The Voice of Youth

As youth delegate to the United Nations, Mannheim student Josephine Hebling represented Germany’s children and youths during a visit to the UN General Assembly in New York. In a speech in front of UN Secretary-General António Guterres last October, she demanded that politicians worldwide set up more youth delegate programs and show greater commitment in protecting the environment.

Josephine Hebling’s purpose and motivation in applying for the delegation post was to give young people a voice. After her term of office started in April 2019, the 19-year-old traveled through Germany for six months with another German youth delegate to ask young people about their opinions, concerns, and demands. In October 2019, the two delegates presented these in a speech in front of the UN General Assembly in New York City. “Apart from the right to participation and education, we also talked about broader topics such as the environment, conflict prevention, and peace,” says Hebling, who studies Political Science and English and American Studies at the University of Mannheim.

Her speech in front of UN Secretary-General António Guterres was particularly memorable for her, as she appealed to all UN member states to implement youth delegate programs and demanded that politicians worldwide take concrete action to protect the environment. “It was an incredible feeling standing in front of the UN Secretary-General and being able to convey all our demands to him.” Another highlight for her were negotiations about a new youth resolution in which she was able to participate.

Josephine Hebling has been standing up for children’s rights since she was only 13. Already at that young age, she took a trip from her hometown Freiburg to the United Nations in Geneva. In addition, she represented children and young people on the advisory council of the Deutsches Kinderhilfswerk, a German child welfare organization. Hebling was honored for her commitment in November 2019. As the youngest award winner to date, she received the “Goldene Erbse” by the Deutsches Zentrum für Märchenkultur (German Center for Fairy Tale Culture), a prize bestowed on exemplary heroes of social commitment.

Hebling’s term of office will end in April 2020 after a most eventful year, including placements with the Federal Foreign Office and the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, various TV appearances and interviews, as well as two trips to New York – all in all leaving little time for studying. “I am currently dedicating all my time and energy to my responsibilities as a youth delegate. In the coming year, I would like to focus more on my studies again,” Hebling says. Nonetheless, she plans to stay involved in youth promotion. On the whole, she considers her time as youth delegate an invaluable experience – also for her personal development.