Closing Remarks at the “Leaving No Youth Behind session in the” 2021 ECOSOC Youth Forum

What an amazing session that was! Am I the only one who felt the energy and dedication of our speakers? I personally learned a lot from this session and can already see how we can take on board several of the recommendations young people made.

For example, it is clear we need to strengthen multilateral processes and intergenerational dialogue to effectively advocate with and for youth in vulnerable situations. As a concrete way to make this happen, I heard that we need to significantly improve our collaboration with youth of intersecting identities so that they can provide feedback on current mechanisms that impact them. 

I also heard a strong call to close the data gap to have a more detailed understanding of the challenges linked to intersecting vulnerabilities. Having disaggregated data would help design impactful interventions and develop effective policy guidance. I heard speakers call for an initiative to obtain data relating to social issues exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic for all youth. 

The issue of youth mental health also came up several times, including in the context of supporting youth who are mobilizing at local and national levels and calling for co-design of mental health strategies that would truly respond to the needs of all youth. For your information, we are currently working on the next edition of the World Youth Report which is focusing on youth mental health and wellbeing. This upcoming report – which is being prepared in very close collaboration with young people – will improve our collective understanding of the specificities of youth mental health and wellbeing, and is based on multiple testimonials of the experience of young persons living with these different vulnerabilities, pre and post-COVID. 

Also, the need to leverage all knowledge and strategies, including those created by Indigenous peoples, in the fight against climate change also came through clearly in this session. Indigenous communities are particularly affected by both climate change and the pandemic, and yet, we do not sufficiently recognize the effective leadership role they can potentially play in helping to address a number of complex issues we all are facing. We need to do a better job at consulting and including Indigenous youth. 

Today’s session demonstrates that there is no single approach to our work on leaving no youth behind. It is imperative for us to attentively listen to young people in vulnerable and marginalized situations so that we can better understand and respond to their needs. In parallel to this, we need to collectively invest in addressing the root causes contributing to youth vulnerabilities. 

To do so, we need to be honest, responsive and accountable … and we need to be bold and resilient as well. Bold like the inspiring young persons with us today. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and ideas, as well as clear message that the status quo will not work anymore. We heard you. Loud and clear. The ball is in our court now. 

To close, I would like to thank the many partners who worked together to make today’s event possible. These partners include (in alphabetical order) the Major Group on Children and Youth (MGCY), the International Coordination Meeting of Youth Organizations (ICMYO), the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN Human Rights), the Office of the Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth (OSGEY), the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) - Division for Inclusive Social Development (DISD), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and UN Women. 

I also need to thank our outstanding moderator, Mr. Derrick Leon Washington, who so skillfully helped us navigate this very full session. Over to you, Derrick.

File date: 
Thursday, April 8, 2021

Elliott Harris