Youth Advisory Board: who’s who?

Curious to know more about the UN Habitat Youth Advisory Board?  Watch this video to learn more about the Board and meet its current members!



Positively influencing life in the slums


Raphael Obonyo’s story is one of a dogged determination that has seen him fight all odds to be an influential youth leader.

 Raphael grew up in Korogocho, a sprawling urban slum in Nairobi, Kenya where he has co-founded vibrant community youth led initiatives.

Raphael, 32 is the external adviser and a member of the UN Habitat’s Youth Advisory Board, which advises the agency on how to engage, integrate and respond effectively on issues affecting the youth. This puts Raphael at the global sphere of influential young leaders who can help shape the world by addressing post 2015 thematic issues that touch on the youth.

Recently, the German Marshall Fund of the United States has recognized Raphael Obonyo from Kenya as one of the emerging leaders.

In 2001, he co-founded Miss Koch initiative to promote girls’ empowerment and education. The initiative has done remarkable work of advocating for the rights and dignity of the girl child.  In 2006, together with other youth in the area, he co-founded the Koch FM community radio, to give voice to the urban poor. He is also the founder of the Youth Congress, a vibrant youth organization that promotes youth leadership and participation. He also co-founded the K Youth Media, an organization that equips youth from the slums of Nairobi with skills on media and film.

Having been born and raised in harsh conditions in the slums, Raphael has a first-hand experience and has been conscious of the negatives effects of urbanization, underdevelopment, poverty and its related problems. Raphael, has certainly come a long way from the days when he was a boy studying in the dim light of a tin lamp.

As such, Raphael tends to understand deeply the issues affecting the urban poor and their families. This could be one of the reasons as to why nothing beats his sheer determination to see young and needy brilliant students from Korogocho, Mathare and other urban slums get an education and liberate themselves from their hardships. In the true sense of the word, Raphael is an enemy of poverty.

In 2008, he started a noble initiative to promote education as an important tool for development. He started by awarding best performing students. Through some of his friends in the Netherlands, he has managed to give full scholarship to 20 needy students from the slums of Nairobi to get them through secondary school. All the students go to Our Lady of Fatima Secondary School in Nairobi.

Such efforts to serve the community where he grew up in and better the lives of other young people have not gone unnoticed. In 2010, he was nominated by young people from Korogocho to sit in the UN Habitat Youth Advisory Board. In May 2012, the UN Habitat officially confirmed him as a member of the Board.

Raphael will soon be heading to Morocco to meet with high level policy maker, business leaders, media and opinion shapers from across the world to discuss a range of global issues.

Raphael who was pleasantly surprised by the recognition as an emerging youth leader in the world believes that being a member of the UN Habitat’s Youth Advisory Board has given him immense opportunity to serve the youth causes at the national and global arena.

He says that to be recognized as an emerging leader in the world is not only humbling, but calls for more determination in his part to give back to his global and local society. It has given him more enthusiasm and momentum to continue serving the youth and his community with determination.

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Meeting With Global Land Tool Network

Kneeling over some land.

During the 23rd Governing Council YAB members were fortunate to have the opportunity to meet with members from the Global Land Tool Network (GLTN) team, including Eirik Sorlie and Siraj Sait.

The GLTN’s main objective is to contribute to poverty alleviation and the Millennium Development Goals through land reform, improved land management and security of tenure.

Just hanging out… talking planning!

The GLTN originates from requests made by Member States and local communities world-wide to the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), who initiated the network in cooperation with the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the World Bank, in 2006.

Our meeting focused on how their research group can work with youth to incorporate youth perspectives into land issues.  Staff and researchers were very receptive to YAB input and after fruitful discussion some key conclusions were reached.  The following provides a brief overview:

  • Defining youth is very important as there are significant differences between age groups of 12 -24 and 25 -32;
  • Youth branches of professional organizations could be important actors on youth and land issues;
  • It is vital that youth are put at the same table as other partners and not always separated;
  • It is important to build youth capacity on land issues and use language that is accessible to youth (e.g. “youth in informal settlements” and “youth and rural livelihoods”);
  • Similar to goals to achieve ‘adult diversity’, involve a mix of youth professionals and grassroot youth in GLTNs work.

We look forward to continuing to consult with the GLTN as the research progresses!

YAB meets the ED!

The Youth Advisory Board today had the opportunity to meet the new UN-HABITAT’s Executive Director, Dr. Joan Clos for a quick chat about the work UN-HABITAT has been doing on urban youth and development as well as to brainstorm ways to continue to mainstream youth issues across UN-HABITAT’s agenda under his leadership!

At the meeting, YAB had the opportunity to share some of our achievements over the past two years, which included contributing to:

– The Urban Youth Fund – $2million dollars over 2 years!

– Youth Research – the first State of Urban Youth Report

– Mainstreaming Youth – advising on youth perspectives throughout UN-HABITAT

– Global Networking – through the World Urban Youth Assemblies

– One Stop Centres – building capacity among youth for new job markets

And other initiatives, which we encourage the agency to continue, since we recognize that is through this support that UN-HABITAT continues to reduce long-term poverty and urban conflict.

