Last month the British Youth Council held its Annual Council Meeting. For those that are not aware, the Annual Council Meeting is an event where delegates from the British Youth Council’s 170+ member organisations meet to discuss, debate and vote on a range of policies and candidates standing for election. With the event spanning a whole 7 hours, it is without a doubt the most important event in the British Youth Council’s social calendar! For me, this particular meeting was quite special for two reasons. Firstly, having been elected the year prior, this meeting marked my first anniversary as a UK Young Ambassador – a moment which felt both humbling and daunting. Secondly, this Annual Council Meeting saw delegates overwhelmingly back my motion titled “Supporting Youth in Vulnerable Situations and Conflict Zones” which sought to enshrine a Youth Peace and Security Agenda at the heart of the British Youth Council. Having run on an election platform where human rights were front and centre, seeing delegates approve my motion was certainly a proud moment.
More broadly, the Annual Council Meeting 2022 perfectly illustrated what can be achieved when young people make their voices heard. From introducing policies seeking to tackle misogyny, to tabling amendments aimed at promoting greater levels of diversity and inclusion, this year’s meeting was yet another youth voice success!
With this years council meeting now over, I thought now would be a good time to reflect on my first year as a UK Young Ambassador and all the progress that the UK Young Ambassador team has been making both at home and in Europe.
First things first, I cannot understate the sheer amount of change that the UK Young Ambassador programme has seen since last September. When I first joined, the programme was still reeling in from the pandemic and struggling to adjust to the recent loss in the EU’s Erasmus+ funding. Although there was so much passion within the team, the technical and financial constraints meant that we were unable to make change in the same way the programme once used to. This led William Awomoyi and myself – as the newbies of the team – to strategise on a new course.
I cannot understate the sheer amount of change that the UK Young Ambassador programme has seen since last September.Maurizio Cuttin, UK Young Ambassador
Following a delegation trip to Switzerland, we decided that we needed to concentrate our collective efforts, as a group, on one single campaign. We decided to revive the British Youth Council’s calls for a UN Youth Delegate and make this our top international priority.
Since the campaign’s launch in early 2022, we have spoken to a range of stakeholders including Ministers, civil servants, various international organisations and a whopping total of 21 UN Youth Delegates from 19 different countries! On top of this, we have also met with youth activists from all across the UK to strategise and share ideas on what a future UN Youth Delegate programme would look like. Beyond re-energising the UK Young Ambassador programme, the past year has seen mass reforms to the programme. From day 1 the team has worked tirelessly to improve the programme’s structure. This included updating the website, increasing outreach, and most importantly improving the transparency of our work by seeking more opportunities and writing blogs. While these changes have been instrumental in modernising the programme, this is only the beginning and we intend to keep up this work to ensure that the programme becomes more efficient.
Turning to the European Youth Forum, I am glad to report that we have rebuilt the British Youth Council’s international reputation within the organisation back to its pre-Brexit levels. Whether on the issue of unpaid internships, the war in Ukraine, or on a range of other issues, our regional allies can see we are back and ready to engage again! I cannot understate just how many conversations I have had with delegates who have expressed how pleased they are to see us leading once again.
Beyond taking bolder policy positions – particularly when it comes to peace and security issues – we have also invested heavily in building personal relationships with several delegates. In opening the door to higher levels of cooperation, this diplomatic approach has proven to be essential in advancing our interests. Lastly, it would not be fair to talk about our diplomatic re-engagement efforts without mentioning Tom Matthew’s fantastic outreach work. As a Board Member of the European Youth Forum, Tom has worked tirelessly over the past two to deliver results. Now, as the British Youth Council’s candidate for President of the European Youth Forum, he has taken his campaign directly to delegates, in over forty-five one hour calls with members. His unique style of listening and genuine passion for defending youth rights are not only inspiring, but they also shed light into how many delegates see Tom: as an energetic leader with fresh ideas. Beyond improving the European Youth Forum, Tom’s work has proven invaluable in accelerating the British Youth Council’s international transformation.
This past year has been a transformative one for the UK Young Ambassador programme. My only hope is that the next year brings as much energy and purpose to the UK Young Ambassador programme as the past year has done!
Onwards and upwards!
P.S. If this all sounds interesting to you, and you identify as female or non-binary, why not apply to be a UK Young Ambassador yourself? Applications are open till the 24thOctober. Alternatively, you could also apply to become one of our new UK Young Ambassador Team Associates.