Global Youth Assembly 2009: Building Community

Building upon a hugely successful inaugural youth assembly held in Edmonton in 2007, the Centre presented the second biennial Ignite Change Now! Global Youth Assembly 2009 (GYA 2009) from July 30th to August 2nd, 2009. The event took place at the Northern Alberta Institute for Technology (NAIT) in Edmonton, Canada.  Over 600 delegates from around the world and from diverse socio-economic, cultural, and educational backgrounds gathered to explore the theme “YOUth building community” through art, music, skill development workshops, inspirational keynote speakers, a Youth Educators Forum, and a host of evening activities including a Hip Hop Dialogue with Her Excellency the Right Honorable Michaëlle Jean, Governor General of Canada.

 



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The GYA 2009 and related Ignite Change Now! Program projects and activities would not have been possible without the John Humphrey Centre’s partners. Major Partners in 2009 included the Government of Canada, the City of Edmonton, the Office of the Governor General, the Canadian Commission to UNESCO, Rights and Democracy, 4REAL, and Apathy is Boring. The City of Edmonton was the “Founding Partner” of Day Two (July 31st, 2009) of the GYA 2009. As such, the City branded the entire day and was involved in the program in many ways. Mayor Mandel kicked off the day with a bang and warmly welcomed the Governor General at a VIP reception in the afternoon, the Next Gen Initiative and Councillor Don Iveson were part of a panel on youth apathy and politics, and the Governor General gave her speech in front of a podium with City of Edmonton signage. It is no surprise that the City of Edmonton was cited in our post-event survey as the most recognizable of the GYA 2009 sponsors.

Delegates came from Edmonton’s inner city, Rwanda, Ukraine, Bolivia, Nunavut, rural Alberta, and many other places and walks of life to share in the GYA experience.  While most delegates were from Alberta, there was representation from every province and territory of Canada.  There were international delegates from every continent; some delegates presented   workshops on the work that they do in their own countries.  The suggested age range for the GYA was 16-28, but there were participants from every generation present, which added to the diversity and richness of the GYA.

The program was divided into four dynamic days and evenings that looked at the global, local, and individual levels of building community.  Keynotes at the GYA 2009 included Michaëlle Jean, Governor General of Canada; Dr. Lloyd Axworthy, Craig Kielburger, Georgina Lightning, Gary Martin, Buddha, Don Iveson, Ilona Dougherty, Nazanin, Lewis Cardinal, 4REAL (Josh Thome) and special guests Liz Evans and Alyssa Macy, Dev Aujla, Ocean Robbins, and Mariatu Kamara. Workshops delved into issues from youth restorative justice and greening organizations to human trafficking and climate change.  There were 15-20 concurrent workshops per day that had been selected from over 100 workshop proposals submitted by individuals and organizations from around the world.  Many were interactive and used art and other media to explore these issues.

The GYA core values are DIVERSITY, CREATIVITY, and ACTION. The GYA 2009 gave youth a safe and fun space to express themselves openly and creatively. There were guiding questions on the conference theme to help generate thought and dialogue for each day. Delegates responded to the guiding questions or expressed whatever they wanted to express on the “Idea Walls” located throughout NAIT hallways; through the Reel Youth “Speakers Corner”; during workshops through dance, singing, movie-making, and other means; during the plenary sessions through questions; and during the hugely popular open mic sessions.

The GYA was a unique and life-changing experience for many.  Rarely do Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal youth, youth with and without disabilities, Canadian and International youth, rural and urban youth, high risk and low risk youth, and science and arts students have the chance to be in the same room, let alone unite to explore ways to make positive change.  The GYA went beyond informative sessions to offer interactive workshops, skills development sessions, a hip hop summit, and action planning so that delegates left the GYA knowing that they possess the power, knowledge, talent, and skills to make positive change.  Providing long-term support for projects and individual action plans that are born from the GYA was built into the program as an equally important aspect of strengthening youth capacity following the conference itself.

A conference follow-up site has also been developed to continue the dialogue and momentum started at the GYA 2009.  Visit gyaaction.org to find out what kind of commitments and projects GYA delegates are taking back to their communities.  At the GYA, it was recognized by all participants that the event is more than a conference; it is a youth movement.  The John Humphrey Centre has created the Ignite Change Now! Program, which has the GYA at its core and various pre and post-GYA projects and activities, in order to present the GYA every two years with its partners and ensure that the youth movement started in 2007 thrives.

The GYA 2009 and related Ignite Change Now! Program projects and activities would not have been possible without the John Humphrey Centre’s partners.  Major Partners in 2009 included the Government of Canada, the City of Edmonton, the Office of the Governor General, the Canadian Commission to UNESCO, Rights and Democracy, 4REAL, and Apathy is Boring.

Read the 2009 Final Report.