But we were not there only to celebrate good the good things. We used the opportunity to discuss a bit about the recently completed evaluation (which YAB members participated in fully!). And from the lessons learnt in the evaluation as well as from the experience we had during our mandate, we took the opportunity to recommend few key points in regards to the future of the UN-HABITAT YAB:

1. Assignment of responsibility of supporting YAB to a specific Youth Unit Staff member. (We believe that to assure that the YAB works to its best potential, and that youth are mainstreamed and integrated into the operations of UN-HABITAT, that there be a dedicated staff. Proper staffing levels are fundamental to the success of youth programming.)

2- Identification of skill needs among Board members and build capacity accordingly. (We Strongly agree that one of the key aspects of the YAB is building YAB member capacity to better represent UN-HABITAT globally as we have done over the last two years.)

3- Identification of information gaps experience by Board members and address them by maintaining regular two-way communication, including preparation of quarterly reports by UN-HABITAT staff. (We believe that this again relates to the staffing and capacity issue of both the YAB and the Youth Programme. We cannot reiterate enough the need to assure that there is proper capacity within the Youth Programme.)

We also took the opportunity to support Dr. Joan Clos in the new focus areas for UN-HABITAT, which are: urban planning, institutions and employment. We believe that youth are key to each of these, and therefore we encouraged the agency to both target and involve youth in the planning of any programs developed.

Global Youth Help Desk Launched!

UN-HABITAT launched the brand new Global Youth Help Desk platform:

The help desk is a multimedia interactive platform  for young people leading community improvement projects worldwide and those interested in the field. The idea is to foster the exchange of learnings and experiences, and to allow young leaders to engage and collaborate with other youth from across the world.

The Platform brings together different UN-HABITAT programs and is an important step to advance the youth-led development field.

All of those who are interested in UN-HABITAT’s Urban Youth Fund can come and find information about the projects funded, their progress as well as the learning gained by the youth leading them. It also has all the information you need to improve your project idea and boost your project proposal.

The platform is also home for the Urban Youth Research Network, and will allow researchers on urban youth to publish their research and collaborate with other researchers from around the world.

The Global Youth Help Desk was launched by the Norwegian Junior Minister, Mr. Arvinn Eikeland Gadgil during a lively event attended by UN-HABITAT Envoys, the Youth Advisory Board members, governments and other UN-HABITAT officials and is already fully operational!

It’s time for us all to explore the Help Desk and take advantage of this platform!

YAB Makes Connections With Safer Cities

Last night YAB attended the opening reception hosted by Italy, the host of the next World Urban Forum.  Amid the samosas and glasses of beer, we were able to meet a variety of people doing interesting work with UN-Habitat.

Opening Night Reception

While meeting and greeting we were fortunate to come across a group of  youth partners from around the world working with the UN-Habitat Safer Cities Programme.

Safer Cities Programme was launched in 1996.  The initial focus was on Africa, at the request of African mayors who were concerned by the extent of violence in their cities and wanted help with the development of prevention strategies at city level.  Due to initial success, the programme has since been extended to Latin America and Asia.

Safer Cities works with youth partners from around the world, involving them in the dialogue on how to create safer and more inclusive cities.

Gavin Sheppard is one of those partners.  Gavin runs The Remix Project in Toronto, Canada, which was created in order to help level the playing field for young people from disadvantaged, marginalized and under served communities.  Through their programs and services The Remix Project serves youth who are trying to enter into the creative industries or further their formal education.

Inspired by Gavin and some of his colleagues, YAB looks forward to collaborating across UN-Habitat with more youth projects around the world!

Philomena on Land Issues …

The key thing to day at the youth caucus that has been interesting …………. The elaboration by the agency on land issues is great………though it shows that the land and youth are related yet its a gray area where a lot of work needs to be done. especially in the low income settlements creative and innovative ways of have been in other continents like Asia I think where land tenure has been customized in view of the socio-economic aspects of the communities. Something that could be replicated and used in connection to youths and land in Africa……therefore we as young people have a lot of opportunity here to create jobs maybe??? tackle this issues……… what will you do??

The 23rd Session of the UN-Habitat Governing Council

The Youth Advisory Board arrived in Nairobi, Kenya this weekend to participate in the 23rd session of the Governing Council.

Opening Assembly

Eager to contribute a youth perspective to the continuing dialogue on the rapid urbanization of global communities, we are ready to meet with member states and advance a collective youth perspective!

The morning opened with the daily youth caucus where youth have dedicated space to meet and strategize on common objectives.  YAB would love to meet with any youth who are attending the GC and are available to discuss any questions or concerns!

The opening session featured presentations by the President of the Republic of Kenya, President Mwai Kibaki, and the Executive Director of UN-Habitat, Mr. Joan Clos, with an opening performance by the local musical group “Ghetto Classic.”

We look forward to an informative and productive week!

Youth as Leaders of Today and Tomorrow