Ever wondered what it would be like to be a Youth Delegate at the UN? It’s not something unrealistic, if you want you can be one too.
I first heard of the UN Youth Delegates Program back in 2008 and since then I have wanted to represent my country at this very important international program. It did not take long for me to submit my application after I stumbled upon the call for applications for the 2013/14 term, announced and operated by the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia. Having gone through a rigorous three-stage selection process, my mandate was recognized by the two ministries in June and I embarked upon a tour to introduce myself to and consult with young people across the country.
Travels throughout Georgia proved to be thought-provoking and rewarding at the same time. Already at the beginning of my national tour, I could feel that young people lacked proper access to government authorities, media outlets, financial and employment opportunities in every corner of my country. At the same time, getting to know how progressive young people can be on topics of equality, how well informed they are on international politics and how passionate they are about their local communities, amazed me in every sense.
In October, following the youth consultations in our home countries and along with 30 other Youth Delegates from all over the world, I headed to New York for the 3rd Committee of the United Nations General Assembly, dealing with issues related to social, humanitarian and cultural affairs. While all of the Youth Delegates had an opportunity of attending 3rd Committee hearings, some of the Youth Delegates, including me, were allowed to speak in front of 193 UN Member State diplomats. In my 7-minute speech, which I delivered on October 8, I spoke on the challenges that young people face in Georgia and elsewhere, including unemployment and the quality of education. Because of its severity, an important part of my presentation was devoted to the situation of young internally displaced Georgians, those living in the Russian-occupied areas of Georgia and in its vicinity (for further information on my speech you can visit the following link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U6z54xTY2k4).
Another incredible event during my visit at the UN were the Side Events that the Youth Delegates organized on important youth-related matters. It was there that I had the chance to meet and share experiences with the UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson and UN Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth, Ahmad Alhendawi.
Another task for this year’s delegates was to follow the informal consultations concerning the biannual resolution on “Policies and Programs Involving Youth”, containing points that Member States want to highlight in regards to the situation of young people globally and outlining ways of dealing with these challenges. Usually the negotiation partakers are the diplomats working for Member State missions (Youth Delegates as an exception). As for my role, I participated on behalf of the Georgian delegation and have proposed clauses on voluntarism, civic education, leisure-time activities and the necessity of establishing youth platforms at a national level.
Although negotiations for my priorities proved to be disappointing and only one of my clauses, the on related to voluntarism, made it in the later draft (negotiations are still underway), I left the United Nations confident that we, as young people, have a voice. We are just as capable of contributing equally as our elder peers and should be motivated to spread the word about the program and allow many more youngsters to voice their ideas from the floor of the United Nations.
Do you want to know more on the Youth Delegates Program and the various ways of establishing the program in your country? Visit the following pages:
Tornike Zurabashvili, 23, is the Youth Delegate of Georgia to the United Nations. He holds a BA in International Relations from the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences of Tbilisi State University and is currently doing a Master of Public Administration at Ilia State University’s. Tornike has long been involved in youth activities. From 2008 to 2012 Tornike participated in around 25 local and international events of the European Youth Parliament and has actively contributed to the organization’s development in Georgia. In October 2013, Tornike represented his constituents as an official member of the Georgian Delegation to the UN General Assembly, where he delivered a 7-minute speech (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U6z54xTY2k4) and negotiated the UN Resolution on Youth Policies and Programs.