A group of 23 young people from across the globe, met in London for the first time on 1st November to prepare for a meeting with the UN High Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development agenda, chaired by UK Prime Minister David Cameron. Selected through a competitive application process, these youth representatives came with diverse experience in international development, ranging from high level advocacy and campaigning, to grassroots and community-led development. But above all they came with the shared objective to communicate the fundamental message to high-level decision makers; that young people, as the largest demographic bar none, will be the difference between the success and failure of any global commitments made.
The youth representatives entered the meeting room with remarkable confidence and led a session that managed to be both engaging and substantive. Common misconceptions of what young people ‘need’ from development were de-bunked and reconstructed based on lived experience; a Vision of 2030 as seen by young people was offered, followed by focused insights into innovative youth-led development initiatives already being implemented to address the component parts of household poverty, the meeting’s overall theme.
This demonstrated an important balance between idealism and realism; the presentation of a burgeoning hope for what this new development agenda could mean for so many young people, underpinned with tangible solutions on how to achieve this positive change at the most fundamental level - household - through new development practices that are resourceful, scalable and youth-led.
However, the highlight of the session was the level of debate that emerged in the break-out discussions and the hugely positive feedback and takeaways offered by the panel members. These included comments and recommendations that:
- Measures must be taken to ensure a youth presence in all further meetings; Liberia, Indonesia, and beyond.
- Youth should be placed at the centre of designing and implementing youth-targeted initiatives.
- We must engage in youth-led consultations and integrate youth participants and perspectives into the existing UN country-led consultations.
- There should be a focus on quality not quantity when achieving goals – not the number of students in a classroom but the quality of the education they receive.
- More attention should be given to exploring current youth-led initiatives based around innovation.
- More focus on the use of social media in the development framework
Top: Youth delegation; Above: Youth delegates meet Justine Greening, Secretary of State for International Development
This session proved to be a great success, moving far beyond clichéd ideas of what ‘youth engagement’ looks like and offering some clear points for follow-up. However, it was made clear by the High Level Panel in their feedback that it is still very much up to us, as advocates for youth-led development , to take the reins: to ensure commitments are followed up, to monitor progress, to build coalitions, to lobby, and to offer recommendations as to how things can be taken forward or done differently. So now that we have secured some allies at the highest level of the post-2015 process, we must think about next steps, and ensure that we do not lose this support.
Learn more about our youth representatives here
Watch the Civil Society Plenary session and contribute to the on-going discussion here:http://storify.com/DFID/the-world-we-want-post-2015
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