ECOSOC Youth Forum: Working together to make sustainable development a reality

Acknowledging that youth are key to the success of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the United Nations hosted several hundred young leaders at the annual ECOSOC Youth Forum in New York on 30-31 January, for a discussion on some of the most pressing issues of our time.

“It gives me confidence to see such a diverse group of young people coming together to share our common goals,” Frederick Musiiwa Makamure Shava, President of ECOSOC said as he officially opened the forum. “As young people, you bring something essential to the table: new perspectives. And it is through new ideas and policies that we will make progress.”

“Just by being here, you show you care about the issues,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a video address. “Poverty. Unemployment. Climate change. Inequality. Injustice. You, your friends and young people around the world are living these realities.”

As the world is currently seeing the largest generation of young people in history, much of the discussion during the Forum revolved around how to actively engage them in the sustainable future of people and planet.

“Youth issues are not one issue,”Ahmad Alhendawi, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Youth emphasized. “Youth issues are that nexus that exists between peace and security, development, and human rights.”

“No one should get to dictate who should be the beneficiary of justice, of equality, of clean air, natural resources, of a life devoid of discrimination and abuse,” said Trisha Shetty, co-founder of SheSays, an organization aiming to end gender-based discrimination in India.

In her keynote address at the Forum’s opening session, Shetty called for inter-generational justice: “When you limit or cut access of young people in domains of health, education, politics, economic and social empowerment, you are actively subjugating them to lead a lesser life.”

The Youth Forum saw the highest number of participants since its creation, with a record number of ministers, government officials, youth delegates and youth representatives from all over the world joining in on the discussions. It underscored the commitment of the international community to learn from young people, and let youth leaders play an active role in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Lenni Montiel, UN DESA”s Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development highlighted the need for cooperation and active youth engagement in today’s world. “We live in tumultuous times,” he said. “The world is beset by challenges and problems that can often seem insurmountable. From climate change to violence against women from poverty to conflict from unemployment to lack of access to quality health care young people are often on the front lines of these challenges.”

Young leaders are indeed more engaged in development issues than ever before, especially through the use of digital platforms and media. United through social media, they have created some of the most powerful movements for change the world has seen in recent decades.

In his closing address, ECOSOC President Frederick Musiiwa Makamure Shava encouraged the young leaders to stay committed to the success of the SDG’s as they venture back out into the world: “I would like to call on our young women and men to continue to engage with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” he said.“Wherever you go, advocate for the SDGs, support their implementation and hold your Governments accountable.”

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