Elevating Youth Voices Through Youth Councils

Zeenat Rahman
December 6, 2012

Over the past four years, Secretary Clinton has prioritized engaging diverse groups of young people around the world, underpinned by the belief that because young people are more connected and engaged to the wider world than previous generations, the United States needs to forge new, meaningful relationships with this cohort. With youth populations burgeoning around the world, young people are a vital component of civil society and the Department of State cannot accomplish its diplomatic goals if young people are marginalized from decision-making processes.

My office, the Office of Global Youth Issues, seeks to support the dialogue and interactions that the State Department's diplomats have with youth in order to amplify young people's perspectives and concerns. Underlying all of our activities is the idea that we must empower and support young people as they transform their communities with their ideas, energy, and talent. One of the ways we can do so is to elevate their voices and to actively listen to their ideas, concerns, and aspirations. This means demonstrating to young people that we value their opinions and their creativity. We are working with our embassies and consulates to establish Youth Councils around the globe.

These councils are a mechanism to partner with emerging young leaders to address our shared challenges. From Brasilia to Baghdad and Stockholm to Suva, diverse cross-sections of youth, including students, innovators, civil society members, artists, and government representatives, are applying their entrepreneurial spirit to the challenges they face in their communities. They are also providing U.S. diplomats with their honest perspectives on some of the key issues of the day.

These incredibly motivated and organized young people are collaborating on plans of action to change their societies in positive ways. Council members in Madagascar designed and conducted surveys about public opinion concerning ethics among politicians, using the responses to formulate a draft Code of Conduct for politicians. Our Youth Councils in Latvia and Macedonia are connecting through an exchange program to find approaches to address youth unemployment in both countries. And in Mexico, Youth Councils in Monterrey and Nuevo Laredo are working in their local communities to prevent gang violence.

These are just a few of the areas where young people are making a difference through programs of their own design, focusing on wide-ranging topics such as HIV/AIDS prevention, women's rights, environmental protection, and skills building and leadership activities. Today in Dublin, Secretary Clinton launched the Department of State's 50th Youth Council. This milestone demonstrates the institutionalization of key channels of communication between young leaders and U.S. policy makers.

As we continue to work together to find ways to tackle the wide range of pressing political, economic, and social issues that we face, we will rely on young people to partner with us along the way. Young people's involvement is not only integral to the solutions we seek, but is part of the process that leads to those solutions.

Join Global Youth @ State on Facebook and follow @Zeenat on Twitter.Go to www.state.gov for more information on Secretary Clinton's visit to Dublin, and follow @USEmbassyDublin on Twitter to learn more about U.S. relations with Ireland.

This blog was originally published on Dipnote, the blog of the U.S. State Department.