“How Youth Drive Change” – UNESCO Youth Forum 2011

Paulo Coelho, a friend of UNESCO, has a message for youth around the world
Paulo Coelho, a friend of UNESCO, has a message for youth around the world >

From 17 to 20 October 2011, the 7th UNESCO Youth Forum will be held at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris under the theme “How youth drive change”. This year’s edition of the Forum, boasts a star-studded lineup of speakers, including UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Peace and Reconciliation and Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker and the United Nations Youth Champion and star of High School Musical, Monique Coleman. The event will be opened by Egyptian blogger and activist Gigi Ibrahim, recognized by TIME magazine as “one of the leaders of Tahrir Square”, with Spanish indignado Andrés Villena, a young blogger and activist of the15M movement.

Two hundred and forty five youth delegates from 193 Member States and over 250 civil society observers will participate in the Forum. Among them will be two exceptional young people from Colombia, José Javier Maldonado and Carmen Liliana Narvaez. Less than a year ago both were members of Colombian armed groups. They decided to drop arms and reintegrate society by engaging in programs for social inclusion implemented by their government.

Two young observers from Brazil’s favelas will also attend. After becoming involved in the UNESCO projects “Criança Esperança” and “Open School” benefiting from cultural, athletic and educational activities, they have chosen to abandon illicit activities linked with organized crime (i.e. narcotic trafficking).

Other eminent participants include Colombian musician and anti-violence activist César López, creator of the electric guitar converted from an AK-47, celebrated Brazilian poet and author Paulo Coelho, and the Mayor of Rio de Janeiro, Eduardo Paes.

Discussions at the Youth Forum will focus on three subthemes that underline the importance of democratic values for youth:

* Citizens in action: youth in political and public life
* Countering youth exclusion, vulnerability and violence
* Breaking through employment barriers

During the Forum, UNESCO will sign three major youth partnership agreements

The first of these partnerships will be signed on 18 October with the International Youth Foundation. The partnership with UNESCO will focus on 180 youth-led projects in Africa, aimed at skill-building, as well as providing access to professional networks, coaching and mentoring, financial resources and advocacy opportunities.

The following day (19 October), UNESCO will join forces with the Monaco-based Peace and Sport organization, with which UNESCO will develop projects in post-conflict, post-disaster situations. These projects will use sport as a means of helping young people overcome trauma and reconstruct their lives.

On 20 October, the Organization will sign up with TAFISA (Association for International Sport for All). This partnership will focus on building leadership skills through the Volunteer Initiative for Peace through Sport (VIPS), based at the African Sport for All Academy in Tanzania.

The Youth Forum this year also marks the start of a two-year campaign for youth supported by

UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Nizan Guanaes of Brazil and his companies, Grupo ABC and DDB Brazil. The campaign seeks to turn the Youth Forum from a single event into a participatory process spanning the world. Ambassador Guanaes will launch the Youth Voice Tour that aims to capture young people expressing their specific desires to see change in the world and in their communities. The Youth Voice Microphone will travel the globe over 24 months bringing the voices of the world’s youth back to the 8th UNESCO Youth Forum in 2013.

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