Inclusion of Young People in National Decision-making Recurring Theme as Economic and Social Council Concludes Youth Forum

3 June 2014
ECOSOC/6623

Inclusion of Young People in National Decision-making Recurring Theme as Economic and Social Council Concludes Youth Forum

3 June 2014
Economic and Social Council
ECOSOC/6623
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Economic and Social Council

Youth Forum

AM & PM Meetings

Inclusion of Young People in National Decision-making Recurring Theme

 

as Economic and Social Council Concludes Youth Forum

 

Member States today welcomed a proposal to incorporate youth-focused target areas in the post-2015 development agenda, as the Economic and Social Council concluded its two-day Youth Forum.

Ahmad Alhendawi, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, presented the document “The Global Youth Call,” which he said intended to provide concrete language on youth issues.  “Any new development agenda should mainstream youth,” he said, expressing hope that the youth-focused targets would be relevant to intergovernmental negotiations on the post-2015 development framework.

The document covers the top five thematic priorities of youth:  education, employment and entrepreneurship, health, good governance, and peace and stability.  It asks for inclusion in the post-2015 development agenda of such targets as:  ensuring universal access to quality primary and post-primary education; reducing the number of youth not in employment; ensuring young people’s meaningful and inclusive participation in decision-making processes, governance and peacebuilding; improving the physical, social and mental health of adolescents and youth; and eliminating all forms of violence and discrimination against adolescents and youth.

Amanda Lundy, of PLAN International, said the Global Youth Call document highlighted the role of youth in monitoring implementation by Governments, among other elements.

Chernor Bah, Chair of the Youth Advocacy Group for the Global Education First Initiative, said the document represented a strong, unified voice that Governments and the international community could not ignore.

Csaba Kőrösi (Hungary), Co-Chair of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, said the youth call represented a “contract among generations”.  Some youth had been involved in the Working Group’s deliberations on the post-2015 “zero draft” on sustainable development goals.  Four of those goals and seven targets directly addressed youth concerns, he said, inviting youth to review the draft and work with their Governments to devise and implement national plans.

Austria’s delegate said the Global Youth Call document rightfully focused on human rights for young women and girls.

Paraguay’s delegate said the current generation of youth had unprecedented opportunities to enhance gender equality and employ cutting-edge information technologies to achieve sustainable development.  Youth must be able to participate in policymaking in order to take advantage of such opportunities.

The representative of the Netherlands stressed the need for proper access for youth to sexual and reproductive rights, as well as HIV/AIDS care — which was among the priorities for youth in his country.

Lloyd Russell-Moyle, Vice-President of the European Youth Forum, pointed out in his keynote address that the Millennium Declaration mentioned young people only once, underscoring the need for youth to be at the table when a decision would be made on the post-2015 development agenda.

Mr. Alhendawi, Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, and Martin Sajdik (Austria), President of the Economic and Social Council, made closing remarks.

Keynote Address

LLOYD RUSSELL-MOYLE, Vice-President, European Youth Forum, asked youth delegates if they believed in a theory of change and how they could make a better tomorrow.  There were risks globally that led to a lack of belief.  Belief alone was not enough, and youth, Governments and all other stakeholders must come together to act.  Describing how United Nations processes could lack transparency, he said that wealthy States participating in the 1992 Earth Summit had gotten away with what they wanted, but after that the “microphones were cut off for youth”.  The Millennium Declaration mentioned young people only once.  Over the years, young people’s tactics had changed, but their struggles to be heard must continue.

The Colombo Declaration on Youth in 2014 would not reach the roof of a skyscraper but it laid the foundation, he said.  Now bricks must be put in place.  Youth must be at the table when the post-2015 global agenda would be adopted.  After today’s discussion, they must go home and lobby that Governments hear their voices.  Young people expressed their voices in protests or through lobbying respectfully in suits.  When their voices were not heard, they could build their own alternatives.  This forum of youth and Governments must move away from “too much talking” towards decisions.

Session IV: Youth — The Future They Want Beyond 2015

The session reviewed the main outcomes of the crowdsourcing initiative undertaken by the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, in collaboration with United Nations agencies and international non-governmental organizations, and other stakeholders.  The resulting Global Youth Call presented the emanating immediate priorities of youth moving beyond 2015 and the most appropriate targets and indicators that could be included in the post-2015 development agenda that would support young people’s vision of the future they wanted.

