The 7th UNESCO Youth Forum was held at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris from October 17-21, 2011. The Forum brought together 210 youth delegates representing 127 countries, civil society participants, UN entities, intergovernmental organizations, academics and the private sector to discuss and exchange ideas on the main theme “How Youth Drive Change.” At the invitation of UNESCO Youth Section, the Goi Peace Foundation participated in the Forum as a key partner of UNESCO and contributed to the production of the event.
The UNESCO Youth Forum, held biannually prior to UNESCO’s General Conference, offers the opportunity for young delegates from all over the world to exchange views, share experiences, reflect together and, above all, detect common preoccupations and problems. The event allows young people to voice their ideas and concerns and make suggestions directly to the UNESCO General Conference, the Organization’s highest decision-making body.
Today’s youth are raising their voices to shape the present and futures of their countries. They want to be heard, to be included in decision-making debates and to make change. Student engagement, social innovation, fostering democracy, youth employment, conflict and sustainable development were among the issues that were discussed on the floor of the 7th UNESCO Youth Forum.
The Goi Peace Foundation contributed to the Forum by organizing inspirational programs for all forum participants: a two-and-a-half-hour cultural event in the evening of October 19 and a World Peace Flag and Peace Pole Dedication Ceremony on October 20, marking a memorable closing of the UNESCO Youth Forum. In addition, the Foundation supported the participation of some of the youth from least developed countries and disadvantaged groups. Goi Peace Foundation information booth was also set up at the Youth Expo and well visited by many participants.
On October 19, the Goi Peace Foundation hosted a cultural event entitled “How Youth Drive Change – An Evening of Inspiration” in the prestigious Room 1 at UNESCO Fontenoy building as part of the official program of the UNESCO Youth Forum. The objective of the event was to empower the youth to take on initiatives which are in service of their communities and societies, and at the same time honor planet Earth, its unique biodiversity and cultural diversity.
After the opening remarks delivered by Ms. Pilar Alvarez-Laso, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences, who welcomed the Goi Peace Foundation’s crucial contribution to the 7th UNESCO Youth Forum, Mr. Hiroo Saionji, President of the Goi Peace Foundation, greeted the few hundred participants. In his speech, he referred to the devastating impact the March 11 big earthquake and tsunami had on Japan, calling it “a wake-up call, not only for Japan, but for all members of humanity.” He saluted the young people in Japan who are spearheading restoration efforts, and also congratulated young social innovators around the world, who are doing outstanding work to create a better global society.
Keynote speaker of the evening was Professor Günter Faltin, who teaches entrepreneurship at Free University of Berlin and promotes a new culture of entrepreneurship based on the principle of simplicity. He emphasized that everybody has the talent and skills to be an entrepreneur, and that a good and successful enterprise always has a positive impact on society.
This was followed by inspirational presentations from three young social innovators, who are effecting dynamic social change around the world.Melody Hussaini, founder and director of InspirEngage, has empowered over a million young people in over 100 countries and has improved the lives of children and young people. In her presentation, Melody gave some examples of how she champions young people by providing skills development training for them to develop as leaders and change agents.Rabee’ Zureikat, founder of the Zikra Exchange Initiative, introduced the new form of tourism he is promoting to challenge existing social systems. He explained how he is successfully narrowing the social-economic divide within societies in his homeland Jordan by helping marginalized rural communities rediscover their strengths and by exposing economically powerful urban communities to new cultural and regional perspectives.Nipun Mehta is the founder of ServiceSpace, an organization founded by volunteers and run by volunteers, reaching out to millions of people to inspire greater volunteerism. His organization’s projects range from a daily positive news service, to an acts-of-kindness portal, to a gift-economy restaurant. Nipun inspired the audience with his new concept of “Giftivism”-the practice of radically generous acts to change the world.
In the next part of the program, some of the youth related projects of the Goi Peace Foundation were introduced.
Three winners of the International Essay Contest for Young People co-organized by UNESCO and the Goi Peace Foundation: Luciana Grosu from Romania (2006 winner in the youth category), Alline Kabbatende from Rwanda (2010 winner in the youth category), and Angelina Yudina from Russia (2010 winner in the children category) shared their stories of how winning the essay contest has affected their lives and how they are continuing to work towards a peaceful world each in their own way.
Also, Patrick Petit, European representative of the Goi Peace Foundation, introduced a new project in the planning, namely the Sustainable Development Youth Project Competition. This new initiative will invite young people from around the world to submit their innovative project proposals to solve some of the key challenges of today, and award the best projects with mentorship and seed money to launch them.
As the cultural highlight of the event and premiere at UNESCO, award-winning director and violinist Kenji Williams performed BELLA GAIA (Beautiful Earth)–a multimedia show featuring live violin music performance against a large-screen backdrop of orbiting visualizations of Earth. Simulating space flight, BELLA GAIA expresses the deeply moving beauty of planet Earth as seen through the eyes of astronauts, including scientific visualizations of the global environment such as ice melt time-lapse and forest fires in the Amazon. During the performance, youth delegates representing five regions of the world came up on stage and voiced their commitment to honor and nurture all life on our planet by reciting the Declaration for All Life on Earth.
The whole program was moderated by Monique Coleman, American actress and singer and the United Nations Youth Champion. Quite inspired by all the speakers and performers, Monique helped build the energy of the gathering with her excitement and beautiful remarks. At the reception following the cultural event, many participants expressed their amazement saying that it was the best and most impressive program of the entire Forum.
World Peace Flag Ceremony and Peace Pole Dedication Ceremony
On the last day of the UNESCO Youth Forum, youth delegates participated in a long and intensive discussion to produce their Final Report. After the report was finally presented to UNESCO Director General Mrs. Irina Bokova and to the President of the UNESCO General Conference, Ambassador Davidson L. Hepburn, the Goi Peace Foundation was called upon to present the closing ceremony.
All youth delegates were invited up on stage to each hold a flag of any of the UNESCO Member States and celebrate their unity in diversity. Exhilarated with a sense of accomplishment, the youth waved the flags joyfully, repeating together “May Peace Prevail on Earth.”
Many youth delegates stated that simply holding and waving a flag and watching others waving the flags of many other countries gave them the strong feeling of belonging to a global family, which transcends national boundaries. This is precisely what a World Peace Flag Ceremony aims to achieve and what all participants would take home and treasure in their hearts.
Amidst this colorful flag ceremony, Mr. and Mrs. Saionji presented the Peace Pole to UNESCO Director-General Mrs. Irina Bokova on behalf of the Goi Peace Foundation and the youth delegates of the 7th UNESCO Youth Forum. The special Peace Pole carries the message “May Peace Prevail on Earth” in the six official UN languages and the word ‘peace’ creatively written by each of the youth delegates in their own language. Mrs. Bokova accepted the Peace Pole with joy, and gave the final touch to it by writing ‘peace’ in her native language Bulgarian and placing it in the center of the pole. The Peace Pole will eventually find its permanent location at UNESCO Headquarters.
All in all, the Goi Peace Foundation contributed to the great success of the UNESCO Youth Forum. Its program activities inspired and empowered the vast majority of youth delegates and Forum participants. Building on this milestone event, UNESCO and the Goi Peace Foundation are looking forward to further developing our partnership and collaboration in the coming years.