Youth will take centre stage at the United Nations on 2 and 3 February during the annual Economic and Social Council’s (ECOSOC) Youth Forum, exploring the role of young people in the transition from the Millennium Development Goals to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The event will give the world’s youth a powerful platform to engage in dialogue with decision-makers on development issues most important to them.
“In order to arrive at an inclusive and people-centred post-2015 development agenda, it is more crucial than ever to explore and advocate for young people’s development priorities for the future,” ECOSOC President Martin Sajdik said, illustrating the importance of youth participation. “We cannot discuss the future development goals without bringing the voices of young people into discussions to give them the opportunity to shape the future they want”.
“In the world today, we have 1.8 billion young people. This is a ready asset that we have to put to use,” Vivian Onano, Global Youth Ambassador for ‘A World at School’ and one of the Forum’s panellists said. “We need to use youth as our champions so that they can be able to implement the SDGs into our local communities and also in our countries. The only way we can achieve this goal is making it inclusive of everyone, so young people have to be at the forefront.”
“We are going to show […] that we are not the leaders of tomorrow, we are the leaders of today,” Marie Masson from Denmark said.
“In order to arrive at an inclusive and people-centred post-2015 development agenda, it is more crucial than ever to explore and advocate for young people’s development priorities for the future”
As the international community gets ready to implement a new set of Sustainable Development Goals, youth delegates from every continent are eager to weigh in with their visions for a more inclusive and sustainable future.
“In 2030, I see a world where all children have access to education,” said Xiuxiu Yan, a youth delegate from China.
Unemployment, healthcare, income inequality and the empowerment of women also rank high as development issues most important to youth. Vivian puts gender equality on the top of her list: “I want a world where each and every child has access to opportunities, regardless of their gender,” she said.
Platform to contribute with unique skills
The Youth Forum has been hosted at UN headquarters in New York every year since 2012, providing a broad platform for young people from around the world to highlight their insights and visions on development issues. With the number of young people globally continuing to grow, they need to be increasingly included in development efforts. They also bring unique skills and viewpoints to a world that is becoming increasingly interconnected.
“Young people have never been more educated or connected through social media as today,” Ahmad Alhendawi, the UN’s Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Youth said in his message calling for youth to participate in the Forum. “We need youth on board to move this agenda forward. It is our job to leave no one behind.”
Bridging MDG momentum with new development agenda
2015 will be a year of transition, when the world will graduate from the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and move onto a new development agenda based on a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These goals, seventeen in total, will address current development issues that range from climate change to education, healthcare and poverty. Much like the MDGs, they set clear, measurable targets for the international community to work towards.
The MDGs have been named the most successful anti-poverty push in history, reaching groundbreaking results in education, child and maternal mortality and the scaling back of non-communicable diseases. But areas remain where the targets are still out of reach. The SDGs will aim to build upon the successes of the MDGs and make for an inclusive, all-encompassing post-2015 development agenda that is action-oriented, ‘aspirational’ and global in nature. Including youth in both the drafting and implementation of the news goals is therefore vital, as they do not only bring fresh, new perspectives to the debate, but they will ultimately be responsible for a large part of its implementation.
“We need youth on board to move this agenda forward. It is our job to leave no one behind”
UN’s Secretary General’s Special Envoy on Youth
The Forum will shine a light on the improvements in development since the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals in the year 2000, as well as serve as a podium for new, original approaches to issues that affect youth and their communities.
“ECOSOC is the platform where we debate on how to bring more sustainability to this world,” Lasha Shakulashvili, a Youth Delegate from Georgia, said, explaining why the Youth forum is the perfect platform for young people to bring up their issues. “We can globally unite our efforts around great ideas”.
ECOSOC is the UN’s principal body for coordination, policy review, policy dialogue and recommendations on economic, social and environmental issues, and on 2 February, the UN headquarters in New York will be buzzing with the excitement and energy of the world’s youth, and all the insights, issues and innovative ideas they will bring to the table.