Youth deserve a seat at the table

Chris Varney, a former Youth Representative, was fortunate to participate in a global youth governance meeting on AYAC’s behalf in mid-March. Chris used AYAC’s learning from youth consultations to help inform the Nairobi Youth Declaration which has put forward a proposal for a UN Permanent Forum on Youth. He has written the below article on the proposed UNPFY and its appeal for youth and Australia’s foreign objectives.

It’s time that young people were treated as partners, not clients.Youth policy is set within a patron-client paradigm. Young people globally are seen as recipients of welfare plans and services. We are to wait in the lobby of life until adulthood reinvents us as active social participants.

This ideology has failed. You only have to look at the global youth unemployment rate to understand that. It is the world’s youth, not the skyscrapers of Wall Street, who have borne the brunt of the global financial crisis and the age of austerity that has followed. Indeed, one of the many lessons from the GFC must be the need to place young people at the centre of job creation and economic growth.

It is against this global context that many countries are pushing for a reinvention of global youth policy, namely the creation of a United Nations Permanent Forum on Youth (UNPFY).

What good will a UNPFY do you ask? It will offer governments and young people a mechanism through which they can build an agenda, not just for youth, but with youth. Youth organisations and governments would be able to select youth representatives to serve on the UNPFY as independent experts. This will make young people real stakeholders at the global decision-making table, rather than ad hoc customers.

Right now countries are lining up to support the proposed UNPFY. Brazil, Mexico, Norway, Benin, Sri Lanka and Morocco have all signed up. The question is: will Australia support it?

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