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Youth Advisory Group: Giving young people a voice at the UN

01 June 2023

Tala Odeh was selected to be part of the Human Rights 75 Youth Advisory Group. Photo credit: Courtesy of Tala Odeh

While young people face discrimination and challenges to their rights, they are also under-represented in political institutions, with less than 3 percent of parliamentarians worldwide under 30-years-old, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union. If they don’t have a seat at the table, they are unable to have a say in their future.

To ensure that young people have a voice and a stake in revitalising the commitments made in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), UN Human Rights launched the Youth Advisory Group (YAG) as part of the Human Rights 75 Initiative, a year-long campaign to mark the 75th anniversary of the UDHR. The YAG features twelve inspiring young activists from around the world who work on various human rights issues.

“As we revive the commitments made in the UDHR, we must make sure that young people are at the centre of the debate, as they carry the torch for shaping the future of human rights, which is both their own future and the future of the planet,” said Imma Guerras Delgado, UN Human Rights’ Coordinator of the Child and Youth Rights Unit who is managing the YAG.

The Office hopes the YAG will help ensure the integration of youth perspectives into the activities of the Human Rights 75 Initiative and to ensure young people have a voice in the development of human rights commitments for the future. The YAG will also participate in the online global youth consultation in June on the future of human rights aimed at developing a HR75 Youth Declaration.

Young voices

Teaching young people about their rights and promoting youth participation is a passion for Tala Odeh, (shown above), a 24-year-old Jordanian YAG advisor and student at the University of Jordan.

Odeh developed the NAMA Network of Human Rights Defenders, a project with the Adaleh Center for Human Rights Studies in Jordan, that is creating a new generation of human rights defenders. The project resulted in establishing a youth network of human rights defenders in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen, Egypt, and Tunisia. She is also working with different national NGOs in a young leaders’ program in human rights.

“The Youth Advisory Group will give me the space to communicate the aspirations and challenges related to the youth of the MENA region,” Odeh said. “I will also be able to engage with young people form other regions around the world to find solutions and ideas that support youth participation in human rights issue.”

Kaeden Watts is an indigenous youth advocate from New Zealand. PHOTO Courtesy of Kaeden Watts

Kaeden Watts is an indigenous youth advocate from New Zealand. PHOTO CREDIT: Courtesy of Kaeden Watts

Kaeden Watts has been working on influencing change for more than five years on climate justice and indigenous rights in Aoteraroa, New Zealand. He is of Ngāi Tūhoe, Ngāti Tūwharetoa and Ngāti Maniapoto decent.

The 25-year-old activist is fighting climate change that is impacting the health of youth and indigenous peoples as a member of the International Indigenous Peoples’ Forum on Climate Change and supporting various Indigenous-led advocacy initiatives in Aotearoa New Zealand. He has worked on grassroots campaigns and has experience working within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to help marginalised and disadvantaged communities thrive.

“I really hope from this process that this relationship grows, so we can have the ability to influence and advocate for the rights of youth and the subgroups of youth that really need protection,” he said. “It's important that we have a foot in the door at the decision-making table to advocate for those rights as well.”

Guerras Delgado is looking forward to her engagement with the YAG and the meaningful impact they will make in the Office’s work.

“Having a Youth Advisory Group as part of the Human Rights 75 Initiative will ensure that the voices of young people are heard loud and clear in this discussion,” she said.