Meet Salim Hamouda, LearningPlanet Youth Fellow, and hear his reflections on the recent UN Youth Symposium.

“The Youth Future Zone” Symposium: Navigating Failed Youth Empowerment

I had the privilege of participating in an outstanding endeavor that epitomized the idea that youth voices are essential in determining the course of the future. As a volunteer coordinator, I participated in the United Nations Youth Symposium in Tunisia, aptly named “YOUTH FUTURE ZONE: Regional Forum,” on July 11 and 12, 2023.

This event, jointly organized by the Tunisian Ministry of Youth and Sports and seven prominent UN agencies, including IOM, UNFPA, UNICEF, FAO, UNH, and ILO, stood as a testament to the dedication towards empowering and equipping the youth with the tools they need to create a brighter tomorrow. However, hidden beneath the event’s grandiose façade: a notable absence of the youth involvement it sought to encourage.

Salim’s Role as a Volunteer Coordinator

Being selected as the coordinator of volunteers for this remarkable event was a privilege I embraced with enthusiasm. My responsibilities revolved around ensuring the smooth execution of various activities and tasks throughout the two days of the symposium. From registration desks to assisting speakers and panelists, my fellow volunteers and I formed a cohesive team dedicated to creating a welcoming and organized atmosphere for attendees. Our goal was to make every participant feel valued and engaged.

Themes and Discussions

The symposium explored key themes echoing the challenges facing Tunisian youth: Education for Decent Employment, Equipping young Tunisians for a shifting job market; Climate Change and Impact, emphasizing their role in sustainability; Sustainable and Peaceful Cities, envisioning eco-friendly urban harmony; Youth and Migration, examining integration and contributions.

Perceptive Observations and Constructive Insights: 

Despite its prestige, the symposium lacked the authentic spirit of youth engagement. Strikingly, all the speakers were seasoned experts in their fields, discussing youth-related matters. However, the event missed a crucial component – the voices of the youth themselves. The absence of youth interventions and the limited representation of youth-led organizations in giving speeches was noticeable. Youth perspectives were largely absent except for a couple of young individuals who shared their experiences with a government-sponsored rehabilitation program.

This apparent absence of youth empowerment contributed to the notable decrease in participation, as evidenced by the considerable number of participants leaving the event. It became evident that the absence of meaningful youth involvement impacted the event’s appeal and resonance, leaving a crucial demographic feeling unheard and unrepresented.

Additionally, the symposium needed more vibrant energy that often characterizes youth-led initiatives. The absence of dedicated booths or youth-led parallel sessions was apparent. Instead, the event featured what could be described as “basic” parallel training sessions. Regrettably, these sessions seemed somewhat redundant as the information conveyed was accessible and likely already known by most participants.

Conclusion: 

Reflecting on the YOUTH FUTURE ZONE symposium provided a valuable platform for collaboration and dialogue on crucial youth-centric issues. However, it’s essential to acknowledge areas for improvement. The event’s oversight in adequately including youth voices, notably through youth-led organizations and interactive sessions, limited its potential impact. Active efforts to empower and involve the youth are indispensable for such events to genuinely resonate. As Tunisia continues nurturing its youth, prioritizing their perspectives and creating spaces for meaningful participation should remain central to all endeavors.

Meet Salim Hamouda:

I am Salim Hamouda, a youth activist and Trainer from Tunisia. I work with Tunisian and International Civil Society and NGOs on social issues such as Education and Climate Justice believing in their intersectionality framework. With LearningPlanet, I have been a youth fellow and a Youth Executive Council member. I also do a lot of volunteering, and my last experience was with the UN as a volunteer coordinator.