Three successful years of the German Youth Delegate Programme provide an opportunity to reflect on its evolution, look at its growth and its aim to empower young people in global health.
How It All Began
“Promote the deployment of German experts and young professionals in international health organisations and bodies” - this is the precept laid down in the German Global Health Strategy, adopted in October 2020. Today, three years later a German Youth Delegate Programme has been successfully established and the youth delegate has become an integral part of the German delegation to the World Health Assembly (WHA) each year. Yet, the journey of the programme has not been without its challenges. When the decision to introduce the German Youth Delegate Programme was initially made, the world was amid the Covid-19 pandemic, casting doubt on whether and when it could be launched. Nevertheless, Theresa Krüger became the first-ever youth delegate of Germany in 2021. Simultaneously, the Federal Ministry of Health (BMG), who coordinates the programme, also had to adapt to this new endeavor. After all, becoming a youth delegate meant not only immersing oneself in the work of the Ministry but also understanding the WHA procedures and processes – a learning experience for both Youth Delegate and the BMG in its training function.
The First German Youth Delegate: Overcoming Challenges and Achievements
Despite the challenging new times, Theresa Krüger participated in the 74th WHA and had the opportunity to present a statement on behalf of Germany, focusing on the topic of violence against women and children - a health priority she had personally chosen. Despite the statement being a standout moment for the youth delegate, the programme goes beyond. It is about connecting and bringing together young people on global health topics and providing them with a platform to voice their perspectives. This was not exactly easy at the beginning, primarily due to the constraints imposed by the ongoing pandemic. Still Theresa offered various formats during her mandate, such as an online regulars' table "Youth and WHA" or the international exchange evening "Youth Reflections on the World Health Assembly" with other European youth delegates.
In the last three years, this exchange between young people has been expanded even further.
Advancing the Youth Delegate Programme by Strengthening Personal Exchange
The end of the Covid-19 pandemic undeniably marked a positive era for the development of the Youth Delegate Programme in its second year. The opportunity to attend the WHA in person was undoubtedly a major benefit. However, the real hallmark of success lies in the improvement of transfer of knowledge from one cohort to the next via comprehensive experience reports at the end of each term, which also provide insight for other young people. The most valuable asset remains the opportunity to be able to consult with someone who has been through the same. Anile Tmava, the second youth delegate, for example, was in the fortunate position of being able to seek advice from Theresa as she took on her new role.
“At first I was overwhelmed: What should I do? Who should I ask? Fortunately, the previous youth delegate Theresa Krüger stood by my side during this period of settling in.”
Today, the youth delegates are an integral part of the orientation phase - a key improvement from the last three years.
Embracing Diversity: Expanding Programme Reach
Meanwhile, as an economics student, Anile Tmava has brought a new dimension of diversity to the programme's profile and helped to remove the misconception that the programme is aimed exclusively at medical students. In fact, any student with an interest and expertise in global health is welcome. An aspect that was emphasized again in the last call for applications. In general, the programme is attracting more and more interested students, with applications doubling between the first and third year. This can be attributed in large part to the increased engagement of young people and the greater visibility of the programme, which Theresa, Anile and the last delegate Miriam El-Mahdi have passionately advocated. Also with the support of Sophie Gepp, member of the Global Health Hub Germany's Steering Committee for the youth by using her network to inform about the programme and being actively involved in the selection process and support of the delegates since the first phase of the Youth Delegate Programme. This inclusion of non-state actors is another special aspect of the programme and one important objective of the German Global Health Strategy.
Empowering German Youth
The Youth Delegate Programme aims at including the perspective of young people in political decision-making. Last year Miriam El-Mahdi successfully initiated youth consultations to “capture the concerns and priorities of adolescents and young adults on health policy issues”, which contributed to a comprehensive policy brief . In addition, she held a Q&A session to answer questions from potential applicants for the first time during the current application phase, marking another milestone in the progressive development of the programme over the past three years.
Three Exciting Years: The Ongoing Journey of the Youth Delegate Programme
The central aim of the Youth Delegate Programme is twofold: to promote the representation of German young professionals within international global health organizations and committees and to make the complex issues and current debates in the field of global health more accessible to young people. Over the past three years, three youth delegates have been able to join the German delegation to the WHA and present their perspectives on a wide range of health issues particularly relevant to their age group as for instance the topic of mental health and health inequalities for marginalized and vulnerable groups. In addition, with each passing year, the programme and its youth delegates have created platforms for meaningful exchange and dissemination of information on global health issues - realizing the programme's second goal. This also includes the exchange with other WHA youth delegates, which all youth delegates emphasized in their experience reports as very helpful and valuable. While evident the programme has evolved significantly over the last three years, one major obstacle continues to exist: financing. As with many other projects in the field of global health, the Youth Delegate Programme is facing the same challenge. But the participation in the exchange formats as well as the increasing applications to the programme are a strong indication that young people are interested in the topic of Global Health and want to be involved in political decision making, whilst the German Youth Delegate programme is growing and improving best through the implication of the young generations’ perspective.
“The youth delegate programme is a great opportunity for young adults to contribute their perspectives and improve youth participation in political processes.”
Image sources of the top pictures (from left to right): Theresa Krüger, Amile Tmava, Miriam El-Mahdi