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.  “

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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.

Panelists:

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

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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

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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

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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 youthpolicy.org 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.

Urban Thinkers Campus, Caserta Italy

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The Urban Thinkers Campus organized as one of the preparatory meetings for upcoming HABITAT III conference, hosted representatives of nine constituency groups to discuss the City We Need principles that were agreed upon at the previous meeting in New York. Dana (YAB Europe) and Shamoy (Youth Fund beneficiary) teamed up to lead and facilitate the Children and Youth Constituency Group meetings.

The very intense three days brought up the following issues, trends and analysis in relation to the City We Need and HABITAT III:

    • Definition of youth and children – implications at national level
      • Definition is based on age (0-18 for children and 15-25 (or beyond) for youth), role in society and needs, all of which need to be taken into account when developing and implementing the New Urban Agenda and Habitat III. The definition of children and youth is linked to age. However, there is also a matter of maturity and the stage you are in life as well as context relativity.
    • Children and youth as one group towards HABITAT III
      • Current procedures have these two constituencies represented by the Major Group for Children and Youth in the official processes of Habitat III. We must also address age-specific needs and priorities and in accordance with their evolving capacities especially during implementation of the New Urban Agenda. While the main issue for children is education, for youth it’s employment and entrepreneurship. The challenge is how to highlight youth and their direct participation without forgetting children. Some issues are the same, some overlap but the main concern differs and we need to distinguish.
    • Language in which the principles are written
      • The principles are formulated in a vague and too broad way that we believe young people would have hard time to understand. If they don’t understand the point, we will lose them and that is not acceptable. The principles provide a passive role of urban inhabitants in the City We Need, especially for children and youth.
  • Meaningful participation of children and youth in the process
  • Current trends tend to treat youth participation as something socially expected, good to show off with, good to tick off a box. It is not enough to create space for youth to share and discuss their ideas together, without being unable to subsequently pass the message on to the UN and governments.
  • Principles
    • We need a resilient city (this is not included as a principle). This is critical especially when we look at the inclusion of children and youth in this process. The level of resilience of a city depends largely on the social and economic situation of youth and children, which are key components of city resilience.

And following recommendations…

  • Children and Youth as one group towards HABITAT III

We agree to have a constituency group for both, children and youth, to work together as strong allies in order to have stronger and louder voice. However, we have to make sure that interests of both groups are taken care of, in separate points if needed.

  • Language of the principles

The language we use is utmost important in order to put the message across not only to the governments and decision makers, but to all young people concerned. The language of the principles thus has to be PROACTIVE, CLEAR and has to outline the RESPONSIBILITIES for us as much as for the authorities. It is not enough to define what we want the city to do for us, but also what we can do to ensure an effective functioning of the city.

  • Meaningful participation

Children and youth need to be provided with an enabling environment to be included in national and regional processes leading towards Habitat III and actively engaged as a partner of local and national governments. They have to be treated as equal partners, not as pretty accessories. It is time to acknowledge that young people are capable of bringing meaningful contributions to the table.

  • Principles

Therefore, the City We Need needs to define responsibilities and expectations from the people who live in the city in order to create local and real ownership to urban development. It needs to recognize that urban realities are very different across the world, and for this reason, frame the principles through universally agreed frameworks that protect and bring forward the needs and rights of everyone regardless of age, and in particular those who do not necessarily find themselves socially, politically, physically and economically included. As such, the City We Need should be founded on principles of human rights.

We noted that local governance and participation can be articulated stronger in the principles. For children and youth, technology and innovation are important tools to be utilized for this purpose to ensure inclusive and broad outreach.

Including resilience as a principle for a New Urban Paradigm would address issues related to climate change and conflict as well as economic stability and prosperity.

  • Additional principlesThe city we need provides education and economic opportunities for all The city we need has open and accessible public spaces
  • The group proposed to include additional principles:

UN-HABITAT & Cities Alliance Partnership – Youth Project in Peru

(Department of Libertad) Trujillo, Peru: Department of La Libertad is a province in Trujillo located in the Northwestern part of Peru; it inhabits 811,979 people, where 65% of them counts as youth.

