Nov 4th, 2015, 11:37 PM

UNESCO's Youth Forum Aims to Change the World

By Cody Campbell
Photo Credit: Carenina Sasha Sanchez
The event that brought together the world's youth leaders to help shape the future.

"The forum shouldn’t be for youth to come, make proposals, and wait for the political process to play out," said Ashley Baldwin, a supervisor of UNESCO’s Ninth Youth Forum. "I want to see the participants here go out and be the difference they want to see."

UNESCO's Youth Forum brings together the youth of today to imagine their ideal future and pushes these youth keep goals of economic and environmentally sustainable development in mind. Knowledge labs, workshops, and inspirational speakers were all on the three-day program to engage the participants. "The forum is about learning and expanding one’s self," explained Briand Idossou, a member of the Senegalese delegation. "I’m going to be bringing back what I learn here to Africa, and that’s what I think everyone should do: take back something."

While the goal of the Forum was to produce a list of recommended action points to the General Assembly of the United Nations at COP21—an international climate change conference to be held in Paris a month—there were many different takes on how the Forum should be regarded.

"This is the time when we have to make our voices heard to politicians on a global level," said Cecilia Garcia, an activist from Mexico. "We have to be active and engage the government or else they won’t understand and reflect upon the need for change."

The idea of social entrepreneurship, or business promoting sustainable and permanent change, was strong at the Youth Forum. "Implementation can only come through youth activism," explained Manar AlSagob, a participant and speaker from Saudi Arabia. "It all belongs with individuals to take what they learn back and implement it. That’s the basis of social entrepreneurship and that’s what we need."

Working groups were formed during the forum to join together ideas from the youth delegates. The groups brought together participants with different backgrounds to promote a global, unified ideology of the future. While the very same working groups proposed their resolutions which would be passed on to the general conference of the Youth Forum, they had a different effect on some.

"I know what’s needed and I’m going to go out and do it," Linnea Anderson from the Kingdom of Sweden, said, "My working group talked much about the environment and our resolution to the conference. I just decided I want to start a group in Sweden about environment preservation. I know people are interested and there’s no platform and there’s no one but it’s possible. It could be."

Image Credit: Carenina Sasha Sanchez

Global resolutions, while important to the strategy of activism, wasn’t what was energizing the participants about the future. The youth came to the conference with their own ideas and aspirations. The Forum pushed these youth leaders to be active in their own communities for sustainable change. While many of the participants were already activists and youth leaders, the Forum put everything in a global light. 

"We need to get rid of all the crap and see things for what they are," said Alsha Cater, a delegate from France. "That’s when problems get solved."

The next Youth Forum won’t be for another two years, leaving time to reflect for the long term. Youth opinion has been a double-bladed sword in society. The younger generation is often considered to be less experienced and ignorant to many world issues, yet they are the very same people who will be leading in the future. The Forum offers a chance for youth to be heard at the upper-levels of international government. The final resolution passed at the Youth Forum will be presented at COP21, the Conference of Youth in Paris, and the Commonwealth Youth Forum in Malta. The resolution will also be available for viewing at the United Nations Youth Booth at the United Nations Standards Coordinating Committee. 

It’s also important to note the different themes that youth are passionate about with each new Forum, with this year's topics focusing on climate change, sustainable development, gender equality, and activating youth leaders. The pertinent issues of the future shift every Forum and participants bring up fresh ideas, striving to innovate. The youth of the present—and the future of the world—have a voice to be heard. 

Image Credit: Carenina Sasha Sanchez