Generation 2030 makes a stand at UN Youth Forum

They have been described both as self-absorbed and altruistic; consumeristic and environmentally conscious; apathetic and socially engaged. The current youth generation, often referred to as Generation Y or Millennials, seems to evade a single definition or label, but one thing is certain – they are building a future that will be radically different than anything we have seen before.

At the end of January, young activists and leaders from every corner of the world will descend on New York for the annual Youth Forum of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Here, they will meet ministers and high-level officials of governments, UN agencies and other international organizations. The key difference is, at this Forum, it is the youth who does the talking.

The Forum started in the year 2012 as a primary platform to give young people a say on global problems discussed by the United Nations. This year, ministers and other officials will hear the concerns, hopes and ideas of hundreds of young participants from around the world.

For the current generation of youth – the largest ever, at around 1.8 billion people – stepping into adulthood is proving anything but easy. Already, there are an estimated 71 million unemployed young people in the world. A further 161 million find themselves in situations of moderate or extreme poverty despite having a job.

Add to that mounting global problems, such as climate change, growing inequalities or the challenges of new technologies, and the prospect of growing up can seem daunting for many a young person. Yet, the youth activists, inventors, leaders and visionaries that so often grab the public attention these days are anything but intimidated.

Elon Musk who started two multi-million dollar businesses before the age of 30, Malala Yousafzai who became the youngest Nobel Prize laureate at just 17, or the 19-year-old Syrian refugee Yusra Mardini who saved the lives of 20 people during a dangerous sea crossing to Greece and went on to compete in the Rio Olympics are just a few examples of the energy, passion and relentless optimism of today’s young generation.

Today’s youth are not waiting for the old, business-as-usual models to gradually change. Instead they are using disruptive new technologies, global social networks and innovative solutions to build a new reality. From sharing economy, to cryptocurrencies, to clean energy networks paid for by cashless transfers, youth are already setting the tone of our future – and they are just getting started.

Young people will need all the innovation and energy they can muster because the challenge they face is an enormous one. The Sustainable Development Goals – a 15-year plan to create a prosperous world for everyone on a clean planet – is the most ambitious development agenda humanity has ever considered, let alone implemented.

The youth have already proven that they have the skills, knowledge and willpower to become the generation that ends poverty, halts climate change and creates a more just world for everyone. But to achieve all that by 2030 they need to have a meaningful part in the decision-making process. The UN Youth Forum is their chance to do just that.

The UN ECOSOC Youth Forum 2018 will take place in New York, 30-31 January. For more information go to: https://www.un.org/ecosoc/en/ecosoc-youth-forum

Join the conversation on social media using: #Youth2030

For a first-hand experience of the Forum, follow the Youth Forum SDG Media Zone: http://sdgmediazone.org/