“You have the energy to transform the world,” said the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth Ahmad Alhendawi, encouraging youth worldwide to partner with the United Nations as the global community embarks on the road to sustainable development beyond 2015. The UN is working in many different ways to ensure that the voices of youth are heard. As part of these efforts, ECOSOC is hosting its Youth Forum on 2-3 June.
There are 1.2 billion young people in the world today. It is the largest generation of youth ever seen and the United Nations has made it one of the organization’s top priorities to partner with and for them. “The post-2015 development agenda is about building a better future. The future means youth. […] We need the participation, perspectives and passion of young people. Today’s youth are at the leading edge of innovative ways to amplify voices and share ideas,” said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as he addressed a high-level event of the UN General Assembly recently.
“The post-2015 development agenda is about building a better future. The future means youth. […] We need the participation, perspectives and passion of young people”
For the third consecutive year, the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) is bringing together large crowds at UN Headquarters. Some 600 youth representatives from Member States, National Youth Councils, regional youth organizations and the United Nations Major Group for Children and Youth are expected to attend the Youth Forum, which is hosted together with the UN Youth Envoy Ahmad Alhendawi.
“The development agenda is all about you,” said Ahmad Alhendawi in his video message to young people ahead of the event. “You demand opportunities in terms of participation related to decent employment and education, and all that is your right,” Alhendawi added.
Engaging with and for young people
There is an impressive line-up for the two-day event arranged under the theme #Youth2015: Realizing the Future They Want. It will kick off with a performance by Lisa Russell, Spoken Word Artist. The ECOSOC President Martin Sajdik will then take the floor along with the President of the UN General Assembly John W. Ashe, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Brittany Trilford, Activist and Youth advisor at CIVICUS Alliance, who will deliver a keynote address. A number of other high-level youth representatives will also address the forum.
Ahmad Alhendawi will set the stage for the event, which will feature working sessions on themes including “Promoting Youth Employment – Creating Decent Jobs for a More Sustainable Future”; “Reports from global and regional Youth Fora”; “Advancing progress in Africa beyond 2015: A Youth Perspective”; and “Youth: The Future They Want Beyond 2015”. Youth representatives will have the opportunity to listen to and engage in interactive discussions on these topics. The event will be broadcast live via UN Web TV and participants will be able to share questions via social media through Facebook and Twitter, using the hashtags #Youth2015 and #UN4Youth.
“The development agenda is all about you. You demand opportunities in terms of participation related to decent employment and education, and all that is your right”
Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth
Addressing youth employment and progress in Africa
Youth make up 25 per cent of the global working age population, but account for 43.7 per cent of the unemployed and they continue to be particularly affected by the weak and uneven recovery of the world economy. In 2013, almost 202 million people were unemployed, of which some 74.5 million were between the ages of 15 and 24. According to the International Labour Organization, the youth-to-adult unemployment ratio has reached a historical peak, especially in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as in parts of Latin America, the Caribbean and in Southern Europe.
Attacking global poverty requires policy-makers to put youth employment at the centre of the post-2015 development agenda. During the first part of the forum, a moderated conversation will address challenges, good policies, strategies, partnerships and programmes for creating decent jobs for young people, including in dynamic sectors such as jobs that promote sustainable development and new information and communication technologies.
The vital importance of addressing youth employment was also expressed by UN DESA’s Under-Secretary-General Wu Hongbo at last year’s forum. “We need to take a serious look at how our education and employment sectors can work better together. We need to create more opportunities for young people to develop the skills needed for the labour market, through apprenticeship and on-the-job learning opportunities. We must nurture young people’s creativity and innovation,” Mr. Wu said.
Another part of the programme will address progress in Africa. While many African countries are off-track to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), an outstanding and sustained effort across the continent has resulted in significant progress towards the MDGs since 2000. At the same time, the continent has witnessed new and recurring conflict during this period, which threatens development gains, the stability of the region and impacts youth disproportionately.
The forum aims to generate ideas and solutions to empower young people to promote a renewed commitment to ending violence in the region, and to shaping a comprehensive post-2015 development agenda that addresses the income, gender and rural-urban inequalities that persist in Africa.
“We need to create more opportunities for young people to develop the skills needed for the labour market […] We must nurture young people’s creativity and innovation”
UN DESA’s Under-Secretary-General
The future youth want
More than 1.2 million young people have voted in the My World 2015 survey, conveying the priorities and concerns most important for them as the international community moves forward and beyond the 2015 MDGs target date. As part of the efforts of the Global Partnership for Youth in the Post-2015 Development Agenda, launched by the President of the General Assembly and the UN Envoy on Youth, youth have also participated in the crowdsourcing platform aiming to consolidate the outcomes of national, regional, global and online consultations into concrete proposals for the post-2015 development framework.
“Despite significant progress made since the Millennium Development Goals were adopted, the current generation of youth – the largest the world has ever seen – has been left behind. They are still denied the opportunities they need to realize their full potential,” stressed Ahmad Alhendawi, as the results were completed ahead of the ECOSOC Youth Forum.
Results, based on the specific priorities that youth have suggested through the crowdsourcing platform within the areas of education; employment and entrepreneurship; health; good governance; peace and stability, have now been consolidated into concrete youth-focused target areas, reflected in the Global call on youth in the post-2015 development agenda. These will also be discussed during the final part of the forum, which will seek to identify the next steps and the key elements of an advocacy strategy or “road map” to the 2015 Development Summit and how youth can partner with the UN system, civil society and the private sector to ensure its implementation.
“We must listen to young people. We must involve young people. From employment challenges to creating a sustainable future, it is crucial that young people’s voices are heard,” concluded Mr. Wu as he addressed the youth representatives that had gathered at last year’s forum.
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