Engaging Youth in the United Nations

At the Vienna UN Conference 2013 of the Academic Council on the United Nations System (ACUNS) a panel on youth was held on January 10. The speakes at this panel were:

• Matteo LANDI, Associate Youth Employment Expert, UNIDO
• Hanna HEIKKILA, Prevention Treatment and Rehabilitation Section, UNODC
• Billy BATWARE, President, Regional Academy on United Nations
• Michael KLAMPFL, President United Nations Youth Associations Network (UNYANET)
• Milena DUDASOVA, United Nations Youth Delegate of Slovakia 2012

Allthough there is no outcome document available at this time, we want to share with you the statement made by UNYANET Presidency Member Michael Klampfl, on behalf of UNYANET and UNYSA-Austria.

“UN Youth Associations as specialized NGOs

Panel on Youth at ACUNS ConferenceWhat are United Nations Youth Associations? They are much like United Nations Associations, a very specific type of NGOs because they are the only ones, targeting the United Nations as a whole with all its aspects and topics. UNYAs have two important differences to UNAs:

  • UNYAs are youth-led organizations and have age limitations.
  • UNYAs focus on youth projects.

What are UNYAs doing on the international level? In 2010, several UNYAs as well as representatives of UNA Youth Sections met in Oslo to talk about international cooperation. That happened due to a lot of interest in acting global and not only within the national borders, widening the impact of the work that these organizations are doing and the exchange of best-practices (learning from each other). We found out, that all of these associations are working basically with the same mission, but totally different methods – and actually we consider this as a great strength of the UNYA NGO type, because even when the mission is very clear, you can practically do whatever you want to achieve this mission. I’ll give you an example in a couple of minutes, when I describe what the United Nations Youth and Student Association of Austria is doing and how our approach looks like.

As a result, we decided in Oslo that we need and want to cooperate even closer, we worked out a charter in the following months and in August 2011 we founded the United Nations Youth Associations Network – UNYANET. At the moment UNYANET has 10 member associations and 3 observers with a total count of approximately 15000 individual members. UNYANET works together with UNIS Geneva, UNIS Vienna and UNDPI itself. We focus on matters which are significant for all of our members, such as giving them a platform to publish their news, facilitate information sharing, e.g. assistance in case an association is looking for Model United Nations Chairpersons and other projects. We held a Media Workshop in Switzerland, to provide our members with the skills of a NGO Media Relations Officer. UNYANET is also helping interested groups in the establishment of UNYAs, we did this so far in Poland and are currently in contact with young people from Canada, Columbia, India and Nepal, so we actually help other people getting engaged.

Furthermore we created working groups among the member associations to work on specific issues such as a MUN Working Group. Since the UNYANET member associations are organizing a total of 45 MUNs, they have a certain expertise to come up with solutions dealing with the most important problems of MUNs and improving their quality as well. We also hope to provide UNDPI with the outcomes of that group, when they are holding their next Global MUN Workshop.

Let me give you an example on how UNYAs may work on the national level by explaining our work at the United Nations Youth and Student Association of Austria.

We have a very specific approach, because we mainly focus on educating youth. Most of our members are university students and we are trying to provide them with a set of skills, complementary to their university education. Every week, we are holding sessions of our debating and negotiation clubs. Those are two concepts where the participants have to interact with each other through learning by doing, to strengthen their rhetoric skills, negotiation techniques and their command of English. On top of that, UNYSA Austria has created the Global Advancement programme – GAP. This is an extra-curricular course where 30 participants have the possibility, weekly for a one-year period, to talk to important people from the field of politics, economics, law and journalism to get insights and gain additional information on personal strategies and on how things are done behind closed doors. The name of the programme comes from the main idea behind it: closing the GAP between the older generation and youth. We feel that providing youth with a set of skills, will also strengthen the society as a whole.

That brings me to another aspect of our organization, because you may wonder what relevance those things have in supporting the United Nations System. We don’t only provide our members with the skills I mentioned before, we also encourage them to use these skills at other events such as lectures. UNA Austria is organizing a lecture every wednesday, where all of our youth members are invited as well and encouraged to participate in the discussions and several speakers know how challenging and interesting the discussions at our lectures can be. Guest speakers at this international club, as we call it, are mainly from international diplomacy, such as Permanent Representatives to the UN in New York, UN Management Staff such as UNODC Executive Director Yuri Fedotov or CTBTO Executive Secretary Tibor Toth and we also organized a lecture with the UN SG in 2011 at the Austrian Parliament.

Besides lectures, we hold simulations of the Security Council every second saturday at our Vienna Model United Nations Club which also serve as preparation for our annual conference – the Vienna International Model United Nations – VIMUN, held at the UNOV every August for 18 years. At VIMUN we have around 250 participants from over 40 different countries. Last but not least we also send delegations to other MUNs and international conferences, which actively promotes the global citizenship of our members.

We are convinced, that by doing the things as we do them, we help in strengthening civil society and by that we are also reinforcing the support of youth towards the United Nations”

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