As many of you might be aware, in early 2022, the UK Young Ambassadors began exploring the possibility of a UN Youth Delegate Campaign. For those that don’t know what this is, the campaign idea focused on re-establishing a UK-UN Youth Delegate program, thus allowing young people across the UK to once again have their voices represented at the UN.
Today it is our pleasure to announce that after a series of meetings (including with civil servants) we have formally decided to launch this campaign!
Now let’s delve into what this means and why now is the ideal time to have a UN Youth Delegate.
Put simply, a UN Youth Delegate (or UNYD for short) is a youth representative that is elected to represent the interests of a nation’s young people at the UN level. Among their many duties, UNYDs are expected to attend a series of UN functions such as the annual Youth General Assembly session in New York, and the Commission on the Status of Women.
The UK previously had a UNYD program which at the time was run by the now-dissolved Department for International Development. Prior to the program being cut in late 2016, the UK regularly sent 2 delegates (under a gender balance delegation) to these formal sessions, as well as a range of other events.
Why does the UK need UNYDs?
- Firstly, as the world’s largest demographic, young people need to be taken seriously. As tomorrow’s leaders of the future, governments must equip us with the necessary tools so that we are better placed to play our role as custodians of the next generation. This means that they must do more to include youth voices within policy-making and decision-making processes in accordance with the Commonwealth Youth Declaration and UN Security Council Resolution 2250. After all, without a representative, our voices will continue to be ignored, and the current democratic deficit will persist. Therefore, only by ensuring that we have young representatives present at the highest levels of international decision-making, will our concerns be listened to.
This is especially true today, as polling indicates that less than one-in-five young people trust their politicians (19%), and 45% feel they have done a bad job at representing their interests, it is necessary to change course and for decision-makers to start listening to us!
“More than half of the world’s population is under the age of 30, so we must invest in their future by creating jobs and growth across the world. As Britain becomes more outward-looking than ever before, our future leaders, scientists and teachers will be central to maintaining and building upon Britain’s position as a major world player”Priti Patel, former International Development Secretary (2016)
- Secondly, it must be noted that despite having one of the most developed economies in the world, the UK is significantly lagging behind when it comes to international youth representation. Our own research shows that among the 46 Council of Europe member states, the UK is one of 10 countries that lacks a UNYD program. This means that within Europe, 78% of European nations have a UNYD program of some sort. Similarly, this is replicated in both the G7 and G20, where 71% and 53% of member states, respectively, have UNYD programs. And worst of all, despite being a founding member of the UN Security Council, the UK stands isolated as 66% of the 15-member body have UNYD programs.
Essentially, far from demonstrating a new and dynamic ‘Global Britain’, these statistics point to a Britain that is internationally isolated and neglectful of its youth as opposed to one that champions it.
“Representing youth concerns in global spaces can only be done by young people themselves as they know what’s best to support the world they want to live in”Former UK-UN Youth Delegate
- Lastly, this is not just about ensuring young people have a voice. It’s also about giving the next generation of leaders the skills needed to drive themselves forward. As the UK’s last UNYD recalled, serving as a UNYD “was a great confidence boost and helped develop (my) leadership and communication skills to advocate for the issues that mattered most to young people”. Ultimately, only by making positions like these available, will young people be able to grow as leaders and acquire the skills needed to enact positive social change.
Charting a way forward:
Having a UN Youth Delegate is a matter of necessity. Young people have proven themselves to be key contributors and agents on the political stage, and that’s why we need to empower them to have their say!
While having a UNYD won’t change everything, it would be a huge step in the right direction. More importantly, it will give young people a voice that for a long time has been absent. Whether it’s on issues of peace and security, climate change, or tackling inequalities, we must restore our voice. All these issues are pertinent to us also and it follows that we ought to be able to have our say on them.
Lastly, as the UK’s National Youth Council, and having had experience running the youth delegate programs to both the European Youth Forum and the Commonwealth Youth Council, we believe the British Youth Council is ideally placed to take on the responsibility of running the UNYD program.
We look forward to driving this campaign forward in the coming weeks and months ahead and keeping you all informed about how it goes!