The main problem of population density in the Department of La Libertad is that over 70% of the population lives in the city of Trujillo, resulting in high concentration of people in poor urban district which leads to poor living conditions, such as: Irregular housing in the hills, unplanned urban spaces invading green areas, limited access to water sources, poor environmental practices – social problems, poverty and lack of employment opportunities for young people. 

To make a change to these poor living condition problems in a sustainable way with a wide coverage, The UN-HABITAT and Cities Alliances are currently working together on a project to promote urban youth development in Peru (Catalytic Fund). The main priority is to, first and foremost, encourage the improvements of the living conditions, raise awareness for environmental protection (water, protection of green areas), and provide the youth with the opportunities to enhance their artistic skills for future employment. The next step is to work in partnership with the local governments to create new satisfactory public policies in the municipal level.

Fortunately, the UN-HABITAT urban youth fund has previously supported RASA JOVEN with a similar project in Trujillo. The aim of the project is to engage youth in the community life and promote activities towards protection of the environment and income generation.

…Their current plan is to develop a pilot of different dance choreographies (break dance and local dance) and a team painting houses in parts of the community.

With more awareness amongst organisations and the public, the faster can the Department of La Libertad rise out of poverty.

High-level Round Table: Sustain-a-BALL: Women in Sport for a Sustainable World, Brazil 2014

UN-HABITAT has recently organized a high-level Round Table session in the Brazilian Capital to discuss, among other things, sport opportunities for young people in urban centers and its benefits for sustainable development. Very successful meeting hosted several representatives of local and federal government, three UN agencies, civil society and youth representatives. The meeting has helped to establish new partnerships opportunities for the UN-HABITAT to further engage in the subject matter and collaborate with other high-profile players on advancing the campaign for advancement of women in sport as well as promote more and better sporting opportunities for young people in urban centers.

If you have missed it but would like to know what has been said and discussed, and how to get involved in the future action, have a look at our event report: Full report 1.

Reminiscing ECOSOC Youth Forum 2014: Youth Employment and Entrepreneurship

It has been over a month since the hosting of the ECOSOC Youth Forum and the dreadful statistics are now etched in my mind… “73.4 million young people – 12.6 % – are expected to be out of work in 2013, an increase of 3.5 million between 2007 and 2013”, “more than 6 million young people have given up looking for a job “more than 6 million young people have given up looking for a job…” and how about this one, “the global youth unemployment rate is roughly 12.6%…”[1]

There have been a number of discussions along with recommendations regarding the issue of youth employment and entrepreneurship at the ECOSOC Youth Forum. No one can argue the urgent need for action as it relates to this issue. The above statistics are more than just charted facts; young people are plagued everyday by the harsh realities of not being able to find a job or not being able to capitalize on a great business idea. Over the next decade, if we continue to face these challenges without producing and implementing workable solutions, young people will lose the opportunity of living up to their full potential which will also affect the growth prospects of their countries.

I am a believer of immediate action as there is always something which can be done NOW. However, every sensible action needs a solid plan. So here are a few recommendations which were discussed among youth delegates at the ECOSOC Youth Forum that I believe are solid enough to create sensible actions.

  1. Youth Entrepreneurship and Social Entrepreneurship

Globally, many young people are viewing entrepreneurship as a viable career option. Social entrepreneurship is also becoming a very attractive alternative to traditional businesses because of the high social and environmental impacts. There are many organizations which currently fund startups and there is also a lot of support for starting a business.  However, it is imperative that young people create solid entrepreneurial networks within their countries and regions as well as lobby for additional support for startups and existing enterprises.

  1. Education and Training

Young people are in need of the right kind of education and training, one that will enhance employability, promote skills mastery of chosen area, encourage the use of technology, stimulate innovative thinking and resourcefulness and prevent skill mismatches. Learning is no longer limited to what is shared or discussed in the classroom. Knowledge is at our finger tips by the click of a button! Therefore, the phrase “the art of learning” has never been more applicable. Learning must now become ‘hands on’ in every way and not just when it comes to learning a skill. Young people must learn to create innovative solutions for the unique problems they face in their countries through their chosen career. It is no longer about studying for a degree or learning a new skill.

