What is international youth participation?
International youth participation is the process by which young people are able to take part in discussions and influence decisions made at an international level.
Why is it important?
The reasons we are interested in international participation are, for the most part, exactly the same as the reasons we support participation in the UK.
Young people have a right to have a say on decisions that affect them, and in our globalised world the decisions that affect young people in the UK are often made at an international level – in Europe, at the UN, through the Commonwealth, at the G8 and G20 Summits, at issue-based forums on employment or climate change. The outcomes of decisions can also be more effective if young people are involved in making them.
What opportunities are there?
There’s a long way to go before all decisions that influence young people in the UK are inclusive of young people’s voice. However, below are details of some of the main structured opportunities for international youth representation.
European Presidencies – Structured Dialogue
Every 6 months the Presidency of the European Union moves to a different member state. In preparation for taking the lead within the EU each country organises an event to engage young people in ‘Structured Dialogue’ – a chance to feed directly into the European policy-making process.
European Youth Forum
The European Youth Forum is a youth-led forum of 99 members who are either national youth councils such as BYC or International youth organisations, for example WOSM (World Organisation of the Scout Movement). They provide a platform for young people’s needs and interests to influence European policy and the policy of European countries.
Commonwealth Youth Forum (CYF)
The CYF takes place every two years, as a precursor to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. It provides young Commonwealth citizens with the opportunity to discuss issues, share their experiences, build consensus, identify best practice and advocate to Commonwealth Heads of Government.
Participation in decision-making is one of the key priority areas of the UN's agenda on youth. One form of youth participation at the United Nations has been through the inclusion of youth delegates in a country's official delegation to the United Nations General Assembly and various functional Commissions of the Economic and Social Council. However, at present, with no support from the Government, there are no UK young delegates to the UN.
On 18 December 2009, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming the year commencing on 12 August 2010 as the International Year of Youth: Dialogue and Mutual Understanding. The Year will coincide with the 25th anniversary of the first International Youth Year in 1985 on the theme Participation, Development and Peace. As part of the launch of the International Year of Youth the UN created a number of facsheets including one on Youth Participation.
"Youth should be given a chance to take an active part in the decision-making of local, national and global levels." United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
UK Young Ambassadors
The UK Young Ambassadors project gives young people in the UK a voice at international meetings and events, on decisions that affect them and on issues they care about. This project is led by the British Youth Council (BYC). Find out more about BYC's international work.