutions, and the importance of mainstreaming youth issues into those resolutions.
Tone Vesterhus, Youth Delegate from Norway, shared her experience as a youth delegate, as well as some information on the process so far. She particularly alerted us about two new resolutions being tabled by member states, about public spaces, that have direct connection with the youth agenda.
Lucia Kiwala, Chief of the UN-Habitat Partner Relations Unit, shared some of the opportunities for partner youth groups to play a more active role during the Governing Council, she recommended us to work together to have joint positions, and possibility making statements during the plenary sessions.
Finally, Chris Dekki, from the MGCY shared a bit of the experience in terms of the MGCY advocacy during UN events, and how they collaborate into drafting statements and sharing positions.

Urban Youth Empowerment and Ecological Safety Project – Steering Commitee Meeting – Monday 20/04

The Steering Committee of the “Urban Youth Empowerment and Ecological Safety Project” met in Nairobi today to review the progress of the project as well as to approve proposals for new programmes.  The Urban Youth Empowerment and Ecological Safety Project is a three year project jointly implemented by the United Nations Human Settlement Programme (UN-Habitat) and the International Ecological Safety Collaborative Organization (IESCO).  The project was launched in 2013 with a US$ 2,000,000 funding by IESCO with the aim to address issues of youth unemployment, poverty, ecological safety through the development of models and policies that will lead to the meaningful engagement of young people in the development of Cities in China and Africa.
The programmes under this project include;
a)        State of Urban Youth Report
b)        Youth Innovations and Entrepreneurship Awards
c)        Entrepreneurship and Ecological Skills Training
d)        Urban Ecological Safety Index;


Dr. Jiang the Director General of IESCO, was impressed with the project progress and reported that IESCO had finalized discussions with CDB Orient China to fund the Youth Innovation Awards Initiative. CBD Orient will provide funds totalling  USD 1,500,000 to go towards establishing a Youth Innovations nurturing centre in Beijing, hosting the Youth Assembly and the Youth Innovations Awards ceremony.

Youth @ the 25th UN-Habitat Governing Council – 1st Day Wrap-UP!

Youth Caucus Summary – Friday 17th:


We had some room challenges at the beginning, but we were still able to have a good constructive session, which included:

–        The experiences from the National Youth Secretariat in Brazil in the process of engaging youth in the lead up to Rio+20, and the different mechanisms Brazil currently have in place to ensure meaningful representation of a diverse group of young people, particularly the most vulnerable and excluded ones.

–        The experiences from the Major Group for Children and Youth (MGCY), and the work that is being done to ensure young people from around the world have an active voice on the various UN processes, including: toolkit development, consultations, and lobbying at the UN level.

–        The experiences from the Norwegian Children and Youth Council (LNU) particularly how the successful they’ve been in integrating youth delegates into the official government delegations, as well as Engajamundo, that mobilize Brazilian youth to pressure the government into including a youth perspective into national positions.

–        The experience from the Mayor Conradi, from Asker Norway, on the role young people play at the local level.

–        And the experience of Kashwesha youth group on how they’ve been consistently advocating from a grassroots level.

Some of the take aways from the meeting:

–        There is a big need to make things relevant to the local communities, and its reality, so we don’t get lost into big talks and big politics. Young people can ground all of the work we are doing through their work in the communities they live!

–        That while we value and acknowledge the work individual groups are doing, it’s important to keep in line with the process, and to play by its rules. Also the importance of collaborating using platforms such as the MGCY (www.childrenyouth.org).

–        There is a need to improve the accessibility of those processes, and to think of creative and effective ways to build young people’s capacity to influence the process.

  •          Making things like toolkits and web-portals can support in spreading the message
  •          Capacity building trainings
  •          Make it relevant in all languages

–        The importance of collaborating with governments, prevent the “us VS them”.

–        Moving beyond youth only talking about youth stuff, it is crucial young people have a voice in governance, land, economy, environment and every other aspect of life.

Youth 21- Enhancing the inclusion of youth in governance – Friday 17th:


The Norwegian Children and youth council together with UN-Habitat organized a side event on “Youth 21- Enhancing the Inclusion of Youth in Governance”. The panelists presented the actions done to ensure real and meaningful youth participation in the UN, and how we the youth can build a coalition to move the agenda forward.

The Kenyan Permanent Representative, Ambassador Kimani, in his opening remarks, emphasized the crucial role young people play in sustainable and planned urbanization, and committed to work along UN-Habitat to ensure youth are mainstreamed in the agencies programmes and policies.

