The end.

The opening ceremonies of the general conference were really interesting, it was neat to see all the countries join together for such an important event and to see briefly how the general conference functions, it was a wonderful ending to our trip. Thank you all for reading our blog! What a wonderful experience it has been! 

Cheers!

Claire and Betsy 

What does social inclusion mean to you?

Well people of the Internet,

it has been quite an exciting week! Tomorrow is our last full day in Paris and we cannot believe how quickly it all flew by! It has been such an incredible experience filled with interesting new acquaintances and friends, new perspectives, ideas, and much much more! What a rewarding time we have shared with so many great people! An absolute massive thanks to the Canadian Commission for UNESCO for sending us as the Canadian Youth delegation to the 8th UNESCO Youth Forum! 

Through our time here, from the actual Forum to our time afterwards we have had the opportunity to reflect about many of the topics that have been featured during the Youth Forum; so we throw it out to you, our loyal readers, what does social inclusion mean to you? After a week of discussing the topic, we have discovered that this is not a single answer question, but one that invites a multitude of answers based on geographical location, culture, education, priorities, economic situation etc. This question is what allowed us to really appreciate the value of an international conversation! It has also served as a tool of education. Becoming more aware of why certain member states chose to prioritize certain objectives is truly fascinating, and we count ourselves extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to have been a part of this process. 

Stay tuned for an update on the opening of the general conference tomorrow! 

Good evening! We are off to climb the Eiffel Tower! 

Claire and Betsy 

Exciting times!

Hey Folks!

Wow we are meeting so many interesting people on this trip, what a privilege! Today we had the pleasure of siting down with the president of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, Dr Axel Meisen who kindly welcomed us into the offices of the permanent Canadian delegation to UNESCO. We discussed the Canadian youth recommendation and received some valuable advice and suggestions that we found very helpful as we work on our final report. Looking forward to presenting to the Canadian delegation our experiences during the Youth Forum.

President Axel

President Axel Meisen

Claire and Betsy

Coming to an end.

There are only two more days left in our Parisian UNESCO adventure and we are pleased and excited to report that it has been a wonderful experience! Over the passed few days since the closure of the Youth Forum we have been exploring Paris as well as working on our report regarding the Forum. Also, last night we had the pleasure of having dinner with Angèle and Pauline from the Canadian Commission for UNESCO as they arrived yesterday for the General Conference. What a lovely time it was! 

Claire and Betsy 

Midnight in Paris! Closing ceremonies and beyond

It’s the end of the 3-day forum and we are feeling the full range of emotions associated with the conference – intense, rewarding, amazing, even frustrating at times – all in one!! But through all of this, the forum really helped us to understand how difficult it can be to reach a consensus, and it also taught us the importance of mutual respect, collaboration, and discussion. We are very honoured to have been your Canadian representatives and we are excited to continue to work with the Canadian Commission to UNESCO to help develop a report for the Canadian delegation to the UNESCO Forum next week. We were able to collect so many great points to include in our final report and are so thankful to all the delegates that we got to meet! It was a privilege to meet you all, and we are so proud to feature your wonderful faces on our blog for all of Canada and the world to see!

The closing ceremonies featured the final document that we (the youth of the world) drafted through out the Forum and was received extremely well – which is always encouraging to hear, especially after three days of long hard work and collaboration! They also featured many thank-yous and final words. It was also rather amusing to hear the ever so popular Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” filling the hall at the end of the ceremony as all the delegates and participants (observers and such) rushed on stage to wish our new friends farewell! It seems as though our time was very short which made it bittersweet to say goodbye to everyone, as it was an absolute pleasure getting to meet youth from all corners of the world!

Denmark, Canada, and FInland!

Denmark, Canada, and FInland!

Claire didn't get the "tiger face" memo - with Ireland

Claire didn’t get the “tiger face” memo – with Ireland

Canada, Denmark, and Sweden!

Canada, Denmark, and Sweden!

Netherlands!

Netherlands!

But! That was not the end of it just yet! As some people were not leaving Paris that night we met up with several of the delegates after the closing ceremonies and walked around Paris where we continued to talk about the Forum as well as simply getting to know each other! Weaving our way towards the Champs-Élysées, we had a lovely time on this Halloween evening, as tonight the city was alive! We discovered, much to our delight, that in Paris, Halloween is a class affair, the costumes that filled the midnight streets of Paris were something out of a film! The Champs-Élysées became a catwalk of princesses, vampires, rock stars (Gene Simmons amongst the many), horses, corpse brides, Cruella Deville, the Queen of Hearts, and whatever else one’s imagination could possibly conceive! It was midnight in Paris, and the city of lights was as bright and alive as ever!

Europe and Canada hanging out on Halloween!

Europe and Canada hanging out on Halloween!

Again, what a privilege it was to meet you all. We also know that this is just the beginning – not a goodbye, but a see you later! In the same vein, the work we’ve done through the youth forum is also just the beginning and we will discuss our report and views at a later blog post!

Till next time,

Auf wiedersehen, bonsoir, goodbye, ciao…

Claire and Betsy

AU REVOIR LE MONDE! See you again soon!