  1. Strong policies and partnerships

Creating jobs is not only about financial resources. You can have all the money in the world and not know what to do with it. Therefore, the need for strong partnerships and polices to create solid action plans is paramount. There is a need for labour market policies which guarantee gender equality at work and eliminates gender pay-gap. Additionally, policies should also promote adequate social protection, decent work and livelihoods for young people in both formal and informal sectors in accordance with ILO[2] labour standards. Furthermore, labour market policies which ensure employment support for disadvantaged youth that is tailored to their needs, and school-to-work transition policies must not be overlooked. Of course, if developed for each country/region, all these policies would be a great start. However, they would not be totally ready for implementation without the right kind of partners. Partnerships are vital to every action plan and are critical to the implementation of every policy. The right kind of action needs the right kind of people, not just for financial support but also for technical support and expert advice.

  1. Apprenticeship

School-to-work transition programmes have become critical to the development of employability skills and employment readiness among youth globally. More of these programmes need to be developed to increase the employment rate among the youth population. Apprenticeship provides young people with necessary work experience that may increase their chances of finding employment. In addition, this also helps to develop mastery in their chosen profession which will allow them to be more efficient and productive in the world of work. In Jamaica, the National Youth Service (NYS), which is an agency of the Ministry of Youth and Culture, has two unique programmes which facilitate this kind of initiative: the Graduate Work Experience Programme (GWEP) and the NYS Summer Programme.

  1. Volunteerism

Although this is one of the most important forms of getting work done, it has not received the prestige and importance it deserves especially in developing countries. However, volunteering whether informal or formal is not only important to meeting the developmental needs of a country, it is also vital to the development of self. The value of volunteerism must be etched in the minds of young people today to ensure its continued benefits for country and self. Personally, in the early stage and even presently, a lot of the skills I have come to master was as a result of volunteering. Moreover, many of the opportunities that came my way (employment included) were as a result of volunteering. Therefore, if your concept of volunteering is ‘free labour’ and limited rewards, think again… Sure, you may be working without receiving a salary or a stipend, but the personal and professional rewards are endless.

It was estimated that about 670 million jobs will have to be created over the period of the Post 2015 Development Agenda in order to cope with the current spread of unemployment and growth in the working age population. Globally, young people must work together to assist world leaders with solutions for job creation. We can no longer practice exclusivity with such a pressing global issue. Countries, regions and the world at large must develop and enforce strong polices and partnerships to target youth unemployment, and who better to assist with this than youth themselves.[i]

To learn more about the ECOSOC Youth Forum 2014 and the Crowdsourcing initiative on youth in the post-2015 development agenda, visit http://www.un.org/en/ecosoc/youth2014/ and http://www.un.org/youthenvoy/news/crowdsourcing-initiative-on-youth-in-the-post-2015-development-agenda-launched-today/

 

[1] http://www.ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/multimedia/maps-and-charts/WCMS_212430/lang–en/index.htm

http://www.ilo.org/global/topics/youth-employment/lang–de/index.htm

 

[2]ILO-International Labour Organization

 

[i] http://www.un.org/en/ecosoc/youth2014/

http://www.ilo.org/global/lang–en/index.htm

 

Skateistan and The UN, a kickflip and hope in Afghanistan

The World Urban forum was a tidal wave of impressions. Medellin is impressive and truly progressive when it comes to urban development. The possibilities are tremendous, given that so many people from all over the world come together and share their ideas and experiences.

One of these is Madina, a 16 year old girl from Afghanistan who has left her country for the first time to talk about Skateistan, a project giving opportunities of a better life for children and youth in Afghanistan and Cambodia.

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Madina is ‘one of the oldest students and most accomplished teachers representing Skateistan‘ and her story is touching as well as empowering. Young girls her age are living this life on a daily basis all over the world so it is therefor motivating to listen to Madina’s story and how she has developed over the past years:

 “In 2010 Madina was selling trinkets on the streets of Kabul in order to contribute to her families economy. She has six sisters and one brother (where most of them are younger than her), and while many Afghan families would keep their girls at home that is not an option for a family with only one son. One day Madina saw a group of young boys skateboarding and she asked them where they learned how to do it. From there she got introduced to her new found passion and Skateistan.”

Skateistan was founded in Kabul in 2007 where skater Oliver Percovich established a small skating school in Afghanistan. With a large amount of eager children and youth and only three skateboards they soon realised that the potential was big. They eventually made an indoor skate-park, imported more skateboards and made facilities where both girls and boys could safely participate.

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Skating is a way of connecting with children and youth whom are usually difficult to reach. It has a therapeutic effect on them and it is easier for them to open up and socialise when they are sharing a hobby.

With the big effect on the children and Youth, the people behind Skateistan has implemented education to the programme which is a big advantage – Skateistan has in addition to the skating a variety of programmes with different goals aiming to contribute to the development of young people between the ages of five and eighteen. One of the programmes is about creative self-expression whereas another one aims to create young leaders. Their program “back to school” gives children that have fallen out of the public school system a way to get back in. Skateistan also aims to have the participants progress within the system, which resulted in Madina becoming one of their employees.

   Skateistan engages over 400 young people every week. Some comes to skate, others paint, participate in classes or do other types of sports. Skateistan takes the children of the streets and has a unique way of reaching underprivileged young people. Skating as an activity in Afghanistan is still quite unknown, so all skateboards are either imported or made by themselves.

The kids at Skateistan gets the opportunity to start fresh with something unknown but yet very safe. Madina expresses that it takes some diplomacy and work to create an understanding among the parents that what they are doing is safe, especially when it comes to the girls. They have separate days for boys and girls, which makes it possible for many to participate. As it says on Skateistans website: “Afghan girls can´t ride a bike, but they can ride a skateboard”.

 

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– Safety is a relative term, and there is no doubt that for a country who is for the first time conducting to elections in a row there is still a lot of concerns. Madina hopes the future for Afghanistan is bright, and that girls and women will get more opportunities. She is still very aware of the realities. Strong forces do not want to see girls get the opportunities Skateistan is giving them, and there is always a risk of attacks. Madina talks about a friend from Skateistan who was killed in a suicide bombing. That is their reality, attacks on a regular basis and an overwhelming uncertainty of what might happen in the future.

Over 60% of the worlds urban dwellers have been victims of crime over the last five years. Developing countries have higher rates of crime and violence in their cities. Creating safer cities is among other things about infrastructure – proper lighting, transport and safe ways of travelling. Girls are particularly vulnerable in this context. An example is how many girls have reduced access to education because they rely on travelling while there is daylight, making them having to leave school before their classes have finished. At Skateistan they provide safe transport for girls, without it they could not have had nearly as many girls there as they do.

Safety in cities is still about more than physical conditions. It is about creating an environment where you can unfold without risk, and its about creating alternatives to an everyday life without sensible activities, a life that for many leads into crime or substance abuse. Skateistan represents such an alternative, targeting the most vulnerable and marginalised groups among children. Skateistan is about giving children and youth a possibility of a better life, but it is also about creating a sense of community. Skateistan is creating a generation that can contribute to society through the opportunity of individual and collective development. 68% of Afghanistan’s population is under the age of 25 – they are shaping the generation that will be responsible for developing the country, and they are giving the most vulnerable groups, girls, poor and disabled children a chance to take part in this.

– When Madina was 14 she spoke to the Afghan parliament about the challenges that young people in Kabul face. She is also the youngest person to have spoken at the TEDxKabul. When Madina speaks to an assembly of UN officials, politicians and civil society about Skateistan and the realities for children and youth in Afghanistan, they listen. It is both engaging, sore and completely unmasked. We must stand with Madina in the fight to give young people better opportunities – for play, education, work and a decent life.


 

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 – Madina teaching Tone (UN-Habitat) how to skate at World Urban Forum 7, Medellin.

Youth as Leaders of Today and Tomorrow