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Last week, the European Youth Forum was at the United Nations Commission for Social Development (11-21 February) working to put the spotlight on the necessity and urgency of a rights-based approach for youth at the UN.

To bring attention to the topic of youth rights and to discuss the key challenges and discrimination young people face, the European Youth Forum hosted a side event, on 13 February. The side event, entitled, “Youth Rights: Time for Action! Promoting equality for young people” was jointly organised with the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, UN Human Rights Office, and the Permanent Missions of Portugal and El Salvador. The event focused on joining the dots between the UN’s work on human rights in Geneva and its work on youth in the context of social development in New York.

People participating in the side event

There has been an increased focus on youth across the work of the UN, including the recognition of young people as key stakeholders in peace processes and as critical agents in the work towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The launch of the UN Youth Strategy last year, also recognises young people as rights-holders.

However, further action from the UN and its Member States is needed. A report on youth and human rights from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights showed that youth still face difficulties in accessing their rights due to their age and persisting gaps in protection. The European Youth Forum’s side event brought up many key discussions, including the critical need to break down silos between UN processes and work on youth taking place in New York and Geneva. The proposal that the Commission for Social Development in New York could take a stronger role in focusing on the implementation, and the gaps in implementation, of young people’s rights was also raised.

Throughout the week, Youth Forum representatives were also able to bring the discussion on youth rights further with the UN Human Rights Office in New York, the Youth Envoy, the UN Programme on Youth, the International Labour Organisation, UNDP and some Member State representatives.

Tweet from Francois Balate who was present at the UN Commission for Social Development. "Reducing inequalities is a key focus of today's discussion. Reality check: young people are not equal when it comes to access to #humanrights and #socialprotection".

The theme of this year’s Commission for Social Development was “Addressing inequalities and challenges to social inclusion through fiscal, wage and social protection policies”. This year, a resolution on policies and programmes involving youth is also being negotiated, for adoption in the week of 18 February, as a follow-up to the World Programme of Action for Youth. In this context the Youth Forum also submitted a written statement focusing on the barriers and rights violations that young people in Europe face in wage and social protection policies, including youth minimum wages, unpaid internships and age-based discrimination in access to social protection. Read it here.

The international context for promoting and protecting human rights is still very challenging. This only makes our work all the more important and the Youth Forum will keep fighting for youth rights.

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