Volume 18, No.08 - August 2014

Feature articles

Empowering youth for sustainable islands

With less than two months until the UN Conference on Small Island Developing States in Samoa on 1-4 September, Conference Secretary-General Wu Hongbo brought together youth representatives from small island nations for a Google+ Hangout on 24 July 2014. Under the topic, ‘Samoa 2014: Empowering Youth for Sustainable Islands’, young people from Mauritius, Barbados and Samoa were invited to discuss with Mr. Wu, issues of importance to achieve sustainable islands and a healthier planet.

Small Island Developing States (SIDS) have large youth populations. In 2014, about 27.4 per cent of the inhabitants of these nations were under the age of 15, with the exception of Singapore and Cuba. Like elsewhere in the world, many young people there face unemployment and other challenges related to economic development, such as a lack of access to quality education.

But despite challenges, this large youth population offers tremendous potential as a catalyst for positive change. Young people in these countries and their role to help promote and achieve sustainable development in their communities and beyond, were in focus at the Google+ Hangout hosted by Mr. Wu, who is also  the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs.

“The voices and input of youth are critical for the upcoming Conference in Samoa, as well as for the ongoing work to shape and drive forward progress towards the post-2015 development agenda”

Wu Hongbo
Conference Secretary-General
UN DESA’s Under-Secretary-General

Gearing up for milestone conference
“The voices and input of youth are critical for the upcoming Conference in Samoa, as well as for the ongoing work to shape and drive forward progress towards the post-2015 development agenda,” Mr. Wu said ahead of the hangout event. Young people representing all three SIDS regions – the Pacific, the Caribbean, and the AIMS (Atlantic, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean and South China Sea) regions – took part.

Mr. Wu began the online discussion by highlighting the importance of the upcoming conference, for Small Island Developing States and for the whole world. “It will seek a renewed political commitment and it will identify new and emerging challenges and opportunities for the sustainable development of SIDS,” Mr. Wu explained, adding that it will also aim to identify priorities to be considered in the post-2015 development agenda.  In addition to highlighting some of the vulnerabilities that SIDS face, Mr. Wu also underscored the resourcefulness shown by this group of nations and how the global community needs to listen to and learn from them.

Moderator Matthias Klettermayer of UN DESA’s Division for Sustainable Development then opened the floor to the youth panel encouraging them to share their views on how youth can effectively contribute to the Conference and to the sustainable development agenda more broadly.

“Come prepared: Do your homework – know your topic and the policy issues,” said Karuna Raana, Deputy Organising Partner for SIDS, UN Major Group of Children and Youth (UNMGCY). She advised interested participants to get to know the actors involved, to form strategic partnerships both with civil society organizations and with governments, and to make use of the UN Major Group of Children and Youth, which is the official constituency for young people to participate in sustainable development negotiations at the UN.

Issues that matters to youth
The need for capacity building, quality education and employment opportunities were some of the issues brought forward by Molly Homasi, UNMGCY focal point for Samoa/National Youth Council Representative. Involvement of youth in disaster risk management and promoting social inclusion were other topics of importance for youth in the Pacific region.

“Education is one of our top priorities,” said Alex Cumberbatch, SIDS Youth Representative in Barbados, describing the views of youth in the Caribbean. “We see a need to improve our core training,” he added, pointing to the need of efforts to stimulate entrepreneurship and to promote business development among young people. Among other issues of concern for youth in the Caribbean, he mentioned good governance, climate change, unemployment, healthcare and social protection.

Krishnee Appadoo, UNMGCY SIDS Focal Point for the AIMS region and SIDS Youth Representative for UNESCO, discussed a number of priority issues for young people. “We have identified some pressing concerns,” she explained, pointing to such key issues as good and effective governance at all levels of government, the private sector and civil society engagement. Access to food and water, energy security and climate change were other concerns that youth in the AIMS region had expressed.

Ms. Appaddo also underscored the need for quality education, economic and employment opportunities as well as access to technology and IT connectivity. “We also really need to educate youth on environmental issues and sustainable development and provide youth with tools, strategies, grass root action plans, as well as technical know-how and financial means to start their own NGOs,” she said.

Sharing questions with the Conference Secretary-General
During the hangout, the youth panel also shared their questions for the Conference Secretary-General. Among these included what steps are needed to ensure that the priorities of youth are included in the SIDS agenda and in the post-2015 development framework.

“The discussions we are having at the United Nations of the 193 Member States, is about people, about present and future generations,” said Mr. Wu, underscoring the importance of the role of young people in the post-2015 era. Mr. Wu emphasized the need for quality education and productive employment, saying that without it “the international community, including SIDS, cannot achieve sustainable development”.

