In 1996, a young man participated in a small discussion and networking session of international NGOs at the United Nations Secretariat in New York City, USA. He was inspired to meet a room of people whose lives were dedicated to global problem solving. At the same time, however, he was shocked to learn that few young people were involved. After reading the UN Charter, observing its call for the participation of young people, he set out to create a United Nations Youth Assembly. After three years of consultation with UN bureaucrats, international organizations, and youth from all over the world, he concluded that the UN could not create a youth assembly without demand and representation.
Young people around the world were getting involved but needed to be better organized. In July 1999, the “United Youth Conference” convened 20 young people from 12 different countries. Together they founded the Global Youth Action Network to create a clearinghouse for today''s youth movements, encourage collaboration and help maximize the collective impact of youth activism around the world. GYAN hired 3 full-time staff and set up its global headquarters in January of 2000, becoming the only international youth organization with an office near the UN Secretariat in New York City, USA.
By 2003, GYAN had began to open regional offices and establish regional teams on all continents. In 2004, GYAN became a fully independent 501(c)3 corporation, with National Coordinating Teams in a dozen countries and was granted affiliate status with the United Nations Department of Public Information. A process of restructuring its membership began in 2005, when GYAN was also granted Special Consultative Status with the United Nations Economic & Social Commission.
GYAN is one of the largest networks of youth organizations ever created. GYAN acts as an incubator of global partnerships and a global information provider. The Network is known for its role in increasing youth participation within the United Nations System, and for co-organizing Global Youth Service Day (GYSD) with Youth Service America, the world''s largest annual celebration of young volunteers. Over 1,200,000 participate each April in 100-150 countries.