On February 6 Finland, the European Youth Forum (YFJ), and the Finnish National Youth Council, Allianssi organised, in New York a youth side-event to the 47th Session of the United Nations Commission for Social Development, chaired by Finland and held under the priority theme of “Social Integration”. Volunteering is a driving force in youth organisations. The organisers believe that recognition and support for young volunteers in youth organisations is extremely important to strengthen the sustainability of youth organisations and allow them to play a key role in youth participation in decision-making at all levels and in community development in general.
The side-event created a space for reflection at the UN on the role of volunteering as a tool for participation, development and change. Young people and experts on youth gathered together with representatives of the Finnish government to discuss the importance of the follow-up of the UN GA Resolution on Volunteering adopted last year and its connection with the adoption in 2009 of Goals and Targets on Youth Participation, in the frame of the implementation of the World Programme of Action for Youth.
The Finnish Minister of Social Affairs and Health, Paula Risikko, outlined in particular the role of National Youth Councils in this process: “I fully agree with the Secretary General’s latest report on the implementation of the World Programme of Action for Youth, in which the value of National Youth Councils is recognised. In ensuring the full of effective participation of youth in society, it is obvious that all young people must be taken into account.”
The connection between youth participation and youth rights was stressed as well in the interventions of the experts of UN Youth Unit and of representatives of UNICEF. By providing opportunities for volunteering and participation, youth organisations are able to make young people committed, thus contributing to the enhancement of their social integration and full realisation as citizens.
"The recognition of youth NGOs and their role in decision-making,” notes Christoffer Grønstad, Vice-President of the European Youth Forum, “is far stronger in Europe than on the global level. Therefore, this opportunity to work with the Finnish Government and strengthen the UN agenda on youth is very important to us. This is particularly important in a time when the UN is going through extensive reform and also aiming at better coordination of their work with and for youth, a job the YFJ has asked for a long time."