13th UNESCO Youth Forum: Nurturing Global Youth Advocacy for Climate Action

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By Nita Duru

In an impactful convergence of ideas and aspirations, the 13th UNESCO Youth Forum unfolded virtually from November 14th to the 15th, 2023, at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris. This biennial event, a beacon of youth representation, gathered voices from 195 Member States, weaving a vibrant tapestry of global youth perspectives.

Since its inception in 1999, the UNESCO Youth Forum has served as a vital platform for youth to voice their concerns and ideas to Member States. Beyond being a forum, it stands as a powerful catalyst in shaping UNESCO’s direction, with discussions leading to recommended actions presented at the UNESCO General Conference. Over the years, it has evolved into a critical space where the youth can influence policy decisions on a global scale.

Against the backdrop of alarming statistics—83% of youth believe humanity has failed to care for the planet. With the impending 1.5°C warming threshold, 70% of young people express deep concern about climate change and the significant emissions contribution from the top 10 countries—the UNESCO Youth Forum emerges as a crucial space for young changemakers to influence policy decisions. It’s a platform where statistics turn into voices and concerns transform into actionable solutions.

This year’s theme, focused on the Social Impacts of Climate Change and the imperative for an equitable climate transition, comes at a pivotal moment. The voices of young people, increasingly vocal about the threats climate change poses to their future, resonate through the forum’s discussions. The event not only emphasizes the urgent need for action but also propels youth-led initiatives in climate change and sustainable development to the forefront.

Despite being instrumental in driving innovation for an equitable climate transition, young people often grapple with limited resources and space to transform their ideas into impactful actions. The forum aims to bridge this gap, offering a dedicated platform for young changemakers to engage in discussions and collaboratively create solutions for the social impacts of climate change. It’s more than a discussion—it’s a workshop of ideas turning into blueprints for change.

The forum’s theme, “Empowering Youth for a Sustainable Future,” echoed throughout the day as keynote speakers from the education, technology, and environmental advocacy sectors enriched the event with their insights. It wasn’t just about discussions; it was about laying the groundwork for actionable change. The day witnessed a series of interactive workshops, providing a space for hands-on activities, fostering creativity, and promoting collaboration among the youth. It’s in these workshops that ideas take shape and gain momentum.

A noteworthy initiative emerged from the forum—a global youth-led project aimed at promoting digital literacy and inclusivity in education. This tangible outcome stands as a testament to the potential of collective energy and the passion of young leaders to drive positive change. It’s not just an idea; it’s a project with the potential to change lives and communities.

The UNESCO Youth Forum places significant emphasis on intercultural dialogue and understanding, underscoring the importance of fostering connections beyond borders. In an era marked by formidable global challenges, the event highlighted the resilience and determination of youth to create positive change. It’s not just about addressing local issues; it’s about understanding that local actions have global consequences.

As the forum draws to a close, its impact is expected to reverberate not only within the virtual confines of the UNESCO Headquarters but also in the hearts and minds of participants spread across the globe. The 13th UNESCO Youth Forum has not merely provided a platform for dialogue but has ignited a spark of inspiration that will undoubtedly propel the journey toward a more sustainable and inclusive future. It’s not just an event; it’s a beginning—a call to action that extends far beyond the forum itself.

The forum commenced with an inaugural session featuring the popular K-pop group, Seventeen, adding a unique dimension to the event. Their participation, acknowledged by UNESCO, not only brought cultural richness but also emphasized the significance of youth empowerment and collective action on a global stage. It wasn’t just about words; it was about cultural exchange and the acknowledgement that diverse voices strengthen the global chorus for change.

A comprehensive approach will be employed to encompass all aspects falling within UNESCO’s mandate. Anticipated outcomes of the Forum include policy recommendations and youth-led solutions aimed at tackling the identified challenges. With the backing of Member States and, notably, through the UNESCO Global Youth Grant Scheme and its associated new Multi-Donor Special Account, UNESCO aims to enhance its ability to effectively follow up on the Forum’s conclusions. This involves providing support for the most impactful solutions proposed by participants and guiding them through the implementation phase, including capacity-building initiatives. It’s not just about discussions; it’s about making sure that discussions translate into tangible actions.

The spotlight on the social impacts of climate change and the imperative for an equitable climate transition showcased the pivotal role of young people in addressing climate challenges. The forum served as a crucial platform for youth engagement, enabling participants to share perspectives, insights, and innovative solutions related to climate change. In conclusion, the 13th UNESCO Youth Forum stands as a testament to the unwavering commitment of young people to address pressing global issues, particularly the urgent need to mitigate the social impacts of climate change. Through vibrant discussions, insightful debates, and active participation, the forum has underscored the pivotal role of young voices in driving positive change for a sustainable future. As the virtual doors of the UNESCO Headquarters close on this edition of the forum, they open wider for the youth to carry forward the torch of progress and innovation in their respective communities, heralding a brighter and more sustainable tomorrow.

In the end, it’s not just a forum; it’s a testament to the power of youth advocacy—a call to nurture, empower, and sustain the global chorus for climate action.


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