Mr. Wu also highlighted strengthening active citizenships, respect for cultural diversity, preventing diseases and raising environmental consciousness, as well as entrepreneurship and innovation to create jobs. “I can ensure you that you, young people in SIDS, you have a great role to play in the future. Many of your concerns are covered in the outcome document, hence in the post-2015 development agenda,” Mr. Wu added.

“We are all families on this great canoe of the world, journeying together towards a better future; it sails under your guidance as we [youth] paddle with our passion”

Molly Homasi
UNMGCY focal point for Samoa
National Youth Council Representative

Towards Samoa and beyond
The hangout, which lasted more than an hour, touched upon many issues of importance for youth in SIDS, including capacity building and partnerships. Mr. Wu expressed his appreciation for this exchange. “I think many of the areas which they covered are very important,” he said. “I heard several times that partnerships were mentioned,” Mr. Wu added, referring to the fact that genuine and durable partnerships will be the main theme of the conference.

Molly Homasi, who joined the hangout from Apia, Samoa, also highlighted the launch of the SIDSTERS Youth Forum Campaign, happening online and via social media to highlight youth issues in the lead up to the conference’s Youth Forum, which will be arranged on 28 August under the theme SIDS T.A.L.A.V.O.U. for Sustainable Development. The acronym stands for Towards A Legacy of Achievement, Versatility, Opportunity through partnership and Unity. About 200 young people from small island nations are anticipated to participate in this pre-conference forum.

Ms. Homasi also made an analogy describing how families in a community in the Pacific use the canoe –  how it is the wise and older person who leads and steers, but that it is the energy of the young people who power the canoe. “The story of the canoe reminds us about sustainable development,” she said. “We are all families on this great canoe of the world, journeying together towards a better future; it sails under your guidance as we [youth] paddle with our passion,” Ms. Homasi concluded.

At the conclusion of the hangout, Mr. Wu noted his appreciation for the involvement of youth representatives from the three regions. “Your energy and your knowledge about the subject matter is very impressive,” he said thanking the panellists. As the Conference Secretary-General, Mr. Wu also shared his belief in the outcome of the conference.

“The Third International Conference on SIDS will be a great success,” he said, pointing to the progress already made ahead of the event, and the fact that Member States have already reached consensus on the outcome document. As the live broadcast ended, Mr. Wu also expressed his belief in young people. “I was encouraged,” he said. “With young people like this, we have a great future”.

For more information:

Samoa 2014: Empowering Youth for Sustainable Islands
UN Conference on Small Island Developing States
SIDS T.A.L.A.V.O.U. Pre-Conference Forum – Youth Forum
VIDEO: Partnering with islands for a sustainable world


Mental health in focus for youth day celebrations


Mental Health Matters is the theme of International Youth Day (IYD) 2014. Although an estimated 1 in 5 young people experience one or more mental health conditions, many are afraid to speak out and seek the support they need, due to the stigma doing so can entail. Taking place on 12 August, the IYD event will bring together young people, youth organizations, Member States, civil society and UN entities to discuss the issue of youth and mental health.

Through UN DESA’s work on developing a technical paper on ‘the social inclusion of youth with mental health conditions’ in 2013, it was struck by overwhelming silence surrounding the issue of young people with mental health conditions, as well as a dearth of information and data on the issue. With this in mind UN DESA decided to shine a spotlight on this important issue, in an attempt to raise awareness and to reduce the stigma that so many young people are subject to. As such, UN DESA and its Inter-agency Network on Youth Development partners decided to commemorate IYD 2014 under the theme Mental Health Matters.

Since June, UN DESA’s Division for Social Policy and Development (DSPD) has been drawing attention to this issue and discussing the importance of the social inclusion of young people with mental health conditions via its two-month online campaign in the lead up to International Youth Day. So far over 1,500 people have joined the campaign.

IYD Mental Health Matters Campaign

The campaign, running from 12 June until 12 August under the tagline #MentalHealthMatters, draws attention to the fact that youth with mental health conditions often experience stigma and discrimination, which in turn can lead to exclusion and/or discourage people from seeking help for fear of being negatively ‘labelled’. Efforts are needed to overcome this stigma to ensure that young people with mental health conditions can lead full and healthy lives free of isolation and unnecessary shame, and that they openly seek the services and support they need.

My friends, the sun is shining. But I only see the darkness.
My friends, the time is going by. But my life is still empty.
My friends, it’s too hard to tell you

Excerpt from “Save Me Please” by Mazidatun Maftukhah,
poetry submission for the IYD 2014 Mental Health Matters Campaign

Throughout the campaign, young people have been asked to submit artwork, illustrations, photos and/or stories illustrating the positive impact that speaking out about mental health conditions can have on the lives of young people. So far over 170 individual submissions have been received, most in the form of illustrations and drawings.

