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: and

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

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:

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:

  • 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:

To access the various UN-Habitat Youth publications, you can download them at:

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:


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 (

–        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.  “

5 Takeaways from “Empowering Marginalized Youth through Sport” Discussion Forum (Youth Will Campaign)

 Youth Will

Last week, five expert panelists from five different countries dedicated their time and knowledge to answer questions related to youth and sport, collected over two days through an online platform Crowdhall. Forum organized as part of the global Youth Will campaign focused on the role of sport in development and peacebuilding. Diverse questions provided for interesting discussions among panelists and the audience. The following are the key takeaway points:

  • What to emphasize when speaking about sport for development

The bottom line is emphasizing sport as a way to empower young people to engage with development. When speaking to young people, we should emphasize the role of sport being a method to release stress and have fun while learning new skills and advancing personal growth. We should always distinguish between elite sport and sport for development initiatives, making it clear that SDP projects are not set to scout for new athletic talent, nor raise future sporting heroes.

  • Inclusion in sport

Sport has the power to connect people in profound ways. Just as it brings people together to play it can also bring them together to kick off conversations, dialogue and awareness-raising. Everyone has the same right to sport, thus inclusion of all regardless of their abilities or gender is a must. It is proven that inclusive programmes are beneficial for all participants as they can help and learn from each other. It promotes mutual understanding, bonds of friendship and lessons of perseverance.

  • Transferable skills youth can learn trough sport

Sport provides invaluable lessons that can apply outside the world of sport. Practice involves exercising body and mind alike. The two are undoubtedly interconnected and that makes sport a unique tool for personal development. In the hectic and highly demanding times of the 21st century, sport acts as an escape from daily hardships, a personal outlet and coping mechanism. Learning how to manage stress, be flexible and adaptable to unforeseen circumstances through play in fun and safe environment is priceless. Today’s labor market requires us to possess skills such as concentration, problem solving, creativity, time-management, networking, overcoming limits and entrepreneurship which are hard to acquire through traditional teaching methods but come almost naturally from practicing sports. On top of that, personal qualities of being respectful and a good team player are accentuated in sport and are highly regarded by employers as well.

  • Importance of space for sport activities

Space is a huge issue when it comes to sport. We have got so used to building specialized courts, pitches and gyms that we almost took the sport and play out of streets. There is no dispute about benefits of having dedicated space with appropriate facilities for practice; however, we should not neglect the benefits of using public spaces for sport as well. Being able to watch someone’s talent and capabilities, understand and accept how space can be used for multiple purposes and enable marginalized groups to have a space for self-expression and self-improvement must be recognized. The issue, however, can also be about lack of space all together such as is often the case in informal settlements. While it is certainly better to have a proper space, a court or a pitch, it is not essential to play. Sport is an adaptable activity that can be altered around the needs and availability. Lack of space should not stop us from exploring alternatives and promoting sport.

  • Power of global sports organizations and promotion of youth sports

International organizations such as FIFA, should collaborate with community organizations and use their name and resources for greater good. However, we must remain cautious with these global power machines that are often driven by profits and ensure that the promotion of sport goes beyond recruitment and training of future elite athletes and corporate gains. It should emphasize inclusion of all youth regardless of talent or gender and be promoted across all borders.


Dana Podmolikova, UN-HABITAT (Czech Republic)

Zachary Turk, Action/2015 (USA)

Nevena Vukasinovic, ENGSO Youth (Serbia)

Hassan Abdikadir, UN-HABITAT (Kenya)

Joanna Burigo, Guerreiras Project/ Gender Hub (Brazil)


The Kampala Principles for Youth-led Development by Douglas Ragan, Jon-Andreas Solberg

Wise 2

The Kampala Principles for Youth-led Development

In 2007 representatives from the UN-Habitat´s One Stop Youth Resource Centres originating from four capital cities in East Africa gathered together in Kampala, Uganda. They came together with the goal of determining what were the core working principles of the One Stops which would assure that youth had the best experience possible, in a way which was sustainable over the long term and which recognized youth as leaders today.

