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In 2015, the United Nations celebrates its 70th birthday and with that, some agenda points took center stage. Sustainable Development, the Beijing+20 and certainly, the increased introduction of young people to the policy making process of the UN. 2015 marks a new era in involving the young generation in the UN, taking the organizations' priorities to a new level.
Over the course of history, the UN has increased its efforts for putting a special emphasis on protecting children and youth from harm (starting in the 1940s), then taking a stand to ensure education (emphasized since the 1950s) for them and furthermore, involve them actively in the UN system and its strategies (promoted extensively since the 1980s).
The whole involvement of the UN started out early with the creation of UNICEF in 1946. Its first task was to help famished kids in Europe after WWII. Starting out as a mission, UNICEF becomes a permanent part of the UN system promoting health, education and safety of children globally. Today, the fund is active in over 190 countries and upholding the values as defined in the Universal Declaration of the Rights of the Child (1959). UNICEF even won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1965 for its decades of work for the rights of children.
However, while UNICEF is focused towards children, youth empowerment activities are more dispersed across various funds, committees and organizations. The role of youth in the UN System was enshrined as early as 1965 in the 2037 (XX). Declaration on the Promotion Among Youth of the Ideals of Peace, Mutual Respect and Understanding Between Peoples. Not only does the Declaration put forth principles many following resolutions relate to, but also underscores the right to education and most of all, ensures the distinctive role of youth organizations at play in promoting peace, respect and mutual understanding. This declaration marks therefore a new milestone in history, showing that the UN is not only helping the poorest, but seeks for actively involving the young generation in creating its own destiny.
Efforts of the UN were increased in the following years, but only in 1985, the UN called for the International Youth Year. With its slogan "Participation, Development, Peace" the the global youth was the center of attention and in the Barcelona Declaration its role was once more confirmed.
Today, many of the UNs programs are putting a special focus on the promotion of rights of the young generation, among the right to participation and representation. This is why many, e.g. the UNICEF or the UNDP involve representatives of the global youth in their processes. They also deal with the challenges for young people around the world and seek for appropriate solutions. This is all coordinated currently by the United Nations Inter-Agency Network on Youth Development which was established for the International Year of Youth in 2010. Its main objective is to increase the effectiveness of the UNs efforts in youth policy - here it acts as a mediator, coordinator and facilitator between all relevant UN entities.
A prominent example with a similar pathway was the engagement of the UN in the promotion of gender equality. Starting with the initiation of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) soon after the founding of the United Nations, the scope and impact of the CSW increased significantly over the years. Important milestones mark for example. the legally binding Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the UN Decade for Women from 1976 to 1985. However, it was only in 2011 that all instruments and organizations were merged into the UN WOMEN, now serving as the secretariat of the CSW. During its decades of activity, the CSW has advanced the role of women internationally, though many challenges remain, UN Women is now active as an independent member of the UN family.
Considering this prominent example, one needs to ask the question, whether a simple Inter Agency Network is enough to promote the rights of children and youth and whether it can adequately represent the young generation, accounting formore than half of the worlds population today. What we are in strong need of is a coordinated effort to address the special situation young people find themselves in, be it in economically deprived regions, in conflict areas or wars. With the appointment of the Youth Envoy in 2012 a major step towards increased efforts in an inclusive policy making at the UN level has been made. And with that, the Secretary General has really put the issue of Youth in the UN on the map.
The question, after knowing the long involvement of the UN in youth policy and the developments here and the example of the UN Women Program - should the efforts of the UN in the field of youth policy making be merged, too?
Should there be a UN Youth Program?What is your opinion?Please share in the comment section!