In a unique opportunity to share insights, five experienced global youth leaders represented YMCA young voices on 6 October as they met virtually with the United Nations.
In September, the UN passed a resolution (RES76/85) to establish the United Nations Youth Office to ensure youth issues are well-addressed and efforts to advance youth development are well-funded. In October, the UN organised a call with youth leaders worldwide to gather input on two main issues:
- How the UN Youth Office can improve meaningful youth engagement across the UN system and its main pillars of work
- How the office can ensure open and continuous engagement of youth
The five young people representing the YMCA – Pious Mannah, YMCA Sierra Leone; Loris Tarazi, East Jerusalem YMCA; Rodrigo Puntriano Mendoza, YMCA Peru; Dr. Sonia Chedom, YMCA Cameroon; and Ana Clara Marti, YMCA Uruguay – have vast experience in their communities, with the YMCA and on the global stage.
Resolution and World YMCA position
When the Resolution passed in September, Jayathma Wickramanayake, the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, on social media called it a “historic moment” to advance UN work with and for youth. The Resolution integrates the existing work of her office.
Likewise, the YMCA Movement welcomes the establishment of the new UN Nations Youth Office, which re-affirms the importance of having youth issues addressed at the highest level inside the UN system and beyond. In addition, the World YMCA believes that for the new structure to function effectively, it is essential that meaningful participation and consultation with young people and youth organisations exists at the following levels:
- Youth-led movements and organisations, formal and informal
- Youth-focused and youth-led organisations at a global level
- Grassroots and community youth organisations
“The World YMCA’s overarching objective is to empower, inspire and mobilise young people to find and share their voice on the issues that matter to them”, said Nathalie Thomas, World YMCA Programme Manager. “It’s so important that young people are able to share their views on how the UN can better support youth participation, inclusion and representation in the system by strengthening the UN Youth Office.”
She noted that the remarks submitted by the YMCA youth leaders will be a part of a consolidated recommendation to the Executive Office of the UN Secretary-General.
Pious Mannah from YMCA Sierra Leone and a Devotions leader at World Council, said the discussion created a platform for young people to determine how the youth office should function and created the space for young people to express their expectations.
“Diverse views were given, ranging from how resources should be used to how young people should benefit from the different opportunities that will be coming for them”, he said. “Important among the discussion was for the office to stay neutral, be apolitical, be just and to act in the best interest of young people”.
Loris Tarazi is a youth volunteer and Board member at the East Jerusalem YMCA, and a graduated Change Agent (Cohort 4) of World YMCA. At the beginning of this year, she became the YMCA’s Youth Representative for the Global Youth Mobilization (GYM) initiative, joining CEOs and youth representatives from the world’s six biggest youth organisations, ‘the Big Six’.
Rodrigo Puntriano, a youth volunteer with YMCA Peru, has a passion for environmental sustainability. He attended COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, noting the experience taught him “to believe in myself and young people”.
Both Loris and Rodrigo were well-known to World Council attendees. They spoke at the Engagement Plenary and shared details of Youth-Led Solutions projects from the past two years. In addition, they sat down with Causenetic podcast hosts Keith Vinson and Rodrigua Ross to discuss environmental initiatives in Peru and vocational employment opportunities in East Jerusalem.
Dr. Sonia Chedom is a volunteer with YMCA Cameroon and the President of the YMCA branch in Ngousso. This summer, she was named the YMCA’s Youth representative for the World Health Organization (WHO) Youth Council, joining other youth representatives of health and non-health organisations and movements. In addition, Dr Chedom is a qualified general practitioner and is in the process of setting up her own medical practice.
Finally, Ana Clara Marti from YMCA Uruguay is passionate about education and speaking up for young people. Two years ago, she took part in the SDG Action Zone, feeding into the High-Level General Debate of the United Nations General Assembly, 21-25 September 2020. Most recently, she attended last month’s meeting in Leysin, Switzerland, to develop a roadmap for Vision 2030.
These leaders represent the voices of young people worldwide, and these voices must be heard “at the highest levels”, said Pious. “As a young person, I serve young people, and I have the moral responsibility to make sure they are well represented wherever people are discussing their wellbeing.”