7 November, 2023, Nairobi. –
In the face of rapid urbanization, the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) proudly introduces the 17 individuals chosen for the 2023-2025 UN-Habitat Youth Advisory Board (YAB). Chosen from 9,000 applicants, these remarkable individuals stand out as advocates and leaders in sustainable urban development.
Established in 2008, the YAB has championed for 15 years youth representation in urban development. With a mission to provide vital insights on youth and cities to UN-Habitat, the board shapes strategies for sustainable urban growth while actively promoting youth participation.
The YAB members come from all six UN-Habitat regions and ensuring gender balance. Co-hosted by the Balikesir Metropolitan Municipality in Türkiye, it remains a platform for diverse global perspectives.
These 17 individuals will work with youth and youth-led organizations globally to ensure that their voices are heard and embraced by the UN system, assuring the no one and no place is left behind.
UN-Habitat Youth Advisory Board 2023-2025
32 years old, Japan
Dr. Yosuke Nagai serves as the founder and CEO of Accept International, a role he has held since its inception in 2011. His unwavering commitment has been directed towards the implementation of deradicalization, reintegration, and reconciliation initiatives, primarily targeted at defectors, prisoners, and detainees from violent extremist organizations, with a particular emphasis on regions such as Somalia, Yemen, Kenya, and Indonesia. Moreover, he has introduced emergency humanitarian aid programs to assist victims and internally displaced individuals in these areas, involving graduates from rehabilitation programs. Furthermore, Dr. Nagai actively engages in outreach and awareness campaigns in remote and underserved regions, encouraging disengagement from non-state armed groups and promoting community-based reconciliation efforts. In addition to his fieldwork, he has initiated a global lobbying and advocacy movement aimed at addressing the unique needs of youth associated with non-state armed groups (YANSAG) worldwide and harnessing their potential as agents of peace.
Milagros Costabel Bionda
21 years old, Uruguay
The work of Milagros in youth advocacy has always revolved around ensuring that all individuals can access the resources necessary for their personal development. She has been a staunch advocate for the rights of young people, especially those with disabilities, both in Uruguay and on a global scale. Milagros has spearheaded social media campaigns alongside young people, reaching millions of individuals, government officials, and international organizations. Thanks to UNICEF’s Sumá Tu Voz program, she has been able to raise youth-related concerns with the Uruguayan government, contributing to the creation of documents and frameworks for future implementation. Through TheirWorld, Milagros has received training and participated in campaigns with and for young people across the region. While her primary focus is Uruguay, Milagros is also a member of the National Federation of the Blind, actively involved in global initiatives to secure the rights of youth with disabilities. Her writings on youth issues have gained recognition in international media outlets like Huffington Post and Business Insider. Additionally, Milagros is part of the Latin American youth network, Concausa, where young people establish connections and networks to expand their volunteer and advocacy work.
Jean Auguste Andral
32 years old, Haiti
From a young age, Jean Auguste worked as a volunteer for his city’s town hall in Jacmel, serving as a community mobilizer. His role involved increasing community awareness regarding risk management, disaster preparedness, and climate change adaptation. Jean Auguste organized focus groups among the local youth, focusing on leadership and conflict resolution. Through his involvement with the local organization UJDL, “Union des Jeunes pour le Développement Local,” he initiated and developed projects centered around planting fruit trees and establishing family gardens, empowering rural families to create their own livelihoods and enhance self-sufficiency. Shortly after participating in the 2018 International Forum – Elan Haiti, Jean Auguste collaborated with other young leaders in his community to create and develop a mobile application named Commu-Note’m. This application enables citizens from various Haitian communities to report any issues in their city directly to local authorities using their smartphones, whether it’s a fallen tree obstructing a street, a park experiencing a power outage, or any other community-related matter. They can communicate with municipalities through simple SMS, video, voice messages, or photos, facilitating prompt action on necessary measures. Furthermore, citizens can receive alerts from local authorities to stay informed about various activities, be they social, cultural, or economic, taking place in their respective communities. This application is accessible through the Play Store and maintains an active presence on social media platforms.
27 years old, Burundi
Chancelle, a former child journalist for UNICEF Burundi and a dedicated child rights activist, is also a valuable member of the Youth Sounding Board of the European Union in Burundi. With a passion for humanitarian work since the age of 16, she has honed her communication and advocacy skills through diverse internships at media outlets, UNICEF Burundi, the Delegation of the European Union, and her role as the founder and Executive Director of the HBF (Hope for a Better Future) organization. Her primary focus revolves around enhancing the well-being of the most vulnerable, promoting youth leadership, fostering community behavior change, and upholding human rights. Chancelle has received recognition and awards for her contributions, including the 2019 Best Volunteer prize from UN Volunteer, recognition for her work in educating vulnerable children from UNFPA in partnership with the Ministry of Solidarity, and an award for innovative use of ICT from OPDAD, the organization of the Burundian first lady. Through her organization, they have initiated programs to reconstruct schools in rural areas, providing school benches and mobilizing youth to assist with brickmaking for the local population. They also contribute to housing projects, recently building a home for an indigenous widow and her five children, transforming their living conditions.
