Role of Youth as Humanitarians

ACEI UN Representative Cassandre Guibord Cyr attended the World Humanitarian Day event in Geneva on 19 August 2016, and has shared the following report.

During the event, many key actors of the humanitarian system gathered to focus on the role and voice of the youth within humanitarian work and to introduce the Compact for Young People in Humanitarian Action. The panel was followed by a solemn commemoration ceremony for the victims of the 2003 Baghdad bombing.

Michael Moller, Director-General of the UN Office at Geneva, opened the event with a presentation about the importance of humanitarian work, and the importance of such international actions as the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs for addressing the causes, like poverty and inequalities, underpinning humanitarian crises. Moller also introduced the major theme of the meeting: The role of youth in humanitarian action—an important role, given that a majority of crises are directly affecting people under 20 years old. Moller invited the participants to engage with the five action points from the Compact for Young People in Humanitarian Action, established during the World Humanitarian Summit (Istanbul, 23-24 May 2016), in order to prioritize and create a more inclusive environment for young people in humanitarian work.

‘’The future cannot be built on a broken generation.’’

Ahamad Alhendawi, the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, also promoted the Youth Compact and stressed the necessity to be more responsive to and inclusive of youth in humanitarian crises. He also addressed the necessity for more investments in education to strengthen the prospects of a better future.

Filipo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, shared his past experiences as a humanitarian worker and reviewed his current work as a commissioner, also noting the importance of giving a voice and a role to young people in humanitarian crises. He tackled the topic of inclusion and how young refugees want to be part of the consultation process to find solutions in humanitarian situations.

Four youth representatives shared their humanitarian work experiences and focused on the importance of friendship and the gift of giving, and also discussed the need for an NGO Coordination Platform and increased inclusion of youth within the humanitarian system.

Nan Buzard, Executive Director, International Council of Voluntary Agencies, also talked about the need for further inclusion and consultation of young humanitarian workers and refugees in the humanitarian process. She also insisted that humanitarian workers should consider and integrate needs related to transition from childhood to adulthood, to think of what it means in a humanitarian crisis and what kind of support can be provided. Buzard explained that young refugees, being at the center of many crises and connecting more easily, could provide better contacts between humanitarian workers and the communities.

Youth living in the midst of humanitarian crises need a voice and humanitarian work can be strengthened by providing youth with a platform to express that voice.

Anne Bauer