To celebrate the conclusion of the United Nations (UN) International Year of Youth (IYY), the UN hosted the “High Level Meeting on Youth” at their headquarters in New York. More than 500 youth delegates from organisations across the globe attended this historic event, alongside representatives from 193 member states, including various UN entities, governments and NGOs. Gold Award holder Dinesh Gajendran from India was invited to represent the IAA. He shares his experience and shares his thoughts on youth development.
The meeting was opened by the Secretary General H.E. Mr Ban ki Moon, who highlighted the plight of young people across the globe and called for governments to engage these youth in decision-making.
Speaking at the meeting, Ban ki Moon said: “Young people lack in education, freedom and opportunities they deserve. Unemployment rates for young people are three to six times the rate of adults, and informal, low-wage and insecure work is the norm.
“Young people are standing up for the rights of those who suffer discrimination based on gender, race and sexual orientation. This is especially true for young women, the disabled and indigenous youth. Failing to invest on our youth is a false economy.” Watch Ban ki Moon’s full address.
The opening session was followed by two consecutive informal interactive thematic panel discussions, which everyone was invited to take part in. The first panel discussion focused on strengthening international cooperation regarding youth and enhancing dialogue, mutual understanding and active youth participation as indispensable elements towards achieving social integration, full employment and the eradication of poverty.
The second discussion of the day explored the challenges to youth development and opportunities for poverty eradication, employment and sustainable development.
There was also a youth panel on "Giving it back, passing it on": Corporate Engagement and Youth Philanthropy as Pathways to Development, which was part of a series of youth events organised by the UN, NGOs and related UN agencies.
United Nations and the Award: A bridge for youth
I believe that youth engagement is key to the success of the Award. Youth delegates representing the Award at a global level often prove their mettle and showcase how positive youth engagement makes a difference. Attending the UN Meeting as a Gold Award holder gave me the opportunity to take part in an international debate on youth development, to make decisions alongside adult leaders, as well as to showcase how the Award is a key player in this sector.
Youth delegates also met H.E Vanugopala Menon, Ambassador of Singapore permanent commission to UN, which was organised by James Soh – Executive Director of the Award in Singapore & Hon Advisor for the Asia Pacific regional office. This gave us an insight into the UN working system and how the UN works and acts as a platform for youth.
Earlier in the year, I was also given opportunity to be a part of a consultation held with the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), held in Bangkok in April. Here, I contributed to the formation of a concept paper on ‘The Network of Emerging Leaders in Asia and Pacific (NELAP)’ which will offer development opportunities for youth in our region. Through NELAP, hundreds of Award holders will be given the opportunity to become citizens for social development and become part of a global-decision making process.
Life after Gold
Representing youth is something I have been keen to do since completing my own Award. I have been a participant, a leader an assessor and an ambassador for the Programme, having represented the Award at several International conferences, including the Beyond Sport Summit in Chicago last year. The Award has given me many opportunities and I would like to pass on these opportunities to other young people. Currently, I am working as an intern for the Asia Pacific region, collecting transformative Award stories as part of the Peter Cruddas Initiative. I myself was long-listed for the Initiative in year one for The Audacious Academy for Sports and Social Development (AASSD), a sports initiative that encourages young boys to channel their time and energy into sport.
Having attended the UN Meeting in New York, I am determined to see that young people continue to be represented and that their rights are extended. I would like to launch series of campaigns to support and empower young people, including the establishment of more open Award centres, a health programme for young people, and sports for employment. We have already started a blood screening test for young people from rural areas in India.
As a region, we are also about to launch a Gold Award Holders’ Alumni with three country community projects. There are also plans to set up an Asia Pacific Advisory Group with key stakeholders under the age of 35, as well as the Network of Emerging Leaders, which will be piloted in India, Indonesia and the Philippines.
There are many ways for Award holders to stay connected to the Award way beyond Gold and, if governments are going to address the issues affecting youth, society needs to give us a chance to participate.
---Dinesh Gajendran, Gold Award Holder, IAYP, India.
(Peter Cruddas Regional Intern, The Duke of Edinburgh's Award Asia Pacific Region)