Daniel del Valle Blanco
21 years old, Spain
Daniel del Valle Blanco is a young diplomat from Spain, who holds the position of Ambassador and Permanent Observer of the International Youth Organization for Ibero-America (OIJ) to the United Nations in New York. His extensive career includes roles such as Attaché for Political and Youth Affairs at the Sovereign Order of Malta’s Permanent Observer Mission to the UN and High Representative for Youth at the International Human Rights Foundation (IHRF). He actively participates in international forums, has a strong educational background in Law and Economics, and has received numerous recognitions and two honorary doctorates for his dedication to youth empowerment and sustainable urban development.
32 years old, Egypt
Zeina, an Assistant Professor of Architecture, has worked on the creation of an innovative undergraduate program, Sustainable Architecture and Urban Design, within her department. This program, offering a holistic approach, links sustainable development goals to the built environment through a variety of courses. Her postgraduate studies concentrated on sustainable urban design and water management, particularly exploring natural-based solutions for water treatment in community sustainability. Her Ph.D. research delved into water governance in three cities, yielding effective strategies and policies adaptable to the Egyptian context for integrated urban water management. Zeina’s academic journey includes studies in the Water, Energy, Food Technologies Program at the Center for Applied Research on the Environment and Sustainability (CARES) at the American University of Cairo, where they developed the Smartponic system for indoor food production. She actively participated in the Water Sensitive Quseir workshop, focusing on sustainable integrated urban water management for Al Quseir residents in Egypt. She also organized and supervised the Aldaher Heritage workshop in collaboration with RealCity Lab, TU Berlin, and Helwan University, aimed at heritage management, reuse, and conservation solutions. Zeina has served as an instructor at the Kore International Winter School in Sicily, Italy, resulting in tangible interventions in marginalized urban spaces.
19 years old, Canada
Sarah Syed, is a 19-year-old first-year Environmental Studies student at York University, passionate about youth empowerment, innovation, and policy advocacy for sustainable cities. Being involved with The Starfish Canada since 2021, her new capacity as the Community Engagement Manager, Sarah has been recognized as a Top 25 Environmentalist, she shares the online journal, amplifying the voices of Indigenous/marginalized youth and Co-organizes the Top 25 Environmentalists program that provides mentorship and funding for youth finalists. As a Project Manager at EarthNet, Sarah oversees hubs with the goal of encouraging 10 million youth to develop climate projects spanning policy/innovation/community organizing. Facilitating opportunities for youth involvement, she fosters a meaningful dialogue among Canadian youth and a network of organizations dedicated to youth empowerment. Sarah’s research during her 2023 fellowship at The David Suzuki Foundation centers on designing a rotating solar panel. She orchestrated a hackathon with 1000 global participants and $42,000 in funding for winners/participants. Her work with DSF/The Future Ground Networks spans from 2020 as a youth leadership ambassador. Her work has been recognized by the Lieutenant Governor/government officials.
29 years old, Yemen
Mohammed, hailing from Yemen, has personally witnessed the challenges posed by rapid urbanization amidst conflict and inadequate planning. He observed the struggles of communities lacking basic services as individuals flocked to cities in pursuit of opportunities. This experience ignited his dedication to sustainable infrastructure and community development. As a civil engineer, Mohammed has worked with underserved Yemeni communities, addressing their water and sanitation needs. He introduced decentralized, cost-effective solutions utilizing natural treatment methods and local materials, further fueling his commitment to designing inclusive systems that safeguard public health. Through active involvement with the Yemeni Engineers Syndicate and Sanaa University committees, he has advocated for the development of building codes to encompass traditional housing constructed from materials like mud, stone, and timber, as the current codes solely pertain to concrete and steel structures. Mohammed’s vision is to integrate sustainable traditional designs into urban planning and policy. As an Advisory Board member, he aims to offer insights from conflict-affected regions, ensuring an inclusive and resilient transition towards cities where no one is left behind. Mohammed is resolute in his pursuit of more resilient communities in Yemen and worldwide, where socially and environmentally feasible spaces are accessible to all.
