HANDBOOK: National Youth Delegate Programme to the United Nations, May 2016

Divya Mansukhani
United Nations
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Around the world, youth are increasingly taking responsibility for molding their own futures and are engaged in an effort to better their lives and their communities. Young people bring creativity, energy, idealism and a unique perspective to issues of international importance.

Young people who are given the knowledge, resources and opportunities to participate in decision making processes become engaged as active and innovative partners in shaping the world they will inherit and pass on to future generations.

Young people are both a significant human resource for development and agents for social change, economic development and technological innovation. They are experts on the issues that affect them and are integral to achieving effective and enduring solutions.

There are several channels for youth participation at the United Nations (UN). This Handbook focuses on the Youth Delegate Programme. In 1995 the UN General Assembly adopted the World Programme of Action for Youth (A/Res/50/81) which includes a section on supporting the participation of youth in decision making, and invites Member States to consider including youth representatives in their national delegations to the General Assembly. This idea has been reinforced through several subsequent General Assembly resolutions, most recently in 2009 (A/Res/64/130).

There has been some growth over the years in the number of Youth Delegates, with 45 Youth Delegates from over 25 countries participating in the 63rd session of the General Assembly in 2009. However, this still represents barely 15 percent of the total number of Member States.

This low figure can be attributed to, among other things, the lack of easily accessible and comprehensive information about how a national Youth Delegate Programme can be established in a country that does not yet have one. Establishing such a programme comes with its own unique set of difficulties, including convincing government officials of its value, navigating bureaucracy, overcoming funding challenges, and putting the appropriate processes in place for a sustainable and democratic programme.

There is an urgent need to equip young people with information that will enable them to take advantage of the United Nations Youth Delegate Programme by activating their governments to include youth in their UN delegations. The International Year of Youth offers an opportunity to spread awareness and draw attention to the need for increased youth representation at the UN. It can be used as a platform for approaching governments with the proposal of establishing national Youth Delegate Programmes.

Although there is no fool-proof method to lobby for youth representation, this guide compiles best practices based on case studies of successful lobbying efforts.

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