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Young people are changing the world

Across countries and continents, our world is witnessing a rise in youth engagement and even a ‘youth quake’ as one news outlet described the recent Global Climate Strike. Inspired by 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg, some 1.6 million young people in 125 countries took to the streets, demanding world leaders to take climate action – now. To navigate our planet out of harms way, there is already a plan of action in place; the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Kicking off today, young leaders from different corners of the world are joining the 2019 ECOSOC Youth Forum with a mission: to put this plan into action.

The annual forum, labelled the largest annual gathering of youth advocates, takes place at a critical point in time. As UN DESA’s recent World Youth Report lays out, today’s young people face numerous challenges when it comes to education, employment and rising global inequalities.

It is therefore quite fitting that this year’s forum takes place under the theme “Empowered, Included and Equal”, inspiring us all to mobilize support for young people across the globe. After all, they offer 1.8 billion reasons for the world to stand by their side.

“Young people are a vast source of innovation, ideas and solutions. They are pushing strongly for the changes we need in the technology arena, in climate action, and in calling for inclusive and just societies,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said when he launched the UN Youth Strategy last September. “Empowering young people, supporting them, and making sure they can fulfil their potential are important ends in themselves. We want this for all people, everywhere.”

Taking place for the eight-consecutive year, the forum serves as a critical platform to move these efforts forward. At this event, youth representatives and members of the international community, can highlight opportunities, raise concerns and discuss efforts to scale up actions across the world to meet young people’s needs and help them realize their rights.

It is also a venue where young people and their roles as “critical agents of change” become apparent. Something last year’s keynote speaker, Salina Abraham, noted in her powerful address.

“They don’t only light fires, they keep them alive,” she said, stressing the potential of supporting youth and youth organizations, also advising the international community to “support, listen and engage.”

When addressing last year’s forum, Mr. Liu also emphasized the essential role that young people play for the SDGs. “I urge you to continue working with policy-makers and your governments to ensure that your voice is heard in their plans to implement the 2030 Agenda,” he said.

This year’s forum will serve as an important platform to channel young people’s contributions to world leaders and decision-makers, expected to join upcoming high-level events at the UN in September. Youth participants will for example be able to debate and develop messages to feed into the Secretary-General’s Climate Summit (23 September), the SDG Summit (24- 25 September) and the High-level Dialogue on Financing for Development (26 September).

In addition to the forum’s plenary and break-out sessions, many interesting discussions will also take place in the SDG Media Zone. Wherever you are in the world, you can follow the discussions happening at the forum as well is in the SDG Media Zone, live via UN Web TV. To engage and follow the events via social media, use #Youth2030 and #SDGLive.

Young people are changing the world. And they are proving that every effort – big or small – counts. As Ms. Thunberg put it after the Global Climate Strike. “We proved that it does matter what you do, and that no one is too small to make a difference.”

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