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About the United Nations Youth Association Germany

The United Nations Youth Association Germany—UNYA Germany (“Junges UNO-Netzwerk Deutschland”, abbreviation: “JUNON”) is an umbrella organisation of German UN University Clubs, Model United Nations Initiatives, school and university delegations to international Model UN conferences, UN Youth Campaign Groups, groups of young UN researchers and the like. The Association was founded in December 2005 and became a registered not-for-profit, non-governmental organisation in January 2007. It is open for membership both to university and school groups, regardless of whether they are registered or informal organisations. Twenty-five UN Youth Groups have joined UNYA Germany so far; the number is likely to rise further in the future. This presentation gives an overview over the Association and its activities.

Aims of UNYA Germany

According to its constitution the aims of UNYA Germany are education and the promotion of international understanding and cooperation. These aims are realised by networking and cooperation between its member organisations, encouraging enthusiasm of young people for the United Nations, spreading knowledge about this international organisation and strengthening the commitment for the idea of the United Nations. Thereby UNYA Germany promotes international understanding and cooperation, as well as the aims of the Charter of the United Nations.

Creation of UNYA Germany

The inception of UNYA Germany was a “bottom-up” movement, i.e. the large number of UN Youth Groups to be found in Germany today came into existence long before the umbrella organisation was born. It must be pointed out that the enthusiasm of young people for the United Nations has experienced a dramatic rise in Germany over the past 20 years. This enthusiasm, unprecedented in modern German history, can be attributed largely to three factors:

  • the spreading of Model United Nations Initiatives,
  • more recently the Millennium Campaign and
  • the National Tour of the German Youth Delegates to the UN General Assembly.

Among these factors, the spreading of Model United Nations must be emphasized.

The idea of Model United Nations was first born in the USA and spread to Europe in the 1950s. In the 1980s and 1990s young Germans started increasingly to participate in these simulations, by sending school and university delegations to international Model United Nations Conferences outside of Germany. The idea of participating in such conferences spread in Germany by word of mouth from school to school, from university to university. For German universities the most attractive conference became and still remains to be the National Model United Nations Conference (NMUN), hosted by the National Collegiate Conference Association in the USA. An ever rising number of German universities send delegations to New York each year, currently up to 30. On the other hand, the focus of German school delegations is The Hague International Model United Nations Conference (THIMUN) in the Netherlands.

When attempting to understand the reasons for the dramatic development of UN Youth Groups within Germany over the past twenty years, the importance of these school and university delegations to international Model United Nations conferences cannot be overestimated. After lengthy and careful preparation of and successful participation in these conferences, many delegations returned home to Germany with the feeling that “this cannot be where it ends”. Out of this feeling arose the idea of creating own UN youth projects, either by organising a local Model UN conference or by founding a local UN Youth Club with projects such as lectures, campaigns and exhibitions about the UN. These local initiatives in turn brought a large number of young people within the country to become interested in the United Nations. To this day, Model UN Conferences, both local, regional and international remain to be an important catalyst for young UN enthusiasm in Germany.

The creation of the United Nations Youth Association Germany in 2005 was spearheaded by a group of university students who had two main aims:

  • encouraging the UN Youth Groups to network in order to exchange experiences, capacities and materials and thereby helping each other in their work and
  • joining up the vast pool of UN Youth Groups in order to come up with new, nation-wide UN youth projects that were to “move beyond” Model United Nations, one proposal being the support of the National Tour of the German UN Youth Delegates.

The constitutive meeting was attended by delegates from 12 UN Youth Groups from across Germany. The participants quickly realised that while everybody agreed with the networking aspect, the ideas for national projects that could be conducted by such a network of UN Youth Groups were numerous. It is for this reason that the concept of working groups was developed, as they enabled the new network to accomodate for all the different interests.

Structure of UNYA Germany

One of the most important questions the new Association needed to decide on was whether to make the Association based on individual or on organisational membership. The general consideration was that youth organisations such as UNYA Germany face two main challenges with regard to sustainability: their existence depends entirely on voluntary work, and their members change all the time, because the average amount of time that pupils and university students can be active in such organisations is two years or even less.

UNYA Germany would therefore be required constantly to recruit enthusiastic individuals, pass on enthusiasm and knowledge, and make sure that positions be handed over diligently to “the next generation”. If this were not done successfully just one year, then Association would run the risk of withering away. For this reason UNYA Germany chose to base its membership on organisations rather than individuals. The founders considered that sustainability is easier to be achieved when there is a large pool of potentially active members, as it is unlikely that all the member organisations lose interest in activity at the same time. It must be noted of course, that this was only possible because they found themselves in the lucky situation of having many UN youth groups already available to them.

