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UNESCO Youth Forum: by Youth for Youth

Youth take the centre-stage

© UNESCO / C. Bailleul

The Youth Forum process is a fundamental part of UNESCO Youth Programme. Since its introduction in 1999, it has provided an innovative, ongoing opportunity for youth to work in dialogue with UNESCO, to shape and direct the Organization’s approach and to present their concerns and ideas to Member States.

Young women and men come together at UNESCO Headquarters every two years, and bring their collective energy, creativity and vision to the table. Through debate and discussion, they draw up a list of recommendations for action, reflecting the most pressing needs and concerns of youth today in the fields of UNESCO’s work.

The Forum is institutionalized as a permanent and integral part of UNESCO’s highest decision-making body, the UNESCO General Conference, where its 195 Member States decide on UNESCO’s future actions.

As such, the conclusions of the Youth Forum, including its recommendations, are presented and debated during the General Conference, thereby allowing youth voices to be properly heard and to influence the programmatic decisions made by UNESCO’s Member States.

Getting involved

© UNESCO / Rajneesh Bhandari

The Youth Forum takes place in the UNESCO Headquarters, in Paris, France. It is open for anyone to attend. The 8th UNESCO Youth Forum in 2013 had over 500 participants, representing more than 150 countries.

Participants are representatives of their countries and communities. They are expected to consult with youths from their home societies before coming to the Forum, and to be ambassadors for the work of UNESCO on their return.

However, the Youth Forum starts long before and continues long after each event in Paris. Young women and men are fully engaged in the preparatory stages, and they not only decide on the topics to be discussed but are also fully part of the design and development of each Forum via online surveys and discussion groups. Additionally, each Youth Forum builds on participants’ evaluations of the previous one. Thus, the Youth Forum is wholly shaped by and for youth.

The format of the Forum varies according to the feedback provided during the preparatory process. Thematic debates – both in break-out groups and plenary sessions – are central. A number of side-events, capacity-building workshops and networking opportunities are also provided.

Work continues after the Youth Forum, where words need to be translated into local action. Throughout this process, from the preparatory stages to the follow-up, the UNESCO Online Youth Community provides a platform for young people to come together online for ongoing discussion and exchange.

Get involved: take action on the Forum’s Recommendations !


Driving the change

© UNESCO / Andrew Burton

The Forum is more than an event that happens every two years – it is a process that enables the voices of young women and men to remain at the centre of UNESCO’s work at all times. This process has been kept alive by initiatives, commitments and networks that are made prior to, during and following the Forum events themselves.

After the Forum event in Paris, youth participants have the greatest share in taking follow-up action in their countries and communities. UNESCO seeks to support their efforts:

  • by advocating the results of the Forum,
  • by incorporating the Forum’s recommendations in the implementation of UNESCO’s Youth Programme, and
  • by mobilizing partnerships that will contribute to the follow-up.

One of the most important innovations of the 8th UNESCO Youth Forum was the introduction of a competition to select 15 projects, led by youth organizations and aimed at youth. Three were chosen from each region of the world to receive the “8th UNESCO Youth Forum” label, in recognition of their commitment to tackling the challenges faced by young people in local communities today.

Can you support or assist an Action Project? Read more here


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