Who are we?

The Young UN: Agents for Change initiative started in 2016 with a handful of members and has grown into a global network of more than 800 young professionals in 80 countries, working across the UN system in diverse duty stations and job areas. The network, operating under the vision of UN that fully embodies the principles it stands for, is a positive, constructive, and solution-oriented initiative that functions on the principle of inclusiveness in support of the UN reform agenda, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and innovation.

While most members are under 35 years, everyone with an open, positive and fresh mindset is welcome, there is no cap on age or contract type.

We have established five priority focus groups to structure our work: transparency and accountability; SDG readiness; inter-agency collaboration; technology; and human resources. Our aim is to catalyse, amplify and accelerate change in each of these areas – including by triggering a change in mindsets from siloed and sectoral approaches towards a culture of collaboration and integrated thinking.

Young UN aims to be an engaged, optimistic and constructive voice, bringing creativity, crowdsourcing and innovative solutions. Young UN members across the world coordinate online on a global platform called Slack with like-minded colleagues from the entire UNiverse.

Since the initiative began, the UN Secretary General, Deputy Secretary General, President of General Assembly, UN Youth Envoy and many others have voiced strong support for the initiative and promised to work together towards its vision.


As recognised in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the ECOSOC Dialogue on the longer-term positioning of the UN development system, an effective UN will be essential to address twenty-first century challenges but it first needs to change itself. The election of a new UN Secretary-General provides an opportunity to implement reform.

We, as young professionals working in the UN, have the potential to play an important role in these reform efforts, drawing on our creativity and bringing fresh perspectives and long-term commitment to the organization. But we lack a way to share, develop and channel our ideas in a strategic and coordinated way. This initiative provides a platform to do so.


We have diverse ideas to offer – from introducing a cross-UN talent management programme to starting food gardens at UN sites all over the world. We work at three levels to contribute to change:

  • Starting a conversation: By providing a forum for open and frank discussion regarding the challenges the UN faces and by encouraging such conversations more widely in the UN, we will support the cultural changes necessary to deliver reform and empower each other to demand more of ourselves, our colleagues and our shared institution;
  • Leading by example: We embrace change, contributing to change in a constructive and solutions-oriented way. We pilot practical changes and share our experiences so that successes can be applied in new contexts;
  • Advocating change: Drawing from our experience from across the UN system and beyond, we  develop and propose solutions to key decision-makers to address challenges identified.

Want to get involved?

Great! If you are currently working at the UN (any part of the UN system, any duty station), please join us on slack, sign up to our mailing list, on LinkedIn and start meeting with other young professionals in your duty station.  As a basic guide, projects should be solutions-oriented, cross-UN and in the interests of the charter and principles the UN stands for. For anyone who would like to know more, please contact us at (young.un.info@gmail.com)


The Young UN is a network of more than 750 young professionals in 80 countries, working across the UN system in diverse duty stations and job areas. While most members are under 35, everyone with an open mindset is welcome. There is no cap on age or the form of recruitment. You can find the list of our members here.

Membership is open for UN employees only, free of charge. If you work for any organization in the UN System and wish to join our network, please fill up the form in the sidebar or drop us an email.

Global Conference

The Young UN Global Conference will provide a venue for Young UN members to learn from each other, exchange with current and former UN staff, and develop a vision and plan for the future.

The Young UN Global Conference aims to:

  • Stimulate reflexion among Young UN members about a more effective UN organization;
  • Share experiences, knowledge and ideas among Young UN members about UN reform;
  • Engage with current and former UN staff about new and old UN reform proposals;
  • Strengthen Young UN’s organisation as a global movement for UN reform;
  • Adopt a Young UN manifesto, strategy and action plan for UN reform.

The Young UN Global Conference will rely on its members to develop the content of the Conference. Young UN members will be encouraged to showcase the initiatives they have launched in their respective duty stations. Members will also hold small workshops on specific themes to delve into existing policy proposals and to come up with fresh ideas for UN reform proposals or initiatives.

The Conference is expected to increase knowledge of each other and each other’s initiatives, develop the global team spirit among Young UN members, generate new ideas, establish shared principles for Young UN, as well as Young UN policy proposals for UN reform. In preparation of the Conference, Young UN members from around the world will be invited to join the working group responsible for organizing the Conference and regular VTCs will be set up to facilitate cooperation.

Talent Management

In the same way as 2030 agenda has been introduced as integrated platform to assist the Member States in attainment of 17 SDGs, in the similar way UN Secretariat and UN system needs to address various degrees of organisational myopia, simplify rigid bureaucracy and hierarchy, break down artificially created boundaries and operational and mental silos, and as a whole needs to be more united in itself.

In alignment with the Secretary-General’s management reform and upcoming roll-out of the GSDM, the aim of the Talent Management initiative is to create dynamic, adaptable and (functionally) mobile global workforce that share knowledge and expertise, can quickly utilise more strategic and holistic approach towards delivery on increasingly complex mandates and breaks the existing operational silos demonstrating that change is possible and is effective and beneficial for all.