PRATEEK AWASTHI, Technical Analyst, United Nations Population Fund, said that although the post-2015 discussions included issues of unemployment and poverty, among others, young people felt something was missing.  They were twice as likely to be poor and three-times as likely to be unemployed.  Further, the majority of sexual assaults happened to girls under the age of 16.

While he would hear people say they wanted to include young people as they were important, he questioned what exactly that meant.  Clear targets and goals were needed.  More than 1,700 youth organizations and other stakeholders and partners around the world offered input to the Global Youth Call.  Expressing hope that the Call would be useful, he urged that delegations bring the document back to their countries “so that no one can say we don’t know what you are asking for”.

DOUG COURT, Deputy Coordinator, International Telecommunication Union (ITU) BYND 2015 Youth Summit, said that, in developing a document out of crowdsourcing, the main challenge was to make sense of all the “noise” out there.  “If you want to lose faith in humanity read the comments below a newsfeed,” he said, noting the bigotry and hatred that an anonymous Internet could engender.  Creating a platform so that youth could express comments was, therefore, an opportunity to experiment with the process of ideation.  More than 1,000 actors helped consolidate the ideas that created the platform.  Five areas garnered high percentages of relevancy among the participants in creating that platform, including education, employment and entrepreneurship, health, governance and peace and security.  The breakout sessions could be formats to develop actionable strategies that the youth delegates could bring back to their Governments.

Mr. AWASTHI then described the five areas in depth, noting that youth called for education to be more accessible and have increased national budget allocations, among others.  Education needed to be relevant to the job market and to leading healthy, productive lives towards a sustainable world.  Employment needed to address the match between skills and the changing needs of the market.  Young entrepreneurs needed access to tailor-made funding and mentorships.  With 600 million jobs needing to be created, and with 9 out of 10 jobs occurring in the private sector, supporting those entrepreneurs was critical.

The World Health Organization (WHO) had identified the top causes of youth death, including road traffic accidents, HIV, and suicide, he continued.  Recognizing the social and political determinants of health was crucial, he said, noting that most behaviour patterns began in adolescence.  Youths said they wanted, among others, access to sexual education, contraception with a focus on adolescent girls, and mental health services, particularly in light of the high suicide rates.

Peace and personal security, ranging from child and early forced marriage to violence against children, including in school and households, as well as public spaces, were included in many documents.  However, the peacebuilding process would not be successful unless young people were included.  They played key roles in peace and security.  In the area of governance and participation, they called for an honest and responsive Government that enabled participation by young people.  In that role, they could monitor and hold Governments accountable.

In the brief interactive dialogue, a young man from Nicaragua pointed out that young people had a different mentality about sexual rights than their parents or other adults and that the forum was the “superb time” to work hand-in-hand for a better world and a different world.

A young man from Niger, noting that youth in his country had produced in 2013 an outcome document on the areas in the Global Youth Call, urged that technology and agricultural concerns be used in combination.  He also said that a woman friend, in light of the recent kidnapping in Nigeria, had questioned if people had the courage to send their girls to school.  “We need to intensify a culture of peace,” he stated.  Otherwise, nothing was possible.

Mr. AWASTHI urged that it was critical advocacy continue, using all the outcome documents and the Global Youth Call developed over the years, when delegations returned to their countries.

Also speaking were representatives of Bangladesh and Burkina Faso.

Session V: Discussion on Youth Proposals

AHMAD ALHENDAWI, Envoy of the Secretary-General on Youth, presented the Global Youth Call, which he said intended to provide concrete language on youth-focused target areas to be included in the post-2015 development agenda.  Any new development agenda should mainstream youth.  The call was based on consensus among more than 1,700 youth organizations, the United Nations Major Group on Children and Youth, global networks of international non-governmental organizations and many other stakeholders.  The youth had done their homework.  The call would be handed to Member States and it would be relevant to intergovernmental negotiations.  The call was also in line with the outcome of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals.

AMANDA LUNDY, of PLAN International, said the call was a road map for Governments.  Some highlights included an emphasis on the role of youth in the prevention of diseases, including non-communicable diseases, the need for support entrepreneurship to address underemployment, and the importance of governance.  The call also underscored the needs for investment in civil society space and for involvement of youth in monitoring to hold Governments to account.

