Fuelled by the voices, concerns and demands of young people, the Youth Forum wrapped up its two-day meeting today, hearing from more than 50 speakers who delved into critical issues such as gender equality and African development, as well as global and regional efforts to include and involve history’s largest youth population in building a sustainable future.
“Everything is possible,” stated Eric Niragira, a former child soldier from Burundi and Founder and Executive Director of the Training Centre for Development of Ex-Combatants (CEDAC), an organization that had helped more than 25,000 ex-combatants. “When you have a dream or belief, it could be difficult, but it [is] achievable,” he said, pointing to his country and his experience as an example.
Indeed, that spirit led the day’s discussions, with youth panellists and participants alike sharing their unique perspectives and addressing some of the world’s most pressing challenges, both in the meeting room and on social media. Throughout the day, delegates included the hashtag #youth2015 in hundreds of Twitter posts. From the role of young people in conflict-prevention and peacebuilding to the likelihood of addressing a future Madame Secretary-General of the United Nations, participants provided a glimpse into challenges, recommendations and solutions from all regions of the world.
Yvonne Akoth, Post-2015 Ambassador of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) pointed out that institutions such as the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), along with WAGGGS, were working to bring youth participants into the broader landscape of policymaking and decisions. “Listen to their crazy and weird ideas, so we can work as a team,” she stated, sending a message to young delegates that “the sky is not the limits in terms of sustainable development goals. You are the limit.”
During a session on gender equality, many speakers shared experiences from their countries and outlined challenges ahead for the 1.8 billion worldwide. “We are 860 million voices,” said Melissa Rubimbo Kubvoruno, a member of the Rozaria Memorial Trust and World Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), referring to the world’s young women and girls. “We are 860 million dreams. We can share the future.”
In a discussion that focused on youth participation in Africa, some speakers voiced support for increased involvement in politics to ensure accountability and to enact the kind of change they wanted. Issuing a warning, Ibrahim Ceesay, Chair of the African Youth Alliance on Post-2015 and Reference Group Member of Action/2015 Global Campaign said: “Youth policies without youth funds is youth bullshit”.
Other speakers commented on the scourge of terrorism on the continent. Given that Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab were made up of teenagers, the empowerment of girls should not be at the detriment of boys, said Rachel Nyaradzo Adams, Associate Director for Africa, Office of International Affairs at Yale University. Commenting on that matter, Chernor Bah, Co-Founder of A World at School and Founding Chair, Global Education First Initiative (GEFI) Youth Advocacy Group, said if the mothers of those boys joining Boko Haram were educated, those boys would not join.
The Secretary-General’s Envoy for Youth Ahmad Alhendawi called the Forum “an important milestone” in a journey into a shared future. “In going forward, we must continue to reflect on how young people are both critical to the achievement of a holistic development framework and drivers of sustainable development,” he said at the closing session, thanking colleagues and participants for their valuable contributions. Before reading his final remarks, he lamented that it was a sad day in his country as he had just received news about the killing of the pilot from Jordan captured by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Sham (ISIL/ISIS), and he urged all youth to join in fighting the scourge.
Helen Clark, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), stressed that young people deserved a better deal than the current situation, with millions facing hunger, joblessness and conflict. While political participation was often low among young people, they were among the greatest assets countries had. “It’s essential to unlock that potential through investments in education, skills training, sexual and reproductive health services, and youth services and opportunities in general,” she said. “It’s essential to include and empower youth, so that they can play their full part in building stronger and more inclusive and sustainable communities.”
Providing examples of UNDP projects worldwide, she said the Programme’s “MY World” survey had resulted in 7 million young people telling the United Nations what they wanted. Calling 2015 a once-in-a-generation year for development, she said she was confident that the United Nations system could help to ensure that young people had a big opportunity to play their full part in shaping a more peaceful, equitable and sustainable future for all. She called on all partners to engage youth in national dialogue and inclusion in forthcoming international conferences on climate, sustainable development and other critical issues.
“We need your ideas and most of all your gumption,” stated Navid Hanif, Director of the Office of Support and Coordination of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, who delivered a statement on behalf of Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs. Thanking the youth delegates, he said they had been actively involved in developing the goals and targets. Leading up to the adoption of a new framework, he said youth had the power to transform the world. He urged them to hold their communities and themselves accountable for working towards achieving sustainable development. “It is the youth in this room and across the world that will lead us to a sustainable future.”
Martin Sajdik (Austria), President of the Economic and Social Council, in his closing statement, emphasized that “we must ensure that the outcomes of our deliberations continue to feed into the ongoing [Economic and Social Council] processes”, including the Commission for Social Development and high-level meetings. The post-2015 agenda should reflect the needs and priorities of youth. Noting that it was time to look beyond the post-2015 Summit and negotiations and policy-making, he said “we need to begin creating spaces for young people to take a role in the implementation, as well as the monitoring of this agenda, to help drive sustainable development and ensure accountability to current and future generations”.
Session III: Youth Participation in Africa
Launching the session, titled “Youth on the rise: Youth participation in Africa” Mohamed Khaled Khiari (Tunisia), Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council, said 60 per cent of Africa’s population were under the age of 35. The development of the continent would be difficult unless youth were included in efforts to achieve expectations. Welcoming the panellists, he suggested that participants use the Twitter “hashtag” #youth2015 for tweets during the course of the session.
Chernor Bah, co-founder of A World at School and Founding Chair, Global Education First Initiative (GEFI) Youth Advocacy Group moderated the panel. Presentations were delivered by: Yvonne Akoth, Post-2015 Ambassador of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS); Ibrahim Ceesay, Chair of the African Youth Alliance on Post-2015 and Reference Group Member of Action/2015 Global Campaign; Rachel Nyaradzo Adams, Associate Director for Africa at the Office of International Affairs at Yale University; and Eric Niragira, Founder and Executive Director of the Training Centre for Development of Ex-Combatants (CEDAC).
