Run by young people for young people, the UK Youth Parliament provides a chance for those under 18 to use their voice in creative ways to bring about social change.
To catalyse passionate beliefs and well-informed opinions, Westminster may not be the first place young people look to. However, the UK Youth Parliament – UKYP -is providing opportunities for 11 to 18 year olds to make their voices heard and ‘use their energy and passion to change the world for the better’.
Earlier this year, the UKYP Climate Revolution event at the British Museum, saw 200 young people from across the country, map out the changes that need to be made over the coming years to tackle climate issues. The conference began in the dark and the lights remained switched off during the opening speeches to symbolise the need to save energy.
Ed Miliband, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, joined the event for a question and answer session. Young people expressed concerns over the United Nations’ negotiating process, with regard to climate issues, and asked questions on topics such as high-speed rail development and finance for vulnerable countries to help them adapt to the impacts of global warming.
Also in attendance were: playwright and broadcaster, Bonnie Greer; British Telecom’s Chief Sustainability Officer, Dr Chris Tuppen and the flooding expert David Balmforth. 18 year-old Francis Churchill, Member of Youth Parliament, said the organisation needed to let young people know that they have the power to tackle an issue as big as climate change and could take action to directly cut their emissions: “Climate Revolution is a step towards inspiring a generation to take the reins and lead us out of this crisis.”
The growing presence of the UKYP on the political stage was demonstrated last year, when the House of Commons seated over 300 Youth Parliament members for a historic debate on issues that matter to young people.
Established in 1998 by youth worker Kate Parish, the UKYP was born out of an event in Coventry, entitled ‘Heirs to the Millennium’. Soon after this, along with Andrew Rowe MP and children’s charity NSPCC, Kate formed a steering group. By 2000, the UKYP had its first democratically elected members.
Striving to champion the views of the nation’s youth, they began campaigning for issues that mattered the most, such as: reducing the voting age to 16, improving sex education, compulsory political classes, cheaper bus fares for the young, scrapping tuition fees and free recycling for schools. Members of the UKYP can passionately debate both sides of these issues at the heart of our political system, bringing them to the attention of those who run our country.
Opportunities for young people to get involved continue to flourish through the UKYP, from supporting new campaigns, to shadowing government ministers and standing for election.
Contact: UK Youth Parliament,
15 Clerkenwell Green,
London, EC1R 0DP
Tel: +44 (0)20 7553 9890
Ed Miliband MP with UKYP
members Jack Taylor, aged 17,
Aakash Bharania, aged 16
and Annie Pickering, aged 15,
at the British Museum
Photo: © Crown copyright