CHERNOR BAH, Chair, Youth Advocacy Group for the Global Education First Initiative, said the Global Youth Call document reflected that for the first time in history youth were advocating through a strong, unified voice that Governments and the international community could not ignore.  The document covered employment, health, governance, education, peace and security, stressing the critical role of young people in creating peace and safety and the need to invest in youth in order to achieve a viable peace.

CSABA KŐRÖSI (Hungary), Co-Chair, Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, said the Global Youth Call document represented a “contract among generations”.  Some youth had been involved in the Open Working Group’s deliberations from the outset; their influence and input had been vital in charting the post-2015 zero draft.  The Global Youth Call document focused on human rights, youth, family concerns, disaster risk reduction, culture and infrastructure.  Four of the sustainable development goals and seven targets directly addressed youth concerns.  He invited youth to look at the zero draft to see whether it would help the international community move forward and called on them to work with their Governments to devise and implement national plans to implement the goals.  “You will be the ones to implement them, to monitor them and to bear the consequences and enjoy the fruits if we do it right,” he said.

During the ensuing discussion, delegates stressed the need to fulfil young peoples’ needs through better education and jobs and by properly reflecting that population’s needs in the post-2015 development agenda and the sustainable development goals.  They welcomed the Global Call on Youth and shed light on their policies and programmes for youth empowerment and development.

The representative of Tunisia said youth had played an important role in Tunisia’s revolution and that the country’s new Constitution focused on youth development.

The representative of Paraguay said the current generation of youth had unprecedented opportunities to enhance gender equality and employ cutting-edge information technologies to achieve sustainable development.  Youth must be able to participate in policymaking in order to take advantage of such opportunities.

The representative of the Netherlands stressed the need for proper access for youth to sexual and reproductive rights, as well as HIV/AIDS care — which was among the priorities for youth in his country.

The representative of Austria said the Global Youth Call document rightfully focused on human rights for young women and girls.

The representative of Burkina Faso asked if a monitoring or advocacy mechanism could be created in the United Nations that would take youth concerns into account.

The representative of Kyrgyzstan called on Governments to work with youth groups to erase age discrimination against youth in the labour force.

Also speaking were the representatives of Romania, Cuba, Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Dominican Republic, Panama, Afghanistan and Brazil.

Individual youth speakers shed light on the concerns of youth in their respective regions.  Two speakers said the third Millennium Development Goal had not focused on stopping child marriage and gender-based violence, which were real concerns in places like Bangladesh and India.  Such issues should be included in the post-2015 goals.  Another speaker expressed hope that the proposals made during the youth forum in Quito would be heard.  Another speaker asked what happened to youth activist movements such as the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street, stressing the need to question the current model of socioeconomic development and focus instead on workers’ rights.  One speaker said more focus was needed on the rights of people with disabilities, migrant workers and minorities.

A representative of the Group of Friends of Youth said the five priority areas identified by youth in the survey carried out by the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth and several United Nations agencies directly related to the priority areas of the World Programme of Action for Youth.

A representative of the Serbian Youth Council stressed the importance of forming true partnerships with youth, not just involving them in consultations, which was the first step.

Closing Remarks

Mr. ALHENDAWI said human rights were at the heart of sustainable development.  The Forum had accomplished much by creating a very good list of targets for the post-2015 era.  Moving forward it was necessary to ensure that youth had more access points at the United Nations and the ability to participate in the work of the Organization.

THOMAS GASS, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, speaking on behalf of WU HONGBO, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said the work in the past two days had not taken place in a vacuum.  Rather it was a culmination of processes.  Young people had been outspoken and clear in shaping the post-2015 development agenda.  That involvement was essential so that in September 2015 everyone could move forward and implement the contract.  “The United Nations wants to partner with you.  Your inputs are important to sustainable development,” he said.  He also stressed the need to ensure young people lived in a world free from violence and the essential role of youth as peacekeepers and peace-builders.  Development could not happen without everyone on board on an equal footing.  Youth had demonstrated the crucial role information and communications technology played in spreading their message.

MARTIN SAJDIK (Austria), Economic and Social Council President, said that in the last two days the Forum had raised key youth issues and challenges, and shared information, knowledge and good practices.  Recommended actions and key messages presented during the Forum would be presented during the Council’s high-level segment in July.  He expressed hope that the Forum would become part of the Council’s formal proceedings.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.