Many of the submissions received will be showcased at the 12 August International Youth Day event at UN Headquarters. Online viewers can already take a sneak peek at selected submissions here on the IYD Pinterest account:

International Youth Day Event

Taking place in the ECOSOC Chamber from 10 am to 1 pm on 12 August, the IYD event is being co-organized by UN DESA’s Division for Social Policy and Development and the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth. It will bring together young people, youth organizations, Member State representatives, civil society, and UN entities to discuss the issue of youth and mental-health in particular looking at issues such as the impact of stigma, discrimination and exclusion, on the local, country, and international levels.

Following opening remarks by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other high-level representatives, performances by young artists will be held in an effort to explore a variety of interactive and informative ways to draw awareness to the issue. In addition, panelists, including Jordan Burnham and Alicia Raimundo, will talk about their own experiences with mental health conditions and the impact that speaking out and seeking support has had on their lives.

The event will officially launch the UN DESA publication Mental Health Matters: the Social Inclusion of youth with mental health conditions. For those interested to attend, but who do not hold a UN grounds pass,  please RSVP here.

Worldwide celebrations

Running until August 12, the UN DESA #MentalHealthMatters campaign, is encouraging young people to organize events to celebrate International Youth Day. The IYD toolkit gives some ideas on what to do to commemorate the Day. Young people and UN entities are also encouraged to tell UN DESA about their events, so it can be mapped on the IYD Map of Events.

Read more about the event here or send any inquiries to

Image credit: “Gathering Colours” submitted by Sonali Sukesh for the #MentalHealthMatters campaign

For more information:

International Youth Day Event
UN4Youth on Twitter
UN4Youth on Pinterest
UN4Youth on Facebook
UN4Youth on Instagram


UN General Assembly’s Open Working Group proposes sustainable development goals


The UN General Assembly’s Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals forwarded to the Assembly its proposal for a set of Goals that consider economic, social and environmental dimensions to improve people’s lives and protect the planet for future generations at the conclusion of the Group’s thirteenth and final session at UN Headquarters on Saturday, 19 July.

The proposal contains 17 goals with 169 targets covering a broad range of sustainable development issues, including ending poverty and hunger, improving health and education, making cities more sustainable, combating climate change, and protecting oceans and forests.

With most targets of the Millennium Development Goals concluding at the end of 2015, new goals set the stage for an ambitious future development agenda

As stated by UN DESA’s Under-Secretary-General Wu Hongbo, “The proposal of the Open Working Group brings together a breadth of economic, social and environmental issues in a single set of goals like never before. All those involved in crafting these 17 goals can be proud of themselves. Member States have shown a determination and willingness to work together for people and planet that bodes well for the General Assembly’s negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda.”

In commenting on the outcome, UN DESA’s Assistant Secretary-General Thomas Gass hailed it as a milestone, highlighting the key role played by the Co-Chairs Ambassador Csaba Kőrösi of Hungary and Ambassador Macharia Kamau of Kenya, the high-level engagement of Member States and the active involvement of civil society.

The proposed sustainable development goals are:

Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere
Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture
Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life-long learning opportunities for all
Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
Goal 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
Goal 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all
Goal 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
Goal 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
Goal 10: Reduce inequality within and among countries
Goal 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
Goal 15: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
Goal 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
Goal 17: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

From Millennium Development Goals to sustainable development goals

“The proposal of the Open Working Group brings together a breadth of economic, social and environmental issues in a single set of goals like never before”

Wu Hongbo
UN DESA’s Under-Secretary-General

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have been the most successful global anti-poverty push in history. With a number of sub-targets covering a range of poverty, hunger, health, gender equality, education and environmental indicators, the MDGs were embraced by all UN Member States. Major progress at the global, regional, national and local level shows in the many millions of people whose lives have improved due to concerted, targeted efforts by many countries, groups and individuals. Several targets have already been met, such as halving the number of people living in extreme poverty. It is expected that more targets will be reached by the end of 2015 when most MDGs are set to be achieved.

World leaders have called for an ambitious long-term sustainability agenda to succeed the MDGs. The new agenda must address the unfinished business of the MDGs, beginning with the eradication of extreme poverty. Building on the success es of the MDGs, it will also need to address pressing global sustainable development challenges like environmental degradation and promote sustained and inclusive economic growth in poor countries if poverty eradication is to be irreversible.

The Group’s proposal on goals will be considered by the in the upcoming General Assembly as part of the broader post-2015 development agenda that world leaders are expected to adopt at a Summit in September 2015.

For more information:

Outcome Document – Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals