Giving young people a voice in international politics and demonstrating what is important to them – this is the goal of the engagement of the two youth delegates Katharina Buch and Eric Klausch with the United Nations. The United Nations recommends that its member states include youth delegates in their delegations. Since 2005, two young people from Germany have attended the General Assembly in New York each year. On Tuesday (8 November), Katharina and Eric held a debriefing session at the Federal Foreign Office.
Impressions from New York
“We wanted to encourage the delegates to dream. We asked them the same question we had previously posed to hundreds of children and young people: When you think of the future, what do you see?” On Tuesday evening, the two youth delegates Katharina Buch and Eric Klausch reported on their experiences in October during the 71st General Assembly in New York. In preparation, the two delegates had conducted a tour of Germany during the spring and summer, in the course of which they talked to young people in the country and documented their views. At panel discussions with youth associations, schools and universities, they were able to find out what young people in Germany are passionate about as well as their opinions on various political topics.
Giving young people a voice
In October, armed with their impressions and ideas from their tour of Germany, they then set off for New York to represent the interests of the young people in their country. One of the ways they were able to do this was by giving a speech to the Third Committee of the General Assembly – an opportunity to address the international community and give young people a voice. The youth delegates are not bound to the Government’s stance and can freely express their own views. “Through our speech we wanted to show that, as the young generation, we want and are able to have a say. We call for our generations to come together to dream about the future and then to cooperate to make this dream a reality,” explained Eric, describing the gist of their speech.
A look behind the scenes
After their big moment in the UN General Assembly, there were numerous meetings with UN representatives and politicians on the agenda. “As well as the debates in the Third Committee, the general debate and the side events, we also attended so‑called informals,” the two young people reported. That gave them the opportunity to take a brief look behind the scenes. Content‑wise, “three dossiers were particularly interesting – ”Violence against women and girls“, ”Protecting children from bullying“ and ”Rights of the child“”.
To improve networking between the voluntary programme in different countries and raise its profile worldwide, Katharina and Eric organised an event entitled “Widening and deepening the UN Youth Delegate Programme” together with the youth delegates from Hungary and Belgium at the German House in New York. They showed no sign of getting fed up with politics: “There's no sign of that among the youth delegates. We got to know 62 dedicated and very competent young people from 35 countries, who are politically active and shoulder considerable responsibility”, Katharina summed up in response to the question of whether the youth of today was interested and engaged in political issues.
The project to send German youth delegates to the General Assembly is funded by the United Nations Association of Germany and the German National Committee for International Youth Work, and is also supported by the Federal Foreign Office and the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth. In the United Nations, the General Assembly deals with youth issues in the Third Committee. At the beginning of the committee’s session, the youth delegates have the opportunity to address the committee to inform member states about the situation, needs and visions of young people in Germany.