The initiative proposes targeted managed functional mobility (lateral job swapping within duty station for cost-free approach), through opt-in compendium and matching exercise for compatibility for placement, utilisation of buddy approach of the ‘swap couple’ to learn and develop new skills and train each other as well as oversee each other’s work during the swap (e.i. simultaneously development of leadership and supervision skills on the job).

This would be applied to general staff, professional staff to begin with and could be applied to consultants, interns (depending on the length and functional expertise requirements) and moving forward to national professional officers, temporary appointments and eventually to mobility across organisations through systematically targeted secondments aiming for attainment of united One UN.

The UN we want (and that the world needs)

We, the Young UN network, are a group of committed, engaged, and enthusiastic young professionals brought together by our drive to make the United Nations ready for the future. Since the inception of our network, we have managed to rally more than 800 young professionals from around 80 countries and more than 50 funds, programmes, agencies and departments of the UN.

Our vision is that of a UN that fully embodies the principles and values it stands for, and empowers its people and those it serves. Our shared aim is to identify, promote and implement innovative ideas to achieve this vision. We believe that this can only be done if we operate in an open, inclusive and consultative manner. This is why anyone willing to work towards positive change within the UN system can join our network, ensuring we draw our inspiration and strength from the diversity and plurality of our members.

With relentless energy and optimism, we work in a collaborative spirit towards a different UN, guided by its Charter. We strive to demonstrate the commitment to the organization through our efforts, conducted alongside our professional duties, out of a sheer will to serve to the full extent of our potential.

But most importantly, we demonstrate a true ability to collaborate across UN agencies, geographies, ages, genders, and professional grades, in an agile and solutions driven manner. This is how we lead by example: if we are capable of such coordination, even without a mandate, then who isn’t?

The birth of Young UN

For some time Young UN was just an idea floating around the collective mind of younger UN staff that would come up in conversations in the corridors of the UN HQ in New York and other duty stations. It was only a matter of time before somebody would have the courage and determination to materialize this concept and bring together those that were willing to take it forward and make it a reality.

Following the example of recent social movements, we decided that this should be a flat, open, agile and distributed network of change-makers. All those willing to contribute to a better UN are welcome. An initial key milestone was the open workshop organized in July 2016, where more than 50 people gathered in New York and identified collectively a number of issues Young UN would deal with.

We also affirmed our goal to become a full-fledged advisory network and a generator of innovative ideas space for UN as a system. We aim to be a sounding board for senior management, as well as an implementing partner for reform. So far, we have in fact contributed our ideas to all three UN reforms streams: the management reform, development reform, and peace and security reform.

We also serve as a platform that connects people across the system and provides a voice for young professionals, because we wish for a UN that fully harnesses the potential of all of its human capital. A UN that is leaving no one behind. A UN that is strong and agile.

An agile approach based on results and rooted in principles

The strength of the UN is its global presence. As the Young UN, we believe that many solutions are and should be locally driven. As a first step, we structured the initiative and expanded it to a global network by reaching out to regional and field-based duty stations. This outreach coincided with the election of the new Secretary-General, to whom we sent a consolidated letter outlining the ways we would help further his mandate.

Since the inception of the network, the Young UN has been involved in various activities and strategic workstreams across the system. We have produced proposals related to human resource practices, frontier technologies, and other critical issues. Beyond the initial Focus Groups, we have organized workshops on diverse topics, such as value-based leadership and the integrity of the UN civil servant. We have also organized discussions on key topics such as the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review (QCPR) and maintained a dialogue with relevant partners both within and outside of the UN System.

Our work and the results from our dialogues have fed into proposals submitted to UN senior management who have expressed a clear willingness to work with us. But these initiatives are just a few among many. Our goal is to spark the spirit of activism and out-of-the-box thinking at all levels of the system as we move forward in making the UN fit for the future.

Addressing the paradoxes of the international civil servant

Our journey, however, has not always been an easy one. The practice of our daily work and the discussions held among our members not only unleashed creative ideas but also revealed struggles through which we have to navigate.

One issue that arose was the necessity for the UN and its staff to adapt to a radically new international political environment while remaining faithful to the Charter (something that Dag Hammarskjöld also dealt with throughout his years in the UN). Other central questions that came up were: How can international civil servants uphold the values of the UN Charter when political pressure can prevent them from doing so? How can we act in an impartial manner, while not allowing ourselves to remain neutral to injustices? What should be the UN’s position in a conflict-ravaged country, where support is needed for humanitarian access, but the human rights record is poor?

As we develop and grow as a young spirited network, we will draw on our enthusiasm to come up with innovative ways of modelling a UN that we can identify with, a UN that starts working today on solutions for tomorrow’s problems. There is no pre-established plan on how to do so, but by creating greater space and visibility for young ideas, and by tackling some of the paradoxes inherent in the current system, we believe we have already started working towards a more progressive and modern UN.

This is but the first in a series of blogs we will write over the coming months so stay tuned for more words and ideas from us, which we hope will contribute to generating some solutions for the big challenges ahead.

(This article was published in collaboration with the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation)