Urban Thinkers Campus, Caserta Italy


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



[2]ILO-International Labour Organization


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



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.


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.


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”.



– 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.



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

Visit… Wadi Foukin

Sharek Youth Forum and Wadi Foukeen’s Youth Local Council Conduct the “Visit Wadi Foukeen” Campaign

Sharek Youth Forum alongside with Wadi Foukeen’s Youth Local Council conducted the campaign, “Visit Wadi Foukeen”, in hopes to shed the light on Palestinian farmers and show the cruel realities in which they face. By organizing regular visits from families and tourists and whilst inviting the media to document and track these violations we have been able to show what the village is currently experiencing. This was accomplished with the presence of more than 250 visitors and a number of officials including local and international organizations.

Abdel Sabaaneh, the Project Manager, affirmed that this campaign is one of many campaigns conducted by Sharek in accordance with local youth councils conducted by Sharek in accordance with local youth councils to promote youths’ role in their communities and ensure their active participation in making all possible changes.

Sabaneeh added, “These kinds of activities can help youth get involved and influence local government policies”.

Salah Baba, the Director of Agriculture in Bethlehem, asserted the importance of youth in preserving the local agriculture despite all the obstacles they currently face. Baba confirmed the necessity of continuous agriculture advancement in this village, stating that these factors help them supply the city with crops.

Furthermore, the Youth Local Council of Wadi Foukeen stressed that this campaign was born out of a sense of responsibility for the village. Expressing that they are determined to improve the situation of the village and preserve its’ cultural and natural heritage whilst promoting the role of Palestinian farmers and the resistance.

The council added that this is only their first step in encouraging the regular visits to the village and stated that they will not stop until they have fulfilled their duty.

“We Have a Role”, is a project implemented by Sharek Youth Forum alongside UNHABITAT and three local governing bodies that are located in Jenin, Bettir and Al-Khader. This project works to engage young people with their local governing bodies and encourage them to strive for policy development, further hoping to enhance their social accountability.


PDF download with pictures available here: wadi foukin

United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Forum on Youth 2014

There was a lot of talk surrounding the ECOSOC Youth Forum which took place on Monday June 2, 2014 and Tuesday 3, 2014 at the UN Headquarters in New York. These discussions focused on one clear mission: ‘mainstreaming youth in the post 2015 development agenda’. But, what exactly was the ECOSOC Youth Forum all about and why was it such an important milestone for global youth development and engagement?

The ECOSOC Youth Forum under the theme “#Youth 2015: Realizing the Future They Want” was organized by the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) as part of the preparatory process for ECOSOC’s 2014 Annual Ministerial Review (AMR), which is scheduled to be held in July, under the theme: “Addressing on-going and emerging challenges for meeting the Millennium Development Goals in 2015 and for sustaining development gains in the future”.

The forum was organized specifically to engage young people from every side of the globe, to form a collective voice and speak on issues which affect them, and to safeguard their future and that of their countries. Youth representatives from around the globe participated in dialogue sessions such as “promoting youth employment-creating decent jobs for a more sustainable future” and “Youth: The Future They Want Beyond 2015.” Youth delegates were given the opportunity to listen and engage in an interactive discussion among themselves and with member states on how they could be included in shaping the post-2015 development agenda.

There were several breakout sessions which gave participants an opportunity to further engage in more in-depth discussions about these thematic areas: youth employment and entrepreneurship, education, health, governance and participation and peace building and stability. These themes followed the structure of the Post 2015 Crowdsourcing Initiative which was organized by the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, in partnership with other UN entities, international NGOs, youth groups and stakeholders, in an effort to promote youth priorities in the post-2015 development agenda. The outcomes from this Global Youth Call were further discussed in these breakout sessions and participants/youth delegates also outlined how they intend to maximize on the Global Youth Call initiative in their countries. Youth delegates were also urged to make recommendations on what further steps they can take to continue to advocate for youth inclusion and prioritizing youth issues in the Post 2015 agenda. These conclusions and recommendations will be shared with the council during the AMR in July.

Having attended the ECOSOC Forum, I saw firsthand the importance and benefits of this event on youth engagement and the mission to prioritize youth in the Post 2015 agenda. As a youth delegate, I was given a chance to engage in discussions with UN and other stakeholders regarding issues which affect youth in my country/region. Furthermore, I was able to share best practices for youth engagement in the Post 2015 Agenda. As a youth delegate, it is my duty to sensitize youth about the Post 2015 Agenda, share the discussions of the forum and create an action plan based on the needs of youth in my country.

Never before has the UN and its stakeholders presented so many opportunities for youth engagement. This year (2014) has presented so many opportunities for our collective voices to be heard. The ECOSOC Youth Forum was only of many opportunities for youth to speak on issues which affect them and make recommendations specific to their regions. We must take full advantage of all the attention we are getting; so start speaking up if you have not done so in the past…and remember…our future starts NOW!

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/

On the way to creating a new urban agenda


Come 2016, the world is getting ready to establish a new urban agenda at the Habitat III meeting. Urban challenges and possibilities are all about youth and our livelihood. Lets make the new urban agenda a youth agenda.

Habitat III
In 2016 the UN-­conference on housing and sustainable development, Habitat III will set a new urban agenda, deciding what the governing principles for urban practice and development will be. It will reinforce the commitments made at Habitat II in Istanbul in 1996, and adapt the agenda to current reality and projections for the future. Habitat III will also be the first UN conference discussing the implementation of the post 2015-­agenda, the new development goals.

Habitat III is about creating progressive and universal goals for urban practice, but creating a new urban agenda is also about how this is implemented in national and local governance structures. In order to set good goals that can actually be implemented, the process needs to be an inclusive one from start to finish, and then ensuring lasting participation in the implementation, meaning good and inclusive governance structures- on international, regional, national and local level.

Urban youth
More than 18 per cent of today’s world population, are between the ages of 15 and 24, the UN definition of youth. 87 per cent of these live in developing countries. A growing number of youth live in urban areas. Youth in urban areas often lack access to housing, transportation and other basic services and have unequal access to opportunities for education, training, employment, and recreation. In other words, increasing numbers of young people live in cities where they face difficult economic, political and social challenges. The amount and scope of urban issues concerning youth are alarming, and it will be essential to address them in a new urban agenda. Youth then, must have a key role in creating and implementing the new urban agenda.

National Habitat reports
The process leading up towards Habitat III will be initiated by all member states creating a national report on best urban practices and challenges. The general assembly, through its resolution 67/216, paragraph 11, encouraged this process to include “…the active participation of all relevant stakeholders…”, stating that in writing this report, the national governments are strongly advised to have a broad inclusion of all stakeholders, including youth. The report is due on the 30th on june this year, and although the practice of creating the report will vary from country to country, youth participation needs to be a main focus for all.

Although 30th of june is right around the corner there is still a huge potential for youth and youth organization to give their input before it is finalized. We need to stress the importance of giving input on this specific report because the reports will be the basis for further work on the agenda. Come september the first preparatory committee for Habitat III will be held, and from here on it will only narrow down, and it will be extremely hard to get new thoughts added.

Most countries will probably facilitate some form of consultation, but unfortunately these consultations are not always as inclusive they should be-­ not reaching out to all relevant stakeholders, lack of practical information and done in a bit of a hurry a few weeks before the report is due, making it harder for the parts giving input to find the time and resources to do it. This is of course not the case for all, but it will be for some.

Inclusive consultations or not-­ give your input. National ministries have e-­mail addresses, mailboxes, facebook pages-­ you will be able to give your input even though you are not formally invited to.

In order to be able to get your organizations goals in the new urban agenda it should to be on the table for this first round. If youth are mobilized to give their input on the national report, it will send strong message on how important youth issues and participation is for the new urban agenda.

And then..?

Whats next you say? There will be three preparatory committee meetings which will discuss the agenda, one in september 2014, one in april 2015 and one right before Habitat III in 2016. Youth need to have a strong presence on all three, but also in between, pushing our governments to push the youth agenda. How? Lets discuss that further. In the meantime, get your best practices and ideas down on paper and push that youth agenda like never before. It is our urban future, let us be the one to create it.

Tone Vesterhus
Norwegian youth delegate on urbanization

World Urban Forum in Medellín, Colombia

First day at the World Urban Forum! Follow this blog and the YAB Facebook page to keep up with news from Medellín, Colombia!

Youth Advisory Board members met with representatives of the Medellín Youth Secretariat to discuss mutual objectives and ways to integrate their actions at the Youth Assembly and Forum. In addition to their collaboration at  the Youth Assembly, it was decided to organize a joint visit to innovative youth-led projects, in order to share information and experiences between Medellín youth and youth from around the world. The Youth Advisory Board thanks the Medellín staff for their warm welcome!

YAB Medellín
Youth Advisory Board members Dana, Maya and Edi with Medellín Youth Secretariat representatives Juan Camilo, Luz Marina and Julio

Youth as Leaders of Today and Tomorrow