Fast-forward 8 years later, and the One Stops have become a model of youth development. The principles that those representatives agreed to – now called the Kampala Principles on Youth-led Development – are now in use not only by the One Stops but by youth programmes globally. They have become the basis for ongoing research undertaken by UN-Habitat through the Global Youth-led Development research series which explores youth-led agencies, how they function, their impact and how they can be best supported. And lastly, the principles and the concept of youth-led development has begun to influence policy at the local, national and global level.

The 5 principles of youth-led development are:
1.        Youth define their own development goals and objectives;
2.        Youth have a safe and generative physical space;
3.        Adult and peer-to-peer mentorship;
4.        Youth act as role models for other youth;
5.        Youth are integrated into local and national development programmes and policies.

Principle 1: Youth define their own development goals and objectives
Critical to empowering youth is their ability to define their own development goals, both individually and at a collective level through youth civil society, as well as being engaged in governance. The initial basis of Principle 1 is Article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child that states that Children have a right to have their say in decisions that affect them. Principle 1 goes farther, in that it recognizes that youth have not only a right but they have inter alia the capacity to have their say in decisions. This speaks to the inherent and more advanced capacity of youth versus children to make decisions on their own without necessarily partnering or being led by adults. Youth are assets in their communities, and should be recognized as such and be given full opportunities to take part of all decisions affecting their lives.

Principle 2: Youth have access to a safe physical space.
Research has shown that there is less and less physical space for youth in their communities, especially in urban areas. There is less pubic space for youth for recreation, interpersonal relationships, or for generating income. In the latter case the most poignant example was that of Mohamed Bouazizi, a Tunisian street vendor who set himself on fire on 17 December 2010, due to being unable to get a permit and space to sell his wares on the streets of Tunis. His actions went on to spark the Arab Spring.

Access to space is even more limited for young women, who face greater barriers due to cultural norms and safety issues. This is a challenge both in rural and urban areas but research done by UN-Habitat indicates that access to safe public space for young women might be even a greater challenge in urban areas. Much is now being learned about how youth use physical space as well as how to create it through the new advent of new mobile and geospatial technologies, such is being used by youth-led groups such as Spatial Collective in Nairobi, Kenya, and Harassmap in Cairo, Egypt.

Principle 3: Adult and peer-to-peer mentorship
Though the Kampala Principles refer to “youth-led”, this does not mean that adults do not have a role to play. Adult mentors who respect the capacities and leadership of youth, can play a strong role in advancing the personal development of youth and the role they are playing in their communities. UN-Habitat’s Youth Mentorship programme demonstrates this, where groups such as Century Entrepreneurship Development Agency International (CEDA) in Kampala, Uganda are being mentored. CEDA is being mentored by Alexia Parks, an author, journalist and women’s advocate, and through her mentorship has been able to train hundreds of young women leaders.

Peer-to-peer support is another form of mentorship that is especially important in the developing world where there are demographically more youth and less adults. Peer mentorship allows youth the opportunity to learn first hand from others who have recently experienced challenges they may have come up against. Both forms of mentorship build and extend networks which is critical to any endeavour a young person undertakes. We see this clearly in the UN-Habitat Urban Youth Fund where all project coordinators from the youth groups we are partnering with are brought together for intensive training and project development. The network and peer support these youth are giving each other are invaluable input to their role as leaders in their youth groups and their communities.

Principle 4: Youth act as role models for other youth
Studies have shown that youth are often portrayed negatively within the media. Youth, especially young men, are often seen as violent, whereas young women can be portrayed as passive and incapable. One way to combat this is to have youth act as role models for other youth. Similar in vein to peer-to-peer mentorship, youth often look to others who are similar to them for inspiration and guidance. Through programmes such as the Youth Fund, youth demonstrate that they have assets and are truly leaders of today, not only tomorrow, and need to be profiled as such.