“Kenya will push UN-HABITAT to think seriously about how they involve youth in all issues.” – Ambassador Kimani, Kenyan Permanent Representative, Ambassador

The Mayor of Asker municipality in Norway Mrs. Lene Conradi, highlighted the importance of youth to be meaningfully at the table at all levels, from the local to national and global levels. Mayor Conradi also pledge to host a second session of the Asker Conference on youth and governance in January 2016.

“We must not walk away from the importance of addressing youth in all resolutions during the UN-Habitat Governing Council.” – Mrs. Lene Conradi, Mayor of Asker municipality, Norway

Mr. Fernando Pacheco, foreign affairs advisor, National Youth Secretariat, part of the general secretariat of the presidency of Brazil, shared the Brazilian understanding around youth as an opportunity, and stressed the importance of the Youth 21 process to Brazil.

Ms. Tone Vesterhus, youth delegate in the Norwegian delegation to the UN-Habitat reminded us that youth participation must not be a one off event, but rather, it has to be planned, structure and permanent.


Mr. Christopher Dekki, UN liaison for the ICMYO, the International Coordination Meeting of Youth Organizations, has reminded us that young people are a bridge between the current and the future generations, which in itself would be a reason for youth to have an important sit at the table.

“Even when spaces are not really provided for us, we are engaging and seeking opportunities to make sure that our voices are heard”. ~ Mr. Christopher Dekki, UN liaison for the ICMYO, the International Coordination Meeting of Youth Organizations

Finally, Deputy Executive Director of UN Habitat, Mr. Aisa Kacyira in her message, reinforced the commitment of UN-Habitat to this process, and to continue to work along with countries like Brazil, Kenya and Norway to ensure space is created for young people to be heard and taken serious at the UN.

MGCY Statement – HABITAT III PrepCom 2

MGCY Statement – HABITAT III PrepCom 2

Delivered by: Debora Leao Gouveia, from Engajamundo, Brazil, on April 15th in Nairobi.

Debora Leao, from Engajamundo, Brazil, speaking on behalf of the MGCY.
Debora Leao, from Engajamundo, Brazil, speaking on behalf of the MGCY.

“Thank you for giving us the opportunity to speak.  I am speaking primarily on behalf of the Major Group for Children and Youth, the UN’s official platform for the engagement of children and young people in policy processes.

We urge Member States to continue to respect the participation of stakeholders in the HABITAT III process.  As we have seen in previous intergovernmental processes, including HABITAT II and the ongoing Post-2015 Development Agenda negotiations, Major Groups and other Stakeholders have been key players in ensuring that the outcomes adopted at these conferences are transformative.  Now, children and youth are recognized as stakeholders, but there is a need to create permanent spaces for youth to participate as well as the financing to do so.  The thematic and regional consultations need to take this into account, and we urge the PrepCom and Member States to include youth in a real and meaningful way.

At the moment, the Major Group for Children and Youth is engaged in a global effort to gather the inputs of young people and feed those inputs into this process.  We are hosting local consultations in collaboration with youth-led organizations in order to empower young people and engage them moving forward.  We have already carried out consultations in a number of places, including a slum in Cairo, in Istanbul, in Pune in Maharasthra, India, and during the very successful Children and Youth Forum that we hosted during the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan.  We will host another consultation in New York in May and will continue to coordinate young people around the world to do the same.

Here are some of the results of those consultations:

  • Youth demand meaningful youth engagement with legally mandated, budgeted spaces in all decision-making functions related to planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of all policies related to the agenda.
  • Youth demand the enhancement of livability for all people of all ages and all abilities everywhere.  This includes rights to affordable housing for all people irrespective of any status and income level.  This includes the human right to water and sanitation.
  • Youth demand the recognition that skills development, access to quality education (formal, informal and non formal), and education for sustainable development and lifestyles as the means through which people will implement this new agenda.
  • Youth demand the reduction of the adverse per capita and absolute environmental and social impact of cities and make urbanization neutral to ecosystem degradation.  Keep in mind, cities and all settlements are the battleground where we will fight climate change and other adverse effect of crossing the earth’s planetary boundaries.
  • Youth demand that mitigation and adaptation that build environmental, physical, and psychosocial resilience be fully integrated into this agenda.
  • Youth demand easy accesses for all people to transportation, supported by a common ticket system among different sectors and implementing a barrier free structure with universal design.
  • Youth demand that planning and redevelopment take into account the healthcare needs of inhabitants.  There should be a focus on prevention, access and treatment.

We know we will have to continue to work hard to ensure young people and children, in all OUR diversity, are represented in the process going forward until and beyond 2016, and trust that we have your commitment in ensuring our full and inclusive participation.  Specific mechanisms need to be established for Major Groups and other Stakeholders involvement leading up to and following HABITAT III.

Thank you very much.  “