27 years old, Azerbaijan
Lala, actively engaged in youth-focused sustainable urbanization initiatives since 2016, embarked on this journey as a global volunteer in India. Here, she collaborated closely with refugee youth, gaining profound insights into their challenges in urban environments, setting the stage for her unwavering commitment to sustainable urban development. Subsequently, she assumed the role of Project Manager at the Islamic Cooperation Youth Forum Eurasian Regional Center, refining her leadership and project management skills while empowering and engaging youth through various initiatives. Lala’s dedication to driving positive change persisted as she became a Community Mobilizer with the German Agency for International Cooperation, facilitating community-led development with a sustainability focus. Her role as a Youth Peace Camp Facilitator with the Council of Europe underscores her commitment to fostering peace and reconciliation among young individuals from conflict-affected communities. Notably, Lala co-founded the “SARA” movement, championing gender equality in alignment with UN-Habitat’s dedication to equal gender representation, illustrating her tireless efforts to advance inclusion and diversity.
Valerhim Pérez Uribe
21 years old, Colombia
Valerhim, serving as a Youth Counselor from 2022 to June 2023, successfully prioritized the reinvigoration of neglected green spaces and parks within Armenia’s municipality. This involved integrating these spaces into the agendas of territorial and institutional youth to enhance the overall quality of life. She played a key role in ensuring these areas were included in the action plans and budgets of government entities. Valerhim’s contributions extended to bolstering the Youth line within the city’s Social Observatory, advocating for the inclusion of public spaces as a research focus. She led the planning phase as a Youth representative in the Young Gamechangers Initiative (YGI) and facilitated collaboration between UN-Habitat and the Mayor’s Office of Armenia to forge a strategic alliance. Additionally, she actively participated in an environmental group of young people, promoting educational campaigns on environmental conservation among schools and neighborhoods in the city. This group also organized cleanup initiatives and tree-planting efforts to combat deforestation and disaster prevention. Since 2020, Valerhim has been a member of the ‘Youth Citizenship’ Study Group at La Gran Colombia University’s ‘La Esperanza’ Thinking Center, where she conducted in-depth research on territorial and rural/urban approaches, focusing on the analysis of Public Youth Policies in Quindío. Presently, she remains actively engaged in YGI while pursuing her thesis on ‘Perceptions of Youth Cultures regarding Citizen Participation in Public Youth Policies of Quindío for 2021 and 2022.’ Her research delves into collective youth identities, examining how public investments align with their actual needs and representation in relevant spaces.
Jonathan Some Oriki
22 years old, Kenya
Jonathan, raised in Kibera, one of Kenya’s most extensive informal settlements, faced daily struggles to meet basic needs, access education, and healthcare. Nevertheless, he persevered, completing high school and pursuing university education. His formative years in Kibera deeply rooted his commitment to social justice and sustainable development. He directly witnessed the impact of urban poverty and inequality, igniting his passion for instigating change. Post-university, Jonathan joined the National Youth Caucus of Kenya (NYCK), a youth-led organization dedicated to advocating for young people’s rights. As the Country Coordinator, he mobilizes youth to take proactive measures on critical issues. Additionally, he serves as the Resource Mobilization Secretariat for Emerging Brand Africa, a media company focusing on compelling narratives about emerging and startup organizations and communities in Africa. In this role, he actively seeks funding to strengthen the organization’s programs. His dedication centers on leveraging his influence to empower youth and advance sustainable development across Africa. Jonathan firmly believes in the potential of young people to shape a brighter future for themselves and their communities. He is enthusiastic about contributing to the burgeoning youth movement dedicated to sustainable urbanization in Africa, confident that together they can forge a more just and sustainable future for all.
25 years old, Mongolia
Darisuren, holding a B.A. in Biology, Society, and Environment with a minor in Public Health from the University of Minnesota, has a diverse background in sustainable urbanization and community empowerment. She served as a coordinator for The Nature Conservancy’s pioneering urban conservation program, promoting youth-focused, community-led initiatives across 25 U.S. cities. Returning to Mongolia, she joined GerHub, a nonprofit dedicated to fostering thriving ger area communities in Ulaanbaatar. In her role as the Social Innovation lead, she has been instrumental in developing programs that educate and mobilize community members to enhance resilience against environmental degradation. Currently, she consults for one of Ulaanbaatar’s largest urban parks, devising strategic partnerships with local and grassroots organizations while promoting youth engagement through participatory processes. Darisuren was chosen to participate in the inaugural Youth Delegate program with the United Nations Association of Mongolia, where she initiated a mini-rainwater garden project to address flooding issues on the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar. She is an active member of the UNLEASH community, actively incubating solutions for the Sustainable Development Goals. In 2022, she served as a Global Talent in India, and she is set to participate in the 2023 Global Innovation Lab in Kigali, Rwanda, where she will present “Dandelion,” a mobile clinic aiming to reduce health disparities in Ulaanbaatar. Darisuren’s journey underscores her deep commitment to sustainable urbanization, community empowerment, and health equity, and she is eager to explore opportunities to make a meaningful impact.