Principle 5: Youth integrated into local and national development programmes and policies
For youth to be sustainably engaged they must be engaged in policies and programmes which relate to their lives at the local and national level from the design and planning phase to implementation. Youth engage first and foremost with issues which are closest to them – their family, their friends and their community. Thus, the engagement of youth in local programmes and policies is a critical first step to them becoming positive contributors to their society. Data from the Urban Youth Fund clearly shows that youth-led groups have a complex and multi-focus approach to development. They neither have a single focus in their projects nor do they only focus on the situation only from a youth perspective. To the contrary, most youth-led groups acknowledge that they are part of larger society and their desire is to change society for the better for everyone. At the national and international level, youth need to be recognized as having knowledge and expertise that is valuable. This is especially the case in the developing world in which youth make up a large percentage of the population. An important aspect of youth development in general is the recognition of youth as experts in the areas they are working in and not only experts on being youth. Some of the youth UN-Habitat are partnering with are international experts in their field, be it using technology for mapping informal settlements, or the construction of environmentally friendly housing materials. The bottom line is, youth, as every other stakeholder in society, should be recognized as key development partners and asset and rights-holders, just as anyone else, young and old, women and men. Youth are capable of being engaged positively in their own and their communities development. The Kampala Principles for Youth-led Development provide guidance on how adults and the governments they represent can support this.

State of the Civil Society – Rustler’s Valley Retreat, South Africa


Dana (YAB Europe) and Joao (former YAB Latin America and the Caribbean) joined 60 other young people from around the world for a three day meeting in the mountains of South Africa, to discuss the state of the Civil Society. Here is what came out of it:

We are 60 diverse young people from all continents of the world who met in Rustler’s Valley, South Africa from November 16 to 19, 2014 to discuss the state of civil society around the world and consider our role as young people within it. We do not claim to speak for all youth, or for the diverse views from within our own countries, but rather we seek to lend our voices to the on-going debate about the role of civil society in the social, political and economic transformation of the world. We also want to respond to and further develop the conversation begun by the Open Letter for Activists as young people engaged at grassroots, national and international levels.

Increasingly, the face of civil society around the world is a young one. Yet, we recognize much may be learned from other generations; their struggles, histories and lessons. Although we will face many of the challenges of the future, we believe that with intergenerational partnerships and a shared responsibility, we can transform civil society and therefore global society.

Current strategies to address restrictions on civil society space are failing. To create the necessary space at the national level, we should develop radical tactics to mobilize non traditional civil society groups, create platforms for international solidarity, and develop safe spaces where we can come together in a conducive environment to address these issues.

After much reflection, we collectively arrived at four primary topics of concern to those present: race, gender and sexual orientation; democratization of our own organisations and power structures; reform of relationships between civil society and donor organisations; and the divide between grassroots movements and civil society organisations (CSOs).

Eliminating discrimination: Race, gender and sexual orientation

As youth, we witness and experience the on-going reality of discrimination in civil society based on race, gender, and sexual orientation. We call on all sectors, especially media, governmental, non-governmental, and religious organizations, and the private sector to acknowledge and combat discriminatory practices. Civil society should lead the way by respecting diversity and completely eliminating all forms of discrimination from our own environments.

Democratization of CSOs and power structures

As youth, we acknowledge that current political, social and economic systems and organizational structures favour the few, not the many. We emphasize our duty to democratise:

