Volume 17, No.03 - March 2013

Feature articles

Shaping tomorrow’s innovators

Shaping tomorrow's innovators

“Empowering young people is crucial. Half the world is under 25 years of age. Young women and men everywhere want decent jobs. They want dignity. They want a greater say in their own destiny,” said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently. With the purpose of leveraging the potentials of youth in solving global challenges, ECOSOC is arranging a Youth Forum on 27 March.

The number of young people in the world has never been higher with 1.2 billion being between the ages of 15 and 24. As a group, they are among those most affected by the economic, social and environmental challenges facing the world today.

“The youth employment crisis is worsening: young people represent 40 per cent of the jobless worldwide,” said DESA’s Under-Secretary-General Wu Hongbo as he addressed the Commission for Social Development in February. “This translates in numbers to almost 74 million unemployed young people, whose ranks continue to grow. These are not just mere statistics. Behind the numbers are lives affected, livelihoods lost and opportunities missed,” Mr. Wu added.

Looking beyond these serious hurdles, the United Nations Economic and Social Council aims to spotlight the possibilities available for the world’s youth to harness. There is a willingness among youth to take the lead in transforming societies. Their hunger for jobs, education and desire to engage in world matters has also put a growing spotlight on global youth issues.

The Secretary-General has given priority to working with and for young people in his 5-year Action Agenda and the international community is also looking to them as potential partners in designing effective responses to development challenges around the globe.

Leveraging the potential of young people

Science, technology, innovation (STI) and culture have the power to transform and improve societies. They propel and sustain development efforts by generating knowledge as well as technological and social innovations that meet the demands of nations across the globe.

In July 2013, UN Member States, policy-makers, civil society, academia and private sector representatives will meet in Geneva for the high-level segment of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). “Science, technology and innovation, and the potential of culture, for promoting sustainable development and achieving the MDGs” will be the main theme for the Annual Ministerial Review (AMR) this year.

To bring the voices of youth into these important discussions and to engage young people on how STI and culture can facilitate change, ECOSOC is gathering youth representatives, young corporate leaders and opinion leaders for a Youth Forum Event on 27 March. Arranged under the theme “Shaping tomorrow’s innovators: Leveraging science, technology, innovation and culture for today’s youth”, the event intends to bring attention to the potential of young men and women as problem-solvers, innovators and actors for development.

Organized by DESA in collaboration with UNESCO, UNICEF, UNDP, ITU, UN-HABITAT and with the support of “New York Tech Meet Up”, the forum will also provide a platform to discuss the development agenda beyond 2015. It will address barriers facing today’s youth, critical areas requiring special attention as well as appropriate actions to move development forward.

Innovating the future

The Youth Forum will highlight a range of topics including on girls and young women in science; youth as an engine for creative economy; and using social media to make ideas happen. Besides Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, ECOSOC President Néstor Osorio and DESA’s Under-Secretary-General Wu Hongbo, other prominent speakers will include Hashem Bajwa, CEO of DE-DE, Matt Mahan, CEO of, Mandë Holford, Co-founder of the World Association of Young Scientists, Internet activist and computer engineer Wael Ghonim and’s Chief Marketing Officer Stacy Martinet.

The event will also welcome to the podium 15-year-old Adora Svitak, an internationally published author, teacher, speaker, activist and World Food Programme youth representative. Ms. Svitak will set the stage for the day, following the opening remarks by the Secretary-General, who not long ago also underscored the importance of stepping up efforts for young people, saying “we must support them. And for that, we must step up our efforts. I strongly believe the priorities of youth should be just as prominent in our meeting space as they are in cyberspace,” said Ban Ki-moon.

Prior to the event on 27 March, ECOSOC and DESA will launch a social media campaign calling all youth innovators across the globe to share their ideas for a sustainable future. More details to follow on the ECOSOC Facebook page as well as on the event page listed below.

“I very much look forward to this event, to meet and be inspired by the voices of young people as they share their ideas for the future we want,” says ECOSOC President Néstor Osorio.

For more information:
“Shaping tomorrow’s innovators: Leveraging science, technology, innovation and culture for today’s youth”

ECOSOC on Facebook

ECOSOC on Twitter

Towards a renewed global partnership for development

Towards a renewed global partnership for development (Photo: Shutterstock)

The global partnership for development that underpins the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) was captured as a standalone goal (MDG8) in 2000. It has played a crucial role in the achievement of the MDGs by facilitating resources and an overall environment conducive to development. A report assessing MDG8 will be released in March and later followed by a chat on Facebook.

As the conversation gears towards the 2015 development agenda, there is great interest to learn from the experience of implementation of MDG8 and ways to strengthen the global partnership for development in the post-2015 era. In this sense, the Secretary-General’s High-level Panel of Eminent Persons will place this important issue at the centre of its upcoming meeting in Indonesia at the end of March.

The UN System Task Team (UNTT) on the Post-2015 UN Development Agenda has prepared a report on global partnership which will be published in early March on the UNTT website. Titled ‘Towards a renewed global partnership for development’ the report presents an assessment of MDG8 and it reviews new challenges for the global economy as well as new trends in development cooperation. The report proposes possible contours, alternative formats and a robust accountability mechanism for a renewed global partnership for the post-2015 era.

Recognizing new challenges

MDG8 served as an important advocacy tool to stress the important role of the international community in achieving the globally agreed development goals outlined in the MDG framework. Based in the context of 2000, when the MDGs were conceived, the focus of MDG8 is primarily in the areas of Official Development Assistance (ODA), debt relief, trade, technology and access to essential medicines. It also gave special attention to the needs of the least developed and most vulnerable countries.

Going forward, a renewed global partnership for development needs to recognize the challenges of the world we live in today and formulate adequate global efforts that corresponds with global challenges in the areas of climate change, rising inequalities, changing population dynamics, and remaining governance and human rights deficits. Fragile countries have seen the least progress in terms of MDG achievement and thus any attention to most vulnerable countries needs to include fragile states.

Sustainability at the core

In the discussion about the characteristics of the post-2015 development agenda, there is broad consensus among all stakeholders that sustainability must be at the core of the new agenda. Larger financing needs can be anticipated which cannot be met by ODA alone. While ODA commitments will continue playing a key role supporting the development efforts of the poorest countries, the recent years have seen the rise of a more multi-polar economy leading to a significant shift in global economic balance. Given the rise of middle-income countries, the face of poverty has changed significantly.

Today, 75 per cent of the poor live in middle-income countries and further progress to eradicate poverty will require greater policy coherence at global and national levels. Based on the emergence of new economic powers, South-South cooperation has increased and a large array of non-governmental actors (including the private sectors, philanthropy and civil society organizations) have engaged in various forms of global partnerships, often focusing on specific sectors, mainly in the areas of health, education and food security.

Reshaping donor-recipient relationships

A renewed global partnership will need to move away from the traditional donor-recipient relationship that characterized MDG8 and consider a wider range of actors and mechanisms to make the most effective contribution to global development. Unlike MDG8, the new agenda should also build a robust accountability mechanism to address, on a continuous basis, possible shortcomings from commitments made as part of a renewed global partnership for development.

When speaking at an event recently, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also described the need for renewed global partnership. “The current global partnership for development needs to be rebalanced and redefined – taking into account emerging economies, South-South partnership, private sector engagement and innovative financing,” he said.

Participate in live chat on Facebook

Looking at the various challenges at hand and the need for consistent global responses with participation from multiple actors, the discussion about the characteristics of a renewed global partnership for development in the post-2015 era is rather complex. The report of the UN System Task Team provides an overview of the key challenges involved and makes recommendations on ways to address some of these questions with clear suggestions about the format and the contours of a renewed global partnership.

In addition to the publication of the report, DESA’s Division for Policy Development and Analysis together with UNDP, invite you to talk to the authors of the report directly through a Facebook chat taking place in mid-March. This will be an opportunity to ask questions directly to members of the UN System Task Team. Check back on the DESA Facebook page to learn when the event will take place and to sign up to join.

For more information:

UN System Task Team

DESA’s Facebook page

Successes and way forward after Rio+20

On 12 February, the first in a series of Google+ Hangouts was hosted by DESA’s Division for Sustainable Development, outlining key outcomes of the Rio+20 Conference and the actions taken to realize promises made. “The message of inclusion, engagement, integration of decision-making, all that came out very strongly from Rio,” said Nikhil Seth, Director of DESA’s Division for Sustainable Development.

As the first panelist to take the stage in this online discussion, Mr. Seth, who also headed the Rio+20 Secretariat, described the event in Rio de Janeiro as one of the largest UN conferences ever, bringing together 50,000 people representing governments, civil society, media and academia. “The major concern that came out at Rio, was the fact that we are heading towards a set of economic, social and environmental crises,” he said. “The only way to change things is to rethink development. That was the fundamental message from the Rio outcome,” Mr. Seth added.

He underscored the importance of engagement of people in the follow up process. “We need to give it real meaning in the way we work and the way we focus on implementing, to realize the future we want,” he said.

Mr. Seth also highlighted one of the main messages conveyed, namely that people are important, “but equally important is the planet on which the prosperity of these people depends,” he said. The role of young people as “architects of the future we want”, as well as the significance of developing the so called sustainable development goals were other outcomes underlined by Mr. Seth.

Elizabeth Thompson, former Minister for Energy and Environment of Barbados and the Executive Coordinator for Rio+20, outlined some of the main challenges that Small Island Developing States (SIDS) face and what the conference has meant for them. “The Rio conference was very important for SIDS, as one of the outcomes was an agreement to host a UN conference specifically for Small Island Developing States,” Ms. Thompson said, referring to the event scheduled to take place in 2014.

“The challenges that small island developing states encounter are very, very difficult and complex and there are a number of items on the agenda at Rio which treat particularly to their issues – climate change, issues of oceans and the blue economy, marine biodiversity and sustainable energy,” she explained, underscoring particularly the vital role of sustainable energy.

In addition to outcomes related to sustainable agriculture, sustainable tourism, water and sanitation, Ms. Thompson underlined the importance of capacity building in order to make SIDS competitive, as well as partnerships. “I hope that we will see coming out of this, an increasing number of partnerships as part of the mechanism in which the benefits for small islands developing states can be achieved and can be leveraged,” she said.

Supplying real time information

Kimo Goree, Vice-President of the International Institute for Sustainable Development Reporting Services (IISD), shared his perspective covering the conference. IISD provided real time information on the negotiations and most other events taking place in Rio. “IISD continue to track the negotiations after Rio and we’ve been providing reports on the negotiations taking place in the General Assembly and the establishment of the open working group for the development of sustainable development goals,” Mr. Goree added.

“Rio+20 builds on 20 years of involvement via NGOs, now referred to as Major Groups in international discussions on sustainable development,” he said. He shared his experience, dating back to the preparations for the first Earth Summit in Rio in 1992, when Mr. Goree was one of the handful of NGOs participating in a preparatory meeting in Nairobi.

Mr. Goree also explained that it was at that meeting in Nairobi 23 years ago, that a decision was made allowing NGOs to attend. “It set precedent for unprecedented NGO access,” Mr. Goree explained. “NGOs were at the table and not in the streets,” he added.

Commitments for specific actions

“I have seen the value and importance of these big international gatherings in stimulating attention to probably the biggest challenges we as humans face,” said Jacob Scherr, Director of global strategy and advocacy for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). An environmental lawyer and advocate for many years, Mr. Scherr attended the original Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and he also took part in preparations for last year’s event.

“Some of these commitments were real game-changers,” he said, mentioning multilateral development banks, which made a commitment to invest 175 Billion USD to green urban transportation and the pledge of 40 of the world’s largest manufacturers and retailers, to make their supply chain deforestation free within the next eight years. “Microsoft, which has operations around the world, said that they would make their own facilities carbon neutral by the end of next year,” Mr. Scherr further added.

“In addition to the negotiated outcome document, The Future We Want, there were hundreds of these commitments for very specific actions,” he explained. “And those are the ones that we think will be the real legacy of Rio.”

Stay tuned for more hangouts

Moderated by John Romano, Social Media Focal Point within DESA’s Division for Sustainable Development, the discussion also responded to online questions posted via social media.

Some concerned the progress of the Sustainable Development Goals and the possibility for civil society to interact in the process. Others focused on how we could make local actions impact on an international level for the future we want.

After the hangout had concluded, Mr. Seth shared his thoughts saying, “the Google+ format helps you have a conversation. And if we are hoping to change things, if we are hoping to inspire people, we have to talk to them, and listen to their concerns and be responsive to them,” he said, also pointing out that his Division looks forward to hosting more of these events in the near future.

For information about this and upcoming hangouts:

Full on-demand video featuring “Sustainable development in action” Post-Rio+20 Hangout on 12 February 2013