Introducing Kareem – the 2019 Youth Representative
Each year, UN Youth Australia in consultation with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade select the Australian Youth Representative to the United Nations. Kareem El-Ansary is the 2019 Youth Representative. He sat down for a chat with UN Youth Australia’s Chief Youth Representation Officer, Nick Mezo, about the role.
Hi Kareem, congratulations on your recent selection as the 2019 Youth Rep!
Thanks! It’s such a privilege to have been selected. I’m very excited for the year ahead.
What made you want to apply for the Youth Representative program?
I really believe in this program, I believe it has an important role to play in ensuring young people are heard and are given a platform to be able to speak up about the issues they care most about. Unfortunately, as a cohort in society, young people are often left out of the loop when it comes to major decision making, we’re misrepresented by the media and are often absent from public debates. I think it’s crucial that as young people, we collectively work to change this.
I’ve been lucky enough to work with lots of incredible young people in the past and have been deeply inspired by their stories, their passion, their energy and their ideas. That’s why I want to spend this year ensuring that those ideas are heard and shared. I want to connect young people with decision makers so that their ideas can be acted upon and positive change can be created. I applied for this role because I believe young people deserve to be heard and I will do everything I can to ensure that happens in 2019.
What are you most excited about doing in the role next year?
The entire year is so exciting! But I think I’m most looking forward to the Listening Tour. I’m really keen to get out and meet young people from across the country. It’s not every day you get to meet upwards of 10,000 young people! I can’t wait to hear their stories, their ideas and just have great chats. I really want to understand the issues that they feel are most important to them and create opportunities for them to effect change on those issues.
Another added bonus is the travel! I love travelling and as someone who has grown up in a major city, I haven’t really had the chance to see much of Australia. This tour will give me the opportunity to see more of our country and meet so many inspiring young people along the way.
Tell us a little bit about your vision for the role this year.
I want to focus this years program on the future. Specifically, I want to understand how young people envision their future and what kind of future they want to build.
As young people, we will inherit the world of the future and by extension the ramifications of the decisions that are being made today. It is so important that we have an opportunity to weigh in on those decisions. In 2019, we want to know what issues young people care most deeply about. We’ll also be focusing on the ideas that young people have and the solutions they envision to some of the great challenges of today and the future. Over the course of the year, I’ll be working to ensure these ideas are shared with decision-makers and are front and centre in key discussions on the important issues facing young people.
This year we’ll also be working to ensure the program is engaging with more young people in regional areas and is accessible to every young person who wants to participate.
Your Listening Tour will take up most of your time as Youth Rep. How many young people do you expect to engage with over that time?
Its difficult to say exactly how many young people we’ll be able to engage with but we’ll be working hard to meet as many as possible. in 2018, the program was able to engage over 15,000 young people. We’re hoping to engage even more in 2019! I’ll be visiting young people in every state and territory in Australia and will also be engaging with decision-makers to shed light on the great things young people are doing across the country, the issues they care most deeply about and the ideas they have for creating positive policy change.
What will you do when you head over to the UN in New York?
I’ll be heading over to New York in September to be part of the Australian mission to the United Nations where I’ll be representing the views of young Australians on the global stage and will advocate on their behalf. I’ll work with members of the Australian government and other youth representatives from around the world and will deliver a speech to the General Assembly on behalf of young Australians.
What happens to all the information you gather throughout your consultation once you return home to Australia?
After New York wraps up, I’ll come back to Australia and will focus on sharing the results of the 2019 consultation. I’ll be meeting with politicians, organisations and other decision-makers to share these results and discuss how they might inform positive change for young people. I’ll be publishing a comprehensive report detailing my findings which will include a series of recommendations that reflect what I’ve heard over the course of the year and can be used to strengthen the voices of young Australians.
What message do you want to get out there to young Australians?
You matter. Your ideas matter, your fears matter and your hopes for the future matter. As young people, we have a unique way of seeing the world, we look at problems differently and have nuanced and intelligent contributions to make to society.
No matter who you are, how old you are or where you come from, you can create positive change and inspire others to do the same. We’re lucky these days to have so many opportunities at our fingertips given to us by technology. Our actions can create larger ripples than ever before. As the next generation to inherit the world, it is so important that we have a say in what that world will look like. Yes, the future is important, but as young people we also matter today. So if there is something you care deeply about, speak up and make your voice heard.
The Youth Representative Program is supported by the Australian Government through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
The role requires considerable funding, and collaborations. Kareem is seeking partnerships to make his plans possible. If you can help, you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.