Ms. AKOTH said Africa’s 200 million youth population was likely to double in the decades ahead. Youth-related issues, therefore, must be addressed today to ensure a better future for all. Youth should participate in shaping public policies, which should improve existing practices and ensure accountability. In addition, women and girls must be included in the post-2015 sustainable development agenda. In order for them now to be part of all development processes, young women required mentorship. Although young people were, in some countries, part of the parliament, more of that needed to happen to ensure that youth had a voice. Institutions such as the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) and WAGGGS had worked towards that goal. “Listen to their crazy and weird ideas, so we can work as a team,” she said, concluding with a message to young delegates: “The sky is not the limits in terms of sustainable development goals. You are the limit.”
Mr. CEESAY said “I’m a frustrated African, but I bring good news.” Africa was a continent of extremes, from abject poverty to wealth. Among the good news was that agreement had been reached on “Agenda 2063”, outlining the Africa envisioned by all. In addition, agreement had been reached on silencing the guns and ending conflict on the continent by 2020. As well, elections were taking place, with young participants running for office. History had been made by young Africans, beginning in the 1960s, with the launch of the African youth movement, and was continuing in current times, including the African Union adopting the Youth Charter in 2009. Urging a number of actions for progress, he said African States should commit to the Youth Charter and its implementation, and an African Union Youth Envoy office should be established. It was imperative that young people entered politics to ensure that the changes they wanted were made. Youth funds should also support young entrepreneurs and innovative development in Africa, he emphasized, adding that “youth policy without youth funds is youth bullshit.”
Mr. NIRAGIRA said that his country, Burundi, had experienced a difficult conflict in which he had been a child soldier. Since then, he emerged, returned to school and decided to work for change. After a decade, CEDAC had helped more than 25,000 people, more than half being youths. “Move on to a shared vision,” he told young delegates. “Everything is possible,” he said.
Ms. ADAMS said her work had led her to meet some inspirational young people, giving her hope for the continent. Providing examples, she referred to a 14-year-old girl who had started a rabbit business that had supported her family and led her to go back to school, and a 14-year-old boy who had built a mechanism that had supplied his village with clean water. Leadership was an art and it could be taught. “You can be taught to overcome hopelessness and how to be resilient,” she said, adding that, through transformational leadership, the world could change. The tools for empowerment were being taught in the “Ivies” (“Ivy League” universities), but they were not being taught to African youth. It was only through leadership development that young people’s potential could be unlocked. If not, Africa would lose their best and brightest. “Our young people want to lead,” she said. “Let’s make sure we empower them.” Girl empowerment was a critical issue and she was gravely concerned that as gender empowerment had improved, boys’ opportunities had dwindled. She feared that in the process of including young girls there was a serious risk of excluding an entire generation of boys. “The glorification of women should not equal the bastardization of men,” she said, adding that emasculation had dire affects. She voice hope that all Africans would return to their communities remembering that every girl’s empowerment should not be at the detriment of boys.
Responding to Mr. Bah’s question on girls’ empowerment, Ms. AKOTH said all stakeholders needed to be at the table to address violence against women and girls. Men and boys needed to be involved. Violence was breaking the fabric of development in Africa and all sides needed to strive towards a shared goal.
Asking Mr. Ceesay a question about funding and implementation, Mr. BAH noted that Mr. Ceesay’s comments were already making waves on Twitter. In response, Mr. CEESAY said accountability was an enigma in Africa, with its weak systems and institutions. But, accountability also began with young people, he said, urging participants to return home and report to their constituencies. He noted that the only major instrument without an accountability mechanism was the Youth Charter.
Mr. NIRAGIRA, answering Mr. Bah’s question on improving youth involvement in conflict-prevention and peacebuilding, said that, as Burundi was approaching an election, youth were being asked to take leadership roles. On an African level, young people had to be united and share a vision and to be connected. They also had to move on their dream and to invest in the future.
Ms. ADAMS responded to Mr. Bah’s question on gender empowerment, saying that boys should not be punished for the sins of their fathers. Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab were made up of teenaged boys, she said, noting that, at age 33, she was raised during the era of the “girl child” and had seen boys that had been left behind.
However, Mr. BAH stressed that, three decades ago, and even today, there had been no “era of girls”. If the mothers of the boys in Boko Haram had been educated, the boys would not be in that armed group. Sadly, the reality was that discrimination against girls existed.
Opening the floor, youth delegates shared their opinions and experiences and asked questions.
A youth representative of Tajikistan asked how the panellists were working to attract their youth to work in their respective countries.
A youth representative of the Netherlands asked if youth were participating in Governments or as decision-makers and partners with Governments.
A youth representative of the International Organisation of La Francophonie (OIF) said equal opportunities to training were needed.
Given that young people in her country were interested in development more than politics, a youth representative of Trinidad and Tobago asked how their interest in politics could be increased.
A youth representative of Libya said her country was going through a political transition. While civil society had made positive progress in encouraging youth, the armed conflict in cities across the country had made speaking out against armed groups dangerous. One young man who had spoken out was killed by an armed group, she said, asking how youth could be positive change-makers during a conflict when they were vulnerable to existing threats.
A youth representative of Israel said entrepreneurship had a ripple effect and that entrepreneurs were the best individuals to push forward development. Yet, there was still a gap between the immense talent on the continent and the available opportunities.
A youth representative of Niger asked how to get all players on board for gender equality.
Before turning the floor over to the panellists for answers, Mr. BAH read out