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Developing Youth Representation: Tips for the South Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Leon Castellanos Jankiewicz, Mexico Apr 29, 2005
Child & Youth Rights   Opinions
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Developing Youth Representation: Tips for the South Ready, Set...Youth!

The time has come to celebrate. The 60th anniversary of the United Nations is upon us, and no bash-loving argument may undermine the fact that this is a significant moment in history. The single thought of 191 countries coming together as one in their efforts for peace is in itself an accomplishment, and one that has prevailed through time.

On September 13 2005, the opening of the 60th Session of the General Assembly (GA) will take place in New York City, in the presence of numerous Heads of State and high-level diplomats. In the midst of these events, youth in particular have been given an important role. The Secretary-General will address the GA with a special report on youth, evaluating the progress of the World Programme of Action for Youth (WPAY), adopted in 1995. Additionally, the GA has determined that it will devote two plenary sessions to youth-related issues in October 2005, and prior to these, there will be a round-table consultative meeting with youth experts and Youth Delegates to evaluate WPAY.

A youth delegate is a young individual who is selected through a National Youth Council and Ministry of Foreign Affairs to represent his or her country’s youth interests at the UN General Assembly in New York and other relevant international meetings (see "Youth Delegates" at www.un.org/youth). It is especially important that governments participate in these revisions and sessions through the inclusion of youth to their Missions.

Although governments would highly benefit from official youth participation, mainly by gaining a whole new and fresh perspective of the issues at hand, few have adopted this as common practice. Only ten UN Member-States sent Youth Delegates to the 59th Session of the GA in 2004, these being developed countries from Scandinavia for the most part.

Youth inclusion in developing countries’ Delegations has been slow due to a series of reasons; the main ones being that this modality of participation is little-known to civil society, and that the costs of travel and living in New York City are no walk in the park. The following recommendations may be helpful to lobby governments of developing countries for the inclusion of Youth Delegates, and to draft a proposal that will minimize costs.

Live to Lobby

If a youth representation program does not exist in your country, don’t shy away from the prospect of lobbying for the creation of the position. Believe it or not, governments closely monitor initiatives and recommendations made by civil society groups and individuals. Contact your local branch of the National Youth Council, or equivalent body (it’s always good to have institutional backup), and work together to draft a proposal. This proposal should be presented to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Ideally, the Youth Council and the Ministry should agree to the implementation of the program.
Being in a developing country, you may want to stress the following points in your lobby: 85% of young people live in developing countries, though this sector is seriously under-represented in international decision-making; youth participation from your country would be, in this context, exemplary, as the government would show serious commitment to youth, and; due to the Youth Delegate’s special status, the government will have access to processes that it otherwise wouldn’t be active in without such a Delegate.

If you have difficulty in convincing the Ministry or the Youth Council to approve your ideas, ask eminent officials and academics if they would recommend the inclusion of Youth Delegates in letters by outlining the program’s benefits. You can be very persuasive when obtaining these recommendations from the right people, such as previous or present youth delegates from other countries, UN officials in your country, your country’s Mission to the UN, university researchers, youth leaders, politicians etc.
If you still don’t get an official respose as soon as you expect, don’t give up! Lobby away and keep ‘em coming by being persistant, but not pestering. This shows interest and determination from your part, and you are bound to get an answer.

Short & Sweet: Simplify

A defining issue that will probably be the make or break of your proposal is the budget. It’s important that the budget reflects the entirety of your recommendations, which is why the outline of the proposal is such a delicate matter. Before you reach the final document, consider all the options available, and craft a program that will not be as expensive by simplifying.

If we were to divide the Youth Representative program, we find that it consists of three main periods: before [1], during [2] and after [3] the trip to the Mission at New York. A developing country would want to reduce costs without undermining its representatation and capacities at the GA. Therefore, it’s not affordable to simplify part [2] of the program, but a lot can be done to make [1] and [3] cheaper, simpler and therefore more attractive for your government and sponsors.

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Leon Castellanos Jankiewicz

León conducted a successful lobby process to include mexican youth representatives for the UN General Assembly. Along the way, he found that it was necessary to adapt the program to his country's needs and culture. Feel free to contact him for any questions or comments, and spread the word!

hola hermano!
Renata Florentino de Faria Santos | May 19th, 2005
yo tambiém estoy participando de lo processo de advocacy para que lo gobierno brasileno tenga uno delegado joven en GA 2005. Suerte!

Que la juventud se levante!!!!
Maya Verónica Márquez Román | Nov 21st, 2006
Te felicito por el artículo, de verdad que me es muy útil, ya que aquí en Guatemala aún no existe ese programa, pero pienso hacerlo posible. Soy miembra de la AGNU-J (Asociación Guatemalteca pro-Naciones Unidas) y actualmente y recientemente electa parte del Coordinating Committee de WFUNA-Youth. Me gustaría mucho conversar contigo acerca de esto!!!

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