18 years old, USA
Locally, Rehman championed the “Children’s Outdoor Bill Of Rights” as the leader of the UNICEF Child-Friendly Cities (CFC) Initiative Houston Youth Council, ensuring the environmental rights of 2.5 million youth, leading to Houston being named UNICEF USA’s first CFC. Nationally, Rehman co-developed a document of climate change priorities at the inaugural US-based UN Youth Climate Conference, presented before the White House, State Department, & UN. This year, Rehman is a chair of the second conference, collaborating with the White House, UNEP, State Department, & UNFCCC. Since age 10, Rehman has led iCure, a public health nonprofit that operates in 19 countries & helps 60000+ people; after leading a health/environmental youth fellowship and learning about the consequences of cooking with open fires, Rehman developed a patent-pending technology that harnesses the heat produced by the solvation of specific salts in water to cook without fire. Rehman serves as a WHO Adolescent Champion and the representative of US Youth voices at PAHO/WHO, where they co-led the development of the “What Young People Want” chatbot, which consulted with 1.2 million youth. Today, this data is being used to advise/influence policies in 49 countries. As an NGO Ambassador to ECOSOC, Rehman has consulted for UNICEF, WHO, UNFPA, OHCHR, UN Women, UNFCCC, UNEP, UNHCR, White House, G20, UK, New Zealand, & EU with 22 first-authored papers on youth, climate change, & health, many of which have been presented before & cited at the Human Rights Council, UN Committee for Economic, Social, & Cultural Rights, Commission on the Status of Women, European Union Parliament, White House, Stanford University, and the Economic & Social Council Partnership Forum.
19 years old, Uganda
Leah Namugerwa, a 19-year-old climate activist from Uganda, has made a profound impact in the global fight against climate change. Joining the Fridays for Future movement at the tender age of 15, Leah swiftly emerged as a prominent voice for climate action in her region. As a Team Leader at Fridays for Future Uganda, she has tirelessly organized climate strikes, rallies, and events to emphasize the urgent need for climate action. Leah’s unique strength lies in her ability to connect climate change with the daily lives of her community, highlighting its immediate impacts on vulnerable populations.
Beyond raising awareness, Leah champions the need for the same urgency seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in addressing the climate crisis. She advocates for swift, decisive action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, transition to renewable energy, and protect vulnerable communities. Leah’s dedication exemplifies the power of youth voices in the global fight against climate change, proving that age is no barrier to making a significant impact. Her unwavering commitment inspires individuals of all ages and continues to drive climate awareness and action both locally and globally.
Osman Emin Paksoy
21 years old, Türkiye
Osman Emin Paksoy is an entrepreneur and a student of international relations in Koc University. Having had leadership roles since an early age, he’s focus has always been to be an active member of his society. During his high school years, in Lake Braddock Secondary School, he was the president of Doctors of Tomorrow Club and served an active role in other clubs. Osman has entrepreneurial experience in fields of construction, medical technologies, and cryptocurrency. Where he has created companies and worked as Executive Director. He has attended plenty of international and local events such as Erasmus Plus and İBB Youth Assembly.
29 years old, Ecuador
Lenin Zambrano is a leader within the indigenous community of the Otavalo Kichwa people. He serves as a dedicated lawyer for the Otavalango Living Museum Organization, a role that allows him to advocate for the preservation and promotion of indigenous heritage and traditions. Lenin also plays a pivotal role as a mediator and arbitrator, resolving community conflicts with wisdom and cultural sensitivity. His academic achievements include a Master’s degree in Criminal Law, with a specific focus on Indigenous Justice, further solidifying his commitment to upholding traditional values within the legal system. Additionally, Lenin’s role as a Native Guide showcases his dedication to preserving and sharing the rich cultural tapestry of the Otavalo Kichwa people. Lenin is the coordinator for the One Stop Youth Resource /Integra-Habitat Centre and the Youth 2030 Cities programme.
32 years old, Liberia
Gwendolyn Myers is the Founder and Executive Director (2008 – present) of Messengers of Peace (MOP) – Liberia Inc.,– a non-for-profit, non-governmental youth led peacebuilding organization and first recipient of H.E President George Manneh Weah National Peace Prize Award 2018 in commemoration of the 15 years of unbroken peace in Liberia since the Accra Peace accord. MOP is nationally recognized & internationally known for its commitment, drive and passion to promote peace and security through volunteerism with youth active involvement and participation. Gwendolyn is presently managing over a thousand volunteer peace messengers in over twenty peace clubs in schools and vulnerable communities in Liberia and serves as a member of the Liberia Technical Working Group for Reconciliation. In difficult times of pandemic, MOP seeks to consolidate the Government of Liberia’s effort by enhancing the role of young people and strengthening local communities in the fight against COVID-19.