  • Public dialogue through the use of inclusive and accessible language to broaden participation and break down the hierarchy among civil society and the communities we seek to serve.
  • Structures of power that prevent us from collaborating across issues and themes to establish civil society-wide avenues of influence and the elevation of our collective voice.
  • Access to intergovernmental and civil society processes for local and grassroots social movements.
  • Relationships between large civil society organizations and grassroots movements through the adoption of and respect for higher ethical standards.
  • Additionally, we should establish new methods of ensuring transparency, through the development of:
  • Conflict of interest indices;
  • Organization-wide gender parity measures;
  • Reporting on executive salaries and board fees;
  • Cooperation indices, and;
  • Mechanisms that ensure the full integration of all stakeholders into decision-making processes, including volunteers. As youth, the driving force of our work is our own vision, passion and values. To better serve those with whom we work, we must question the current relationships between donors and recipients. We pledge to:
  • Rethinking relationships between civil society and donor organisations
  • Acknowledge the need to be financially autonomous through self-sustainability.
  • Mobilize unions through membership fees as a way of engaging our own constituencies to ensure their ownership and responsibility in our work.
  • Create alternative and innovative solutions to generate funds for our work.
  • Encourage donors to explore avenues of promoting collaboration between and with civil society organizations.
  • As youth, we see the increasing danger in becoming more accountable to funding sources than the communities we purport to serve. We recognize the need to first hold ourselves to account, and then:
  • Increase accountability of the international community to its by commitments and constituents
  • Develop the advocacy skills of community members to more effectively claim their rightsThe increasing importance of grassroots actors, both formal and informal, is undeniable in today’s world. Gone are the days where NGOs may claim to represent the “voices” of communities. Our communities can and do speak for themselves and stand on their own work. They invert power structures through community-driven development and building people-power globally. We believe in the following tenants:
  • Relationship between Grassroots and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)
  • Access. NGOs should work to access, identify and develop leaders and existing solutions within communities. Serving as enablers, we can support accessibility to and sharing of the core resources needed to foster greater impact.
  • Sustainability. NGOs should promote capacity-building and community ownership to both catalyse the emergence of new grassroots groups and ensure existing groups continue their work self-sufficiently and sustainably. Instead of providing ready-made solutions, the focus should be on connecting likeminded leaders in decentralized networks of information sharing.
  • Measuring success. NGOs should work with communities to develop new, community-supported, ways of measuring and interpreting success around the values of sustainable change and community ownership.
  • Reimagining the playing field. NGOs should work to reorient all funding systems to align with these tenants and the under acknowledged needs of grassroots organizations.We perceive the vision of our letter as an invitation to all—including young people and those in decision-making positions—to take immediate action to transform civil society. Let this letter stand not only as our message to civil society, but also as a broader commitment to move forward with confidence and purpose towards a just, sustainable and peaceful world.
  • As young people fighting for social justice, we make these criticisms and suggestions with the hope that they will contribute to a reimagining of the role, vision and methods of civil society. We recommit our lives to the struggle against inequality, poverty, environmental degradation and all injustices in whatever shape they assume.

First Global Forum on Youth Policies, Baku, Azerbaijan


At the end of October, close to 700 delegates gathered in Baku, Azerbaijan for a historically first global forum on youth policies. Dan (YAB North America), Dana (YAB Europe) and Raphael (YAB Observer) among them.

Marking the 20th anniversary of the World Programme of Action for Youth to the Year 2000 and Beyond and reaffirming its importance as an overarching global youth policy framework, and recalling the Lisbon Declaration on Youth Policies and Programmes, the First Global Forum on Youth Policies specifically aimed at elevating the youth policy debate, with the particular purpose of advancing youth policy development and its full and effective implementation at all levels. This global event was co-organized by the Office of the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, and the Council of Europe, with the support of and hosted by the Ministry of Youth and Sports in Azerbaijan in the framework of Azerbaijan’s Chairmanship of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers.

Bringing together over 700 participants from 165 countries, with a strong participation of ministers responsible for youth, as well as experts, youth advocates, civil society representatives, United Nations agency representatives and international and regional organisations, to discuss youth policies through three different lenses (thematic, structural and region-specific), the Forum responded to the crucial importance of looking at youth policy work in a holistic and multi-stakeholder perspective.

The Forum provided an unprecedented platform for these diverse stakeholders to take stock of progress made in the development, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of youth policies at various levels since the United Nations General Assembly adopted the World Programme of Action for Youth in 1995: it distilled lessons learned and good practices and so identified remaining gaps and challenges, in particular within the context of the Post- 2015 Development Agenda. Throughout the three days of the Forum, the participants debated youth policy-related issues by looking at key thematic areas, guiding principles and common denominators as well as regional frameworks and priorities of youth policies.

The outcome of all these discussions helped shape a common understanding of key guiding principles for integrated and inclusive youth policy development that will serve as a milestone in  defining and exemplifying what is needed to advance youth policy development and implementation with and for youth.

You can read the Baku Commitments here.

Youth as Leaders of Today and Tomorrow