Symbolic Change or Real Hope?– Part I — Global Issues

  • Opinion by Simone Galimberti (kathmandu, nepal)
  • Inter Press Service

There are many risks that this potential “gamechanger”, the opportunity of having young people better represented within the UN, would turn just into a gimmick, a tokenistic progress.

After all, the way that the whole UN system has been designed and evolved, is stacked against bold reforms and radical shifts are opposed. There is an overall staunching tendency to counter and refrain from undertaking any major reform. This is not because the resistance coming from the member states alone.

It’s also the way agencies, programs and departments within the UN tend to work and operate. Certainly, none of them are losing sleep over the appointment of Dr. Paullier, a medical doctor by training and currently the head of the youth agency in his native Uruguay.

The reason is that the position of Assistant Secretary-General for Youth Affairs in place is not a real breakthrough or at least, it is not yet a breakthrough. Certainly, it is a positive evolution, and Dr Paullier has definitely his work cut out. Yet he could, with some help, turn his new position in a powerful figure within the UN and beyond.

The positive factor is that, as an outsider of the UN, he can bring in fresh ideas and his ways of thinking won’t be conditioned nor limited by the structural constraints, procedural, administrative but also in mindsets, that are all imbedded in the system.

Resources will be needed and a lot of them

The first task for Dr Paullier is building, almost from scratch, the UN Youth Office. This is itself a recently new institution based on what was the Office of the Youth Envoy that was directly responding to the UN Secretary General.

Resources, a lot of them, will be needed to enable the Office to have its voice heard across the table of those who hold power and sway within the UN HQ in New York.

In relation to the finances, optimistically speaking, it should not difficult to find member states or even major philanthropic organizations like Ford Foundation, the Open Societies Foundation or Rockefeller Foundation, willing to step in.

Resources will be certainly needed to recruit a strong but agile team. Ideally Dr. Paullier could bring in some passionate young officers within the UN System, especially those who have a rare quality for the UN: an out of the box mentality.

With them, new members should also come from outside the UN orbit, from both the global civil society but also from the private sector. Only such a good mix could potentially create some positive disruptions in New York where the UN HQ is located.

A seat on the tables that count

In terms of influencing the decision-making process and have the voice of Dr. Paullier heard, Secretary General Antonio Guterres could do his bit. He should ensure that the new Assistant Secretary-General for Youth Affairs is nominated in the Senior Management Group (SMG) that consists of his most senior aides, all high-ranking officers.

In addition, Mr. Guterres should facilitate that the UN Youth Office gains a seat on the table with United Nations Sustainable Development Group that, serving as “a high-level forum for joint policy formation and decision-making”, brings together, twice a year, all the heads of agencies, programs and department.

A holistic and Broad Review Process

Second, if provided with power and resources, Dr. Paullier should start a serious process of review of the work done so far by the UN for and with the youths.

For example, Dr. Paullier should a undertake a major “system” review of the UN Youth Strategy. The process must be open, an inclusive, transparent process that assesses its progress and its setbacks.

This would be way beyond the existing practice of reporting on the progress of implementing the Strategy. Learning from the existing progress review exercises, that happens annually, makes sense but the scope of the work could be made wider, radically open and more inclusive.

In addition, the UN Youth Office could facilitate a major and more specific assessment exercise of each entity within the UN System. This would be surely a bold and radical undertaking that would go much deeper than simply reporting on implementation of the strategy as it happens now.

Building on The Youth2030 Scorecard for UN Entities that was prepared by the outgoing Youth Envoy, Ms. Jayathma Wickramanayake, the UN Youth Office should do something bolder.

Dr. Paullier and his team should go beyond providing guidance, the technical parameters through which agencies and programs should assess their work with youth.

They should do more: carrying out its independent evaluation in each agency and program within the UN System. Will the new Assistant Secretary-General for Youth Affairs muster the political skills for this massive exercise that that, probably, would necessarily require the involvement of third-party consultancies?

Implementing the Policy Brief

Any review and plans being charted out by the UN Youth Office also needs to make efforts to provide pathways to implement Meaningful Youth Engagement in Policy and Decision-making Processes.

This is one among the many Policy Briefs that are laying the ground for of Our Common Agenda, the ambitious plan of reforms proposed by the Office of the Secretary General that should discussed and finalized during the Summit of the Future next year.

Interestingly, this Brief already offers key principles on meaningful youth engagement, that could offer the parameters against which the work of each entity within the UN System could be assessed against.

The true is that while the Policy Brief comes up with some interesting ideas, none of them is truly transformative. Perhaps the most promising among them is creating a standing United Nations Youth Townhall that is supposed to be a platform where youths can be engaged with.

A key task of the new Assistant Secretary-General for Youth Affairs would be coming up with some practical proposals on how to “concretize” and make practical this idea.

This is a series of two opinion pieces focused on the recent appointment of Dr. Felipe Paullier of Uruguay as the first Assistant Secretary-General for Youth Affairs. The series offers some ideas and advice on how this new position within the UN System can truly be transformative.

Simone Galimberti, based in Kathmandu, is the Co-Founder of ENGAGE and The Good Leadership. He writes about reforming the UN, the role of youth, volunteerism, regional integration and human rights in the Asia Pacific region.

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© Inter Press Service (2023) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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