However, the young Association also considered that it would face a very particular challenge: people generally have the interests of their own, local organisation more closely at heart than the interests of the umbrella association. Two main reasons for this were discussed:

  • The contact with the local organisation is much closer in that the individuals members can have face-to-face meetings whenever they wish, whereas real-life meetings with the members of the national association may be limited due to financial reasons.
  • The influence and ability of an individual to make decisions in his/her local organisation is likely to be greater than in the national association, where the differing interests of a large number of member organisations need to be reconciled.

In order to meet these challenges UNYA Germany spent a lot of time working out a mode of regular meetings and a decision-making process by which influence is accorded to a large pool of people (the Assembly of Delegates) rather than to a small group (the Board).

Meetings of UNYA Germany

The UNYA’s member organisations meet every three months by sending one or more delegates to the “Assembly of Delegates”, which usually takes place on a weekend. Attendance fluctuates between approximately 25 to 50 delegates. Delegates living in close proximity to each other usually share cars or travel on group train tickets to keep travel costs low. Each Assembly is hosted by one of the member organisations. In order to reduce costs, the location is usually a university classroom, a conference room in a youth hostel or the like. The member organisations pay a membership fee of EUR 40 per year and UNA Germany provides the UNYA with EUR 200 for each Assembly to help with the funding. Since November 2007, some of the delegates arrive earlier to participate in seminars, which the member organisations of UNYA Germany have started to conduct for each other, in order to share their knowledge about conducting local projects. The seminars take place on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning.

The official Assembly of Delegates, chaired by the spokespersons of the Association, starts on Saturday afternoon with a plenary discussion. The various working groups report on their activities of the past three months, the spokespersons report on organisational matters. The day usually ends in the local bars and nightclubs. Most delegates sleep in the local youth hostel. On Sunday morning the workings groups meet in order to discuss their plans for the upcoming three months and then report back to the plenary. The delegates usually order Pizza or the like for lunch. On Sunday afternoon the Assembly discusses and votes on motions dealing with organisational matters as well as motions to set up or terminate working groups or to begin with or terminate projects within the working groups. The Assembly ends on Sunday at around 16:00 pm as some of the delegates have quite long journeys home.

Decision-Making Processes

The Assembly of Delegates is the central decision-making body of UNYA Germany. The quarterly meetings of the Assembly can thus be said to be working meetings as well as decision-making meetings. The Assembly carries out all the activities of the Association, takes all political and project-related decisions and establishes or terminates working groups and projects conducted by the working groups. If the necessity arises to make decisions in between meetings, this is done via an online voting procedure which runs via an internal communication platform. The founders of UNYA Germany estimated that the greater the possibility of member organisations of participating in decision-making, the higher their commitment to the Association would be. For this reason the constitution aims at according all influence to the Assembly instead of the Board, thereby motivating a much larger number of people to become actively involved.

The Board is elected by the Assembly for one year and consists of two spokespersons. Individuals up to age 28 who are delegated by one of the member organisations can run for the positions. The main duties of the spokespersons are preparing and chairing the Assemblies, compiling a quarterly newsletter, supporting the working groups and representing the UNYA in public. In December 2007 UNYA Germany signed an Agreement of Cooperation with the United Nations Association of Germany (UNA Germany). Since then, the spokespersons of UNYA Germany are permanent guests at the two-monthly meetings of the National Board of UNA Germany, where they represent the UNYA. When representing the Association, the spokespersons are bound to the directives of the Assembly of Delegates. They can therefore not take substantial decisions without prior consultation with the Assembly.

Partners of UNYA Germany

UNYA Germany has local, national and international partners. The local partners of the Association are its 25 member organisations, the number rising continually. The national partner of UNYA Germany is the United Nations Association of Germany (UNA). While the UNYA is an organisation established in its own right and independent of the UNA, is has recently signed an Agreement of Cooperation with the UNA, setting out forms of future cooperation between the two associations. On an international level, UNYA Germany is a member of the World Federation of United Nations Associations—Youth (WFUNA-Youth) since 2006.


At the moment the member organisations of UNYA Germany pay a membership fee of EUR 40 per year, which can be waived by the Assembly for members in financial difficulty. UNA Germany supports the UNYA with EUR 800 per year to co-fund the Assemblies. UNA Germany also pays the travel and accommodation costs of the spokespersons and heads of working groups attending the meetings of the UNA’s National Board and issues additional travel and accommodation grants on a case-by-case basis, in accordance with the Agreement of Cooperation. Wherever UNYA Germany needs funding for its projects, the Association writes funding applications to external foundations. In the past these have been the Robert Bosch Foundation and the Apfelbaum Foundation.

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