Before becoming immersed in the murky world of journalism, I was highly active in youth politics during 2004-2008, primarily through participation in the UK Youth Parliament (UKYP) and several related projects.
I was initially elected to the UKYP in 2004 to represent the 60,000 young people of my local area. In 2005 I was chosen by my fellow youth MPs (or MYPs) in the London region to sit on the Procedures Group – basically the UKYP cabinet – to work on structural issues and organise the Annual Sitting, which brings together hundreds of MYPs from across the country.
Later that year I was elected to represent London as the region’s Corporate Trustee on the UKYP Board, responsible for the legal and financial management of the charity, and held the position until 2008.
During this time I worked on a number of regional, national and international projects – from establishing a London-wide Youth Forum for the city’s 2012 Olympic bid (as it then was) to being selected by the Foreign Office as an official UK Youth Delegate to the UN 60th General Assembly (UNGA60) in 2005.
Representing the young people of Britain at the UNGA60 was an incredibly prestigious honour for me. I worked tirelessly before, during and after attending the event itself: Tasks included organizing a nationwide consultation on the UN Program of Action for Youth (which was under review in 2005), presenting its findings in New York and seeking to raise awareness of youth issues at the General Assembly.
To this end, I found myself editing a newsletter created by the youth delegates and distributed around UNHQ. I also spoke at several meetings, attended numerous side events and contributed to negotiations on the annual Youth Resolution (A/RES/60/2), while blogging every day.
The year 2005 saw a record number of member states send young representatives to these talks, but I am sorry to report that participation has since steadily declined.
In addition to the General Assembly, I attended events in Sweden, Finland, Lithuania and Switzerland during 2005 – as well as the World Youth Congress in Stirling, Scotland, which brought together some 600 youth activists from 128 countries. Here I also received a valuable chance to gain journalistic experience as a reporter for Young People Now, the UK’s leading youth sector magazine, while working extensively on the daily Congress newspaper and various video productions.
In December that same year I represented English students at a conference in Italy hosted by OBESSU – the European umbrella student body – as part of my role as an Executive Council member of the English Secondary Students’ Association (ESSA). I was elected to that position in 2004, during ESSA’s infancy, and went on to play a part in laying the foundations of an organization which is still going strong today.
I returned to the UN in May 2006 for the 14th Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD14), where I participated in the youth caucus and worked on creative promotion campaigns. Later that year I traveled around Ghana in West Africa to learn about youth-led initiatives working towards the UN Millennium Development Goals.
A little closer to home, during 2005-08 I was also employed as a youth worker by local education authorities in London and Bristol. As well as organizing club sessions and summer trips, I also ran participation projects such as UKYP elections and local youth council meetings.