Youth share their voices at UN General Assembly

Youth unemployment is increasing according to figures from the International Labour Organization (ILO), with almost 73 million young people looking for work worldwide. Recently addressing the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee, youth representatives raised the questions of unemployment and underemployment as the biggest problem facing young people around the world today. 

As the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly, which deals with social, humanitarian and cultural issues, began its session early October, some 28 Youth Delegates, representing 21 countries, took the floor to share some of the issues that concern them and their peers worldwide.

Under the Committee’s agenda item on “Social development, including questions relating to the world social situation and to youth, ageing, persons with disabilities and the family,” young people from around the world spoke candidly about the obstacles they face.

Agreeing that unemployment and underemployment is the biggest problem facing young people in developed and developing countries alike, they highlighted national as well as international challenges, also underscoring the importance of education in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

“We urge that you should get a fair and equal pay for equal work and that you should have a fair and equal chance to work for a living,” said Joel Linnainmäki, the youth delegate representing Finland. “We stand for a world in which you are judged by your personality and skills, not by your gender, religion or ethnicity and we stand proudly in solidarity with the HeForShe movement,” he said.

Being part of the generation that grew up alongside the MDGs, the youth representatives called on the international community to put the unfinished MDGs as the first priority in the post-2015 agenda.

Despite the many current challenges, Kenya’s youth representative Gladwell Wambui Kahara, expressed optimism about the future, referring to the elaboration of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), providing an incentive for the post-2015 development agenda. ”The new framework with its ambitious goals and targets promises social justice and economic development especially for the youth,” Ms. Wambui Kahara said.

Participation in decision-making is one of the key priority areas of the UN’s agenda on youth and the youth delegates represent one of the ways in which this ambition is being accomplished. Acting within a country’s official delegation to the UN, youth delegates provide input on youth issues and take part in the general work, attending meetings and informal negotiations. They can also participate in General Assembly meetings and attend functional Commissions of ECOSOC.

Highlighting the great potential of including youth, Finnish youth delegate Mr. Linnainmäki quoted Archimedes in his concluding remarks: “Give me a place to stand, and I shall move the world.”

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