How young people around the world can be engaged to ensure education meets their needs is the focus of a policy forum in Paris being co-hosted by the University of Ulster this week.
The University’s UNESCO Centre for Research on Children and Youth has organised the 'Plan With Youth' Policy Forum alongside the UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP) at the organisation’s Paris headquarters.
Entitled ‘Engaging Youth in Planning Education for Social Transformation’, the forum is focusing on how young people can help shape education systems to cater for their educational, social, cultural and professional needs.
The two UNESCO Chairs on the island of Ireland, Professor Alan Smith at the University of Ulster and Professor Pat Dolan from the National University of Ireland, Galway have been instrumental in arranging the high-profile event.
Professor Smith said: “Recent events in the Arab world, and the strong involvement of young people in the international agenda, such as Rio+20, have shown how youth across the world are exerting influence and speaking up as never before.
“In this context, the 'Plan With Youth' Policy Forum is part of the global UN initiative to ensure that the priorities of youth are heard and addressed in the forthcoming years.
“Young people have the right to be consulted on decisions that will affect them, but more than this, young people have the knowledge, talent and experience to contribute to the decisions that will affect them.
“In Northern Ireland, we need to move from a situation where children and young people are not merely seen as adults in waiting, but people with their own rights and responsibilities, people with contributions to make in the here and now.
“The Policy Forum will bring together youth, policy-makers, academics and practitioners from around the world in a unique and interactive dialogue to promote the engagement of youth in educational planning.
“The goal is to create a concrete agenda for action based on the key recommendations emerging from the Policy Forum and the virtual debates, which will then be taken forward in a number of countries as part of a follow-up programme.”
Professor Anne Moran, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Educational Partnerships and International Affairs, who is representing the University of Ulster at the Forum, said it had real significance for all those working with young people in Northern Ireland.
“We should not simply believe that the conclusions and recommendations reached by the 'Plan With Youth' Policy Forum apply only to countries recently emerging from conflict in Africa or Asia,” she said.
“That would be a mistake.Levels of youth unemployment in Northern Ireland continue to grow at an alarming rate; currently almost one in four young people in Northern Ireland are unemployed.For many young people across Northern Ireland disaffection and alienation are becoming part of an increasingly concerning narrative.
“We all know when authority figures pay lip service to our needs and concerns.Young people are no different. The problems faced by young people in Northern Ireland have striking parallels with young people in other parts of the world.
“Of course, it should not be this way. Instead of seeing young people as a problem, we need to see them as our greatest asset. We need to develop plans and priorities that engage them, that give them a voice, and that give them a role.It is in this spirit that the Policy Forum will address the issues that matter to young people.”
For more information on the 'Plan With Youth' Policy Forum please see www.planwithyouth.org
Further Information: James Dillon 0774 983 3272