Youth Engagement for a Better World

Marcel Stefanik
IFRC coordinator on youth engagement


The Youth Engagement For A Better World  Pledge outlines Movement’s collective aspirations and commitments to champion meaningful youth engagement. Key achievements in the Pledge implementation link to:

  1. Partnerships-building and advocacy for advancing youth engagement locally, especially when it comes to under-represented, marginalised, and socially-disadvantaged youth to acquire relevant life skills while utilising peer-to-peer and inter-generational approaches.
  2.  Knowledge and expertise development in youth engagement to improve effectively the situation of children, adolescents and young adults at local, regional, national, and international levels, while at the same time, respecting the principles of genuine participation and equal partnership with youth.

Partnerships-building and advocacy for youth engagement

More specifically, the Pledge drove and guided the IFRC’s substantive contributions and lead role in preparations of the World Humanitarian Summit High-level Session on “Transforming Humanitarian Action With and For Young People” which sought to galvanize action from key humanitarian stakeholders and officially engage young people in the humanitarian action at all levels. 17 National Societies included their RCRC Youth leaders to the IFRC delegation for the WHS and these youth delegates assumed roles of speakers, facilitators, moderators, and master of ceremony highlighting the IFRC’s positions and unique role in reshaping the humanitarian aid.

As an official outcome of the WHS High level session, the Compact for Young People in Humanitarian Action was launched. It represents an unprecedented global commitment to ensure that the priorities, needs and rights of young people affected by affected by disasters, conflict, forced displacement and other humanitarian crises, are addressed and that young people are informed, consulted, and meaningfully engaged throughout all stages of humanitarian action. Its substance is built on and reinforces the IC Pledge commitments to ensure the humanitarian system systematically and structurally addresses the needs and priorities of young people including adolescents in all stages of humanitarian action.

To advance the Pledge implementation, the IFRC Secretariat accepted to co-lead the WHS Compact’s Secretariat with the UNFPA as of July 2016. Jointly with the UNFPA, the IFRC is responsible for the overall coordination and day to day operations of the Compact. The Secretariat convenes regular Compact Technical Working Group meetings and organizes the annual membership meeting. We keep track of the implementation of the work plan, communicate with all its 50 Member organisation, and keep the Members abreast of the implementation of the Compact. The Secretariat is also the first point of contact for potential new Members of the Compact.

During the World Humanitarian Day 2016, the IFRC nominated a youth leader to the UN high level panel aimed at re-invigorating the discussion on the role of young people in the humanitarian aid after the WHS.

To highlight the importance of young people in the humanitarian aid and development among the UN Member States, the IFRC also co-hosted the ‘Transforming humanitarian action for and with young people” Side event at the 71st UN General Assembly in New York and joined the High-Level Panel of the event.

Also, the IFRC hosted the 2nd Annual membership meeting of the WHS Compact for youth in humanitarian action with 41 participants representing 20 Member organisations and 3 Permanent missions (Denmark, Germany, USA) with the aim to advance delivery on the Compact core commitments.

Lastly, the Compact as a joint platform for like-minded who are committed to make this world better for every child was featured by the IFRC as the guest of honour at the Annual Conference of the Swiss Humanitarian Aid 2017. It was highlighted as a framework which provides a unique opportunity to demonstrate leadership and commitment to generating hope for children and youth in humanitarian crisis through creating a better world.

Knowledge and expertise development in youth engagement

During the Habitat III, the IFRC and ICRC organised a Movement Side-Event on the power of youth and volunteers in building resilient urban communities. The New Urban agenda makes specific reference to the need to acknowledge the challenges facing youth and the need for service provision to be sensitive to the rights and needs of youth. During the event, the IFRC called for a significant halt in treating children, adolescents, and young adults as passive recipients of aid and for provision of opportunities that facilitate their further engagement as agents of change in addressing their humanitarian needs and contribute to building resilient communities. Finally, the PASSA Youth, tailored IFRC Participatory Approach to Safe Shelter in communities (PASSA) adapted for youth was featured as a way forward in transforming neighbourhoods and creating safe shelters from “within” as it banks on the potential and value-add of youth as agents of change in community development and more specifically in identifying and addressing communal shelter-related risks.

With the Red Cross of Luxembourg, the IFRC confirmed relevance of the IFRC global youth engagement standards and approaches for staff development, especially for professional social workers engaging disadvantaged and socially marginalised youth groups.

The IFRC Youth Commission has embarked on the development of the IFRC Youth Engagement (Y.E.S.) Strategy Toolkit which aim as provided guidance on how to apply the IFRC Y.E.S. effectively in the NS and local context.

Lastly, the IFRC Youth Policy 2017 draft proposal building on the previous IFRC Youth Policies represents another milestone contribution on the side of the IFRC in developing global expertise in youth engagement – a strategic vehicle in transforming institutional and community cultures from within for a better, safer, and more equitable world where no one is left behind or out.