Youth Delegates raise their voices at the UN General Assembly
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are often heralded as the new social contract between the world’s leaders and the people they represent. But given the 15-year time span of the 2030 Agenda, it is also a unique agreement across time.
“I see Sustainable Development Goals as a contract between generations,” said Clara Halvorsen who represents Denmark as Youth Delegate to the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly. “Two years ago, the world leaders decided on a plan for how the world should look like in 2030. And in 2030, it will be us, the young people who take over. That’s why we should be incorporated in the implementation of the Agenda 2030.”
This year, more than 30 countries have included youth delegates as part of their official delegation to the UN General Assembly. Many of them aged below 25, these inspiring young people represent their countries in UN meetings and informal negotiations, and provide input on youth-related issues.
In their impassioned statements to the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly, this year’s youth delegates called on all countries to give young people a voice not only at the UN, but at every level of decision-making.
“Member States are at a crossroads: the choice is either to make decisions for youth or with youth,” said Giuseppina De Marco and Tommaso Murè, this year’s Youth Delegates from Italy. “By letting us, Youth Delegates, be here today and involving youth representatives in high-level decision-making processes, you have made the choice that will lead to a ‘more sustainable and inclusive development.’”
“Being surrounded by such a number of brilliant and vocal young people, my fellow youth delegates, is a reminder that we need to be given a seat at the table and a voice to be heard when it comes to the challenges that concern our common future,” said the 2017 Young Delegate from Slovenia, Sabina Carli.
The youth delegates were particularly concerned about the implementation of Security Council Resolution 2250, which recognizes the value of including youth in the peacebuilding process and defines youth not as victims or perpetrators, but as agents of change.
“I encourage all Member States to involve young people in peacebuilding efforts as well as decision making processes at all levels,” said this year’s Youth Delegate from Finland, Ilmi Salminen. “This is necessary if we want to achieve a peaceful and prosperous future. Inter-generational dialogue requires that more space is given to young people.”
The Youth Delegates see their age as an advantage, not a hindrance, for building better international relations. They find it easy to communicate with their peers, regardless of their cultural background, and their open-mindedness makes it easier for them to learn from each other.
“We have different channels of communication, we are familiar with the same things because of globalization and it’s easier for us to talk to each other and realize that we’re not so different from one another,” said the 2017 Youth Delegate from Serbia, Teodora Pavković.
“Our next step, when we go back to our country, is to share the experiences that we’ve learned here, at United Nations, with colleagues from different countries,” echoed Abdeldjalil Bachar Bong, one of three Youth Delegates from Chad this year. “This way we bring our friends at schools and universities a new way of thinking and new tools.”
One thing that stands out from the statements and conversations with the youth delegates is their determination to build a more just world and not repeat the mistakes of the generations before them. That is why they demand their voices be heard.
“We are often said to be the future of our countries. But we are also their presents,” said Teodora Pavković from Serbia in her statement. “And we are called upon – and willing! – to make contributions. Our representatives, therefore, should be included into national working groups and help devise SDG implementation plans.”
“I think as young people we can speak up, because we are the future,” added Denmark’s Clara Halvorsen. “We can make sure that the world we leave will be a more equal world.”
For more information: UN Youth Delegate Programme