AU REVOIR LE MONDE! See you again soon!

Day 3 – the last day of the forum!

Well Folks, that’s it! After an intense few days, the Youth Forum has come to an end! The closing ceremonies are about to start, so prepare yourselves for another blog post on that! It’s been a challenging couple of days, but they were incredibly rewarding! We would like to start off by thanking the Canadian Commission for UNESCO for allowing us to be here in Paris to represent Canada at the UNESCO Youth Forum!

Day 3 started bright and early at 9am to discuss Axis 2 and 3; the final recommendations. Our main mandate was to ensure Canadian perspectives were going to be reflected into the final recommendations. This morning was a jam-packed, busy and emotional day, with many delegates striving to ensure their viewpoints would be included in the final recommendations, under serious time pressure!!  It was fascinating to hear diverse perspectives from various delegates on what their main points on social inclusion were, but there were bumps along the road! There was of course a tendency for certain groups to take the lead on developing the recommendations, which the moderator addressed, and which led to some tensions but also to a solution.

When it comes to voicing opinions in the plenary, a non-confrontational approach is not really ideal. Delegates who hadn’t had the chance to speak up as much on the 3rd day found a solution. We couldn’t help but notice a group of delegates in the final Axis 3 meeting, working at the back – curious as to what they were up to, and powered by a spirit of inclusion (and just general curiosity), Betsy joined them to see what they were working on: it was a new recommendation for Axis 3! We read it over carefully and found that not only was in line with Canada’s position, but that we would work together to add a few key words. We added Canada’s name to the list of contributors and collaborated closely with the delegates from Korea, Singapore, India, Indonesia, China, and more.

Betsy sharing ideas to formulate into a recommendation with other delegates

Through collaboration with several members of the forum from diverse regions of the world, we were satisfied. The final recommendations addressed the issues brought up by Canadians through our consultations, and this our last day, we saw that on culture (under which biosphere reserves and world heritage sites would fall) and immigrant rights were mentioned, as these were a few points particularly highlighted by the Canadian youth we consulted that fit into the theme of day 3.

All in all, we are very happy about the collaboration and networking that this forum afforded us. The forum really demonstrates how important it is to cooperate and have an open mind when trying to accomplish goals collectively…as well as how difficult it can be. We note that the layout and structure of the forum is one that tends to privilege those personalities and cultures that are more extroverted. We have learned two important things as Day 3 draws to a close and we have completed the 10 recommendations: the importance of developing networks outside of a formal setting, and how this really helps advance our personal network and our ideas exchanges.

The forum is nowhere near long enough for by the time we made some good connections it already time to say goodbye! The 8th UNESCO Youth Forum was an absolutely fabulous experience and we are so grateful that we got to be a part of it!

Betsy and Claire

Meet Ahmed Alhendawi

Meet Ahmed Alhendawi, the United Nations Secretary-General’s special envoy on youth! (Spoiler alert: He’s awesome!)

Mr. Alhendawi spoke at the opening ceremonies of the 8th Youth Forum. The points that really stood out to us during Mr. Alhendawi’s speech and spoke about the importance for us youth to work together, urging us to connect and cooperate. He also underlined the importance of networks, and in general, charmed us with his passion and dedication to his mandate.

The Special Envoy on Youth’s role is to bring youth voices and perspectives to the United Nations. It is so encouraging to see how the United Nations continues to prioritize youth issues – especially for having appointed such an approachable and dedicated person for the role. Kudos, United Nations; kudos, Ban Ki Moon – Mr. Alhendawi is a very engaging and approachable person, and we are extremely happy about the hard work he has been doing in working with youth! We hope to hear more great things coming from him!

Learn more about him at this link: http://www.un.org/youthenvoy/fr/a-propos-de-lenvoye/

Meeting Mr. Alhendawi

Meeting Mr. Alhendawi

Day 2 of Youth Forum: Live update!

Good Morning Folks!

Canadian Youth delegation with Ambassador Blackburn and Dominique Levasseur

Canadian Youth delegation with Ambassador Blackburn and Dominique Levasseur

We are writing live from the Youth Forum! This morning we had the privilege to meet with Ambassador Blackburn, Canadian Ambassador to UNESCO. We shared our initial thoughts of the conference as well as our recommendations that were drawn out of the consultations. Betsy and I found it very rewarding to be able to share our thoughts with Ambassador Blackburn, and definitely felt our meeting was a great highlight of the Forum so far! More to come on the going-ons of today!

Claire and Betsy

We are discussing the youth recommendations we created through our consultations

We are discussing the youth recommendations we created through our consultations

Conversation with Ambassador Blackburn and Dominique Levasseur

Conversation with Ambassador Blackburn and Dominique Levasseur

Properly Exhausted, yet Extremely Excited

Good evening kind people who take the time to read our blog, we appreciate it very much!

As I very clearly pointed out in the title, we are very tired, but in a good way! After a long day of plenary sessions and networking we are finding our experience at the Youth Forum increasingly rewarding! As mentioned in the previous post, we began our day having a morning coffee with Ambassador Blackburn, we are very grateful for that opportunity as it was very informative and encouraging.

