What did young people say during the IYF Special Dialogue on Youth Action and Commitment in the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic (IYFSD)



The International Youth Forum on Creativity and Heritage along the Silk Roads (IYF) is an annual gathering of young people from all over the world, organized by the UNESCO Beijing Cluster Office and the Chinese National Commission for UNESCO in collaboration with Chinese local governments. The first meeting was held in 2017 with an objective of giving young people a platform to voice their interests and concerns on creativity and heritage, and to mobilize their talents for sustainable development.


Parallel Session 1: COVID-19 and Youth Actions

IYF alumni shared their stories in fighting against the pandemic, in mitigating its negative socioeconomic consequences, and in supporting their communities. Their words were inspiring!


  • Liu Yihan (China) initiated the “Desk for Us” project, aiming to provide one-on-one online teaching service for children living in Wuhan, China. The project, which has now been running for over 70 days, brought together 2,561 volunteers from 346 different universities, who provided about 30,000 hours of support to 558 families, through 7,210 online teaching support classes.
  • As a counsellor at the Women’s Centre of Jamaica Foundation, Margo O’Sullivan (Jamaica) and her team have been using technology to support young mothers and their families. Their virtual classroom platform offered academic instructions to students who are preparing for external examinations. The Centers offer Psychological First-Aid (PFA) through telephone calls and text messages. They conducted online training sessions to assist staff in using technology and social media, so that they could continue to provide support to clients and learn to track progress. Care packages were also issued as part of their continued social support.
  • During the past months, Kaewkhwan Ruengdecha (Thailand) has been working with Saturday School, a group of young volunteers who support “opportunity expansion schools” in Bangkok, by teaching students music, dance, board games design, photography, etc. During the lockdown, they organized an online community - the Saturday School Hub – to build capacities of alumni and volunteer teachers in distance learning.
  • Liu Xiaoxi (China) is a member of Media Arts Center of Changsha (MACC) team and during the pandemic, and were preparing a new edition of IYF. They sent cheering posters to creative cities, expressing support and blessings. They held online art residency and exhibitions with Planet P8. They participated in the planning of C + C Global Youth Innovation Partnership Program. All of these projects were follow-up implementations of Changsha Initiative, the outcome of IYF3. She believes they can provide young people more opportunities and platforms, and hopes that more and more young people can join IYF family.

Parallel Session 2: Creativity, Employment and Entrepreneurship: Challenges and Opportunities for Youth

How do increasing challenges, such as lower decent work opportunities and an uncertain future affect youth? How can they leverage their creativity and talents to overcome the hard new reality? IYFSD participants shared many thoughts and ideas.


  • Rodney Bunhiko (Zimbabwe) pointed out the tremendous impact of the health crisis on the creative sector, which provides more than 8 million jobs for youth and contributes to social cohesion in Africa, by appending its entire creative value chain (creation, production, distribution and access) and weakening the professional, social and economic status of artists and cultural professionals. He highlighted the need to develop cultural policies and funding models that adequately respond to the crisis; and called for support to creative and playful young people by fostering innovative digital environment and developing AI and digital platforms.
  • Many workers in the tourism and hospitality sector, including small restaurants, culture centers, taxi, etc., are losing jobs and incomes. The situation disproportionately affects young people, given their lower job experience and lack of contacts with potential employers. Observing this gap, Tshering Yangdon (Bhutan) started disseminating information on decent work opportunities to unemployed youth, through online and offline platforms. He believes that systematic policies and large scale programmes are needed in order to support young workers directly affected by the pandemic.
  • Nisabwe Yves (Burundi) agreed that there is the shortage of platforms for leveraging the talents and innovative capacity of young people. He shared a good example: the Youth Bank for Development, created by the Burundian government to bring together youth with complementary talents so that they can work together and launch new businesses.

Parallel Session 3: Cooperation, Inclusiveness and Mutual Learning—Silk Road Spirit in Times of the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has given us ample demonstration of how interconnected the world really is. No community is safe until all communities are safe, and no one should be left behind. The ancient Silk Roads present a model of how interconnected societies can harness their collaborative spirit to create a better future for all. What did IYFSD young participants have to say about that?


  • Manuel Aguilera (Argentina) pointed out that while we are using technology to deal with COVID-19, for example by offering distance learning solutions to school closures, we should not over-rely on technological tools: real social change requires that we discuss policies. He advocated for inclusion of young people in decisions about the post-pandemic future, pointing out how younger generations are best equipped to use technology to address challenges and opportunities. He had a clear message for IYFSD: real change depends on every one of you taking concrete action, and for us all to act together.
  • Marco Antonio Minozzo Gabriel (Italy) highlighted the tremendous impact of COVID-19 on education, due to school closures. With education systems reopening in many places, it is critical that we carefully assess learning outcomes of any alternatives to face-to-face school life that may have been put in place. He proposed cooperation to establish common tools and methods to serve as parameters for evaluating remote learning results, and for ensuring that future developments in this area are balanced and fair. What can we do to expand the reach and capacity of online education, at global level? How can we turn local realities into global perspectives, learning from each other?
  • We have a unique home that we too often take for granted. As an islander, Kavinien Karupudayyan (Mauritius) is confronted with two choices, that is, either choosing to turn his back to the ocean and believe that his island is the world, or opening up and embracing the world. We are experiencing border closures in the battle against COVID-19 but this does not mean that the world cannot continue to be a global village. With the world being connected more than ever today, technology need to be used effectively to promote solidarity and mutual understanding by harnessing the spirit of the Silk Roads."
  • Pang Yu (China) emphasized that the virus is our common enemy. No one is immune, and everyone needs and deserves encouragement. A team from Nanjing, UNESCO Creative City of Literature, designed posters to cheer for Wuhan, and to convey solidarity. They also launched activities such as “Reading Classics Together,” to bring comfort to people in confinement.