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Practicing the Art of Youth Involvement

1 Jul

Editor’s Note:  This is the second blog post by Danielle Peck and takes up a primary focus of her interest — youth development and participation.   As noted many times, this is a critical theme for GAPW.  We must make space for new voices, new lenses, new communications technologies, new priorities.  The issue as noted elsewhere on this blog is not that younger voices are innately superior to older ones, but simply that it is their turn now.  We must do as much as we can to ensure that this ‘turn’ is as hopeful and productive as possible. 

Within the last month during my time spent at the United Nations covering events for Global Action to Prevent War and Armed Conflict, I have seen two themes portrayed on several occasions that have struck my interest. These two themes are easily relatable to every individual in an audience. The areas that I am talking about are based around the promotion of art and the involvement of youth. While these areas have been mentioned frequently in recent UN events, they have not necessarily been incorporated together. I would like to show why the incorporation of art and youth is a sensible one towards more peaceful futures.

I have heard time and time again that youth need to be included in current events because we are building the future of this planet and often hold new answers to solving global issues. Furthermore, the arts can combine with youth, media, government and more to help bring awareness and address demanding issues like reaching sustainable development goals. While I agree with both of those statements, I also believe that these two ideas should go hand in hand. The arts should be used to pique youth interest and engage them in the issues that the UN and the rest of the world now face, but also the youth should use art as a tool to relay culture and teach societies the “how’s and why’s” of taking action.

I was first introduced to art promotion and youth involvement while attending the event on “Engaging the Public in Sustainable Development,” co-organized by the Permanent Mission of France and the World Council for the United Nations (WCPUN). This event highlighted the degree to which youth are key to reaching sustainable development, and that they need to have access to the creative tools necessary to ensure that these goals can be achieved.

The event opened with a presentation from Gabriel Gozlan and Hugo Peyron, the winners of a contest between fifth-year marketing students of the Parisian business school ESGCI. The contest was organized by the dean of ESGCI, Dr. Marcel Saucet, who is manager of the street marketing company LCA conseil, and Sahmina de Gonzaga, the board chair of WCPUN. The objective of the team was to raise awareness around sustainable development through a street marketing campaign inspired by the work of Andrea Juan and Maurice Benhayoun, two artists from the WCPUN network. They partnered with Cristian Truca, a Romanian artist and one of the best 3D painters in the world, to create an amazing 3D street piece in Paris. The 3D art consisted of floating ice caps that would interactively put people in the position of a polar bear stuck on a dwindling piece of ice in the middle of the Arctic. The hashtag “climate change” was written on the side for people to spread the word online. Altogether this event attracted 1,500 people and more than one hundred interacted directly with the art. Find the event video here.

This is one example of how youth can use art to influence society in meaningful ways that add to and supports policy decisions made at the UN and within the governments of the world. Artists like Andrea Juan are using their talent and art to bring awareness to global issues such as climate change. Juan has dedicated her life since 2004 to working with photography, digital video, graphic art and installations creating beautiful art on Antarctica based on scientific research related to climate change.

Youth are also starting to reach out to be involved in the policies that will affect their future. They are given a chance through events like The Global Partnership for Youth in the Post-2015 Agenda at the UN, which included open events allowing students to interact and discuss key components to be included in the Post-2015 agenda. With the forces of art and youth combined the possibilities seem unlimited.

Why is art such an important component of helping people address world issues? “It lights a fire in people’s souls.” It is motivational, stimulating and inspiring. It brings out people’s imaginations to help find solutions and it can stimulate the audience on a subconscious level. Art in one form or another is attractive to everyone. It is always bound to catch a large percentage of peoples’ attention. It is a strong tool to create awareness for global issues. Youth are especially attracted to art whether through performance, music, fashion or paintings. Art humanizes people. Artists are not only able to bring fresh approaches to policy issues, but they are able to connect these issues with a broader public. The World Policy Institute is one initiative that provides support for interaction between artists and policy makers. “Their goal is to empower artists to navigate funding and policy structures, while policymakers gain access to creative approaches for reframing policy issues and designing campaigns to effectively disseminate new ideas and outcomes to a broader public.”

After my first few weeks working within the UN, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed. I felt as though I was drowning in a whirlpool of meetings, people and unresolved issues. While attending the event “Furthering Youth Involvement in the Post 2015 Development Agenda” put on by El Salvador, I was shocked as a dance performance with spoken word from a group called The Healing Movement broke out of the audience. The performance stimulated my emotions and reminded me how amazing and unique every individual is. Every human being is capable of strongly influencing the world. I was able to engage the discussion on development priorities with a new sense of refreshment.

Many groups are already combining art and youth to address world issues. A program called Worldskills has created art out of workplace skills from many industries by creating an international competition among youth promoting education and training, international cooperation and development leading to economic stability. Youth prepare to creatively compete internationally by showing off their work skills whether in welding or floristry. Also, the UN Alliance of Civilizations and the International Organization for Migration invited the world’s youth to submit original and creative videos on migrations, diversity and social inclusion through a partner called Plural+. The videos are created by youth from all over the world telling their own stories, and bringing forward important generational issues. To view the videos, click here.

One in four people worldwide are considered youth, and 40 percent of the world’s unemployed are also youth. What does that mean for our future? Artists and youth are ready to unite, brainstorm and resolve to change the destructive path this world is on. States, organizations, and policy makers should think more about how powerful their message could be if they relayed it through youth and art. Youth and art working hand and hand could become a critical component for the global action to prevent war and the fight against climate change in order to reach sustainable development goals.

Danielle Peck, GAPW