Next up, plenary working group on the recommendations; here we went through the recommendations that were drafted yesterday point by point, sentence by sentence, and yes (I kid you not, really) word by word. This portion lasted all day, with the exception of a lunch break of course, and resulted in final propositions which we are glad to report incorporate some of the aspects of our Canadian recommendations. Unfortunately the plenary session took so long we did not have the time to complete every section of the recommendations today, however we are to continue tomorrow in the final stages of the conference. These sessions, although at times pointing towards “information overload” and as I like to call it “big-words no-point syndrome”, which is unavoidable I think, were very informative.

It was so neat to hear what points were valued in which countries and how others reacted to the discussions. It truly was an international discussion, which was, (there’s just no other way to say it), SO COOL!!! After we wrapped up for the day a large number of the delegates and observers all went to mingle and network, basically getting to know new and interesting people, until we were to reconvene for a few meetings regarding European North American action projects and the drafting of an introduction. At some point in all of that we had dinner, but in the blur of the excitement, it was but a small detail of a wonderful day.

We are so excited to see what tomorrow will bring, and sad that it is already the final day. We have already learned so much, and shared so many wonderful experiences that it makes this truly an unforgettable chapter in our personal education of global citizenship. This Forum really highlight the importance of listening and interacting with the global community as a means to achieving and identifying common goals amongst member states.

Going back to the title here: time for bed! One day left, so let’s make it count!

Claire and Betsy

Claire during the plenary session

Claire during the plenary session

Canada has the floor

Canada has the floor

Betsy in the plenary session

Betsy in the plenary session

Plenary session

Plenary session

Day 3 in Paris: Day 1 of Youth Forum!!!

Hello kind readers!

Well it has been an incredibly rewarding, informative and long day here in Paris and we are exhausted, satisfied and eager for more! This morning we woke up bright and early after a solid four hour sleep (apparently this jet lag thing is real). But no worries, let not our sleep deprived selves prevent us from having a good day – a good breakfast and cup of café au lait made it all better! Off we went to the youth forum for the opening ceremonies at 9:45am. The room was abuzz with the excitement of hundreds and hundreds of delegates, observers, and youth participants from all over the world.

If we could sum up the day in a few words, it would be: chance encounters, networking, intense discussion, and sitting on the edge of seats ready to participate. There are so many quotes, inspirational words, and in-depth topics to cover, one can easily be overwhelmed by information overload. However, as Nick, the 17 year old app producer wisely said on the stage, ‘if you are ever faced with information overload, simplify it.’ By ‘simplifying it’, we mean returning back to the theme of UNESCO and remembering that we are here to express not our personal views, but the views of the youth that we consulted over the past month.

The opening ceremonies set the tone for the conference: these were, without a doubt, some of the most inspiring speakers we have ever had the privilege to hear, including a welcome message from Ms. Irina Bokova, UNESCO’s Director-General (ps. First woman to EVER hold that title). Also presenting at the opening ceremonies were well-spoken youth that shared their stories of entrepreneurship, sport, overcoming barriers to physical disability, and more.

Axis discussion

Axis discussion on Policy formulation and review with the participation of youth

The youth-led thematic plenary debate took place shortly thereafter, and Claire and I were very eager to get to work to share Canadian perspectives on youth and social inclusion. Throughout the day, we found it to be an incredibly useful tool that we had gone through a consultation process prior to coming to Paris, as our insights into what Canadian youth think were useful in understanding Axis 1: Policy Formulation and review with the participation of youth. As much as Jimmy had told us that consultation processes were very useful in preparing the Canadian position, we only realized just how useful it was to have a solid set of recommendations from Canadians during the debates. Once more…thank you to our in-person and online consultation participants for all the important perspectives. We are really striving to mention all the important points that were brought up to represent Canadian youth to be best of our abilities! We also had a great discussion with one of the secretariats about policy formulation, which helped us contextualize our position.

Claire in the Axis meeting

Claire in the Axis meeting

Betsy in the Axis Meeting

Betsy in the Axis Meeting

Lots for one day, But the day was not done just yet! We have a lot of preparations for tomorrow and the last day. Our personal goals are first and foremost, to come prepared bright and early to give a presentation to a very important member of UNESCO tomorrow. Also, we are excited to explore different axis groups to plug in the rest of our recommendations that we got from the Canadian consultations.

We finished off our day with a lovely walk in what is truly the city of lights; We are including in this post the event that made miss Betsy absolutely overjoyed: the Eiffel Tower twinkling in the evening glow of Paris!!
Sleep tight!

Betsy and Claire

This 17 year old kid (Nick) had such valuable things to say! We were inspired!

This 17 year old kid (Nick) had such valuable things to say! We were inspired!

The key to Betsy's heart and smile! Twinkly lights in the soft moonlight!

The key to Betsy’s heart and smile! Twinkly lights in the soft moonlight!

Irina Bokova opening the Forum

Irina Bokova opening the Forum