Young people can make the world a better place. Recognising the power the youth hold for change, the United Nations took a step forward to establish mechanisms for involving youth in global development processes, during the “Youth 21 Building for Change Stakeholder Meeting and Global Youth Leadership Forum on Inclusive Governance” held from 15-18 March 2012 in Nairobi, Kenya. Stefan Manevski, a youth activist from Kumanovo, with the support of UNDP, was able to become an active participant in this initiative.
This global event gathered over 220 youth, representing youth-led organizations and movements from across the globe, and included government representatives, members of parliament, private sector, civil society organizations, researchers and UN Agencies.
“The conference emphasised the important role that youth have in shaping the future of our planet, but also, for the first time demonstrated clear willingness to include youth in the UN system and the decision-making at all levels”, reported Stefan. According to him, “all global and local actors should put efforts into creating a system, which ensures not only that youth are included in policy making like this, but are also provided development opportunities”.
During the conference, Stefan presented the work of his organisation, the Center for Interethnic Dialogue from Kumanovo, implemented under the UN Programme on Enhancing Interethnic Dialogue and Collaboration (http://www.un.org.mk/en-promoting-inter-ethnic-dialogue.html). Their activities bring young people from different ethnic backgrounds together, involving them in multicultural workshops and activities that improve understanding, communication and collaboration. “It was a great opportunity to show our work globally. The models that we have used to engage youth in Kumanovo seemed very interesting and applicable for many other countries as well”.
The conference produced a set of recommendations for the UN, government and civil society: the Nairobi Declaration (http://www.unhabitat.org/downloads/docs/11030_1_594389.pdf). The Declaration calls on these actors to work in partnership with youth and create mechanisms for such partnership such as the recently announced UN Secretary General’s Special Advisor on Youth, to engage youth within the UN system and beyond.
For Stefan, the conference had an especially important outcome. He and his colleagues came up with an initiative for establishing a Balkan Youth Network that would contribute to the implementation of the recommendations of the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development (http://www.un.org/en/sustainablefuture/). Rio+20 will be held in June this year, 20 years after the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, which committed to rethink economic growth, advance social equality and ensure environmental protection. During Rio+20, the UN is again bringing together governments, international institutions and major groups to agree on a range of smart measures that can reduce poverty while promoting decent jobs, clean energy and a more sustainable and fair use of resources.
In line with the Rio+20 objectives, the Balkan Youth Network is foreseen to contribute to post conflict development, reconciliation and communication, to ensure sustainable development of the Balkan. “Together, we can always do more”, concludes Stefan.
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