How can UNESCO better engage with youth – let’s ask them!


Former child soldiers, young refugees, social entrepreneurs and environmental activists are coming together at UNESCO’s Headquarters in Paris from 25 to 26 October 2017 for the 10th edition of the UNESCO Youth Forum – Rethinking youth engagement with UNESCO.

In a shift from past practice, UNESCO is bringing a smaller group of 60 young change-makers to the global discussion table, treating them as actors and partners, and not just mere recipients of its work. The Forum will serve as a hub for concrete suggestions about how UNESCO can improve its engagement with young people. This represents a considerable change in direction for the Organization’s biennial event, and is the first forum organized in this way by a UN agency.

 “There are currently 1.8 billion young people between the ages of ten and 24 in the world. This is the largest youth population ever, and a huge opportunity to harness the power of younger generations to drive positive change,” says UNESCO’s Director-General, Irina Bokova.

One in ten of the world’s children live in conflict zones and 24 million of them are out of school. Political instability, lack of jobs and limited space for political and civic participation have led to increasing isolation of young people around the world.

The new format of the Youth Forum connects young women and men from all over the world, who are already leading initiatives in their communities on some of these primary challenges, to UNESCO with the aim of ensuring better collaboration and more responsive programming.

“We often ask ourselves how we can better respond to the needs of youth, but who understands these needs better than the young? It is therefore vital that we take the lead in moving away from treating young people as mere beneficiaries of our work to engage them as actors and partners in developing concrete solutions that meet the challenges they face,” added Irina Bokova.

This step towards working more closely with young change-makers factored into the 2030 Development Agenda – Leaving no one behind. UNESCO’s decision to transform the 10th UNESCO Youth Forum into a springboard for youth on the front lines of the world’s most pressing issues marks an important step towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Starting in 1999, the UNESCO Youth Forum has been an integral part of the Organization’s General Conference. At the end of the two-day Forum, the youth participants will compile a series of recommendations on how UNESCO can better engage with youth, as well as concrete suggestions for collaboration. The Forum will also help determine ways that UNESCO can continue working with young change-makers at a regional and sub-regional level.




Selection of participant profiles

Maha AlSalehi is a young researcher and activist from Yemen who leads #IAmYemen – a media campaign to advocate for peace and promote conflict resolution in the country. Maha also participated in the progress study on Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security.

Jose Pedro Gioscia is a young man from Uruguay who harnessed the power of video-gaming to encourage young men and boys to take a stand against the street harassment faced by many women in the region, by providing them with a virtual experience of what it is like to walk in a woman’s shoes.

Manyang Reath Kher is a young orphan from Sudan. Manyang lived in a refugee camp for 13 years before moving to the United States to study. He founded his own coffee company in Ethiopia to provide employment opportunities for Sudanese refugees.

Mark Lozano is a young social entrepreneur from the Philippines, who founded “One Million Lights”. This organization provides rural communities with solar-powered lighting, enabling children to do better in school and adults to work in safe environments away from the dangers of kerosene lamps.

Moitshepi Matsheng is a young woman from Botswana. Orphaned by AIDS, Moitshepi persisted with her education and co-founded Young 1ove, an organization that provides proven effective sexuality education to young women in southern and eastern Africa.

Temi Mwale is a young woman from the United Kingdom and a Forbes “30 under 30”. She grew up in one of the country’s most notorious public housing complexes where she particularly witnessed youth gang, violence from a young age. She currently leads the 4Front Project, which aims to address the root causes of youth urban violence.

Saddam Sayyleh is an orphan who grew up in a Palestinian refugee camp in Jordan. With no family support and suffering from both physical and emotional abuse at the hands of adults in the camp, he dropped out of school as a teenager. As an adult Saddam returned to education and founded ILearn, a programme that meets the very specific educational needs of young refugees and children that have been left behind.  He has since been awarded a US State Department fellowship and Ilearn has grown to serve 12,000 people in eight locations across Jordan and within refugee communities.


Journalists wishing to participate in the Conference should comtact: Djibril Kébé, UNESCO press service, +33 (0) 1 45 68 17 41,

For more information about the Forum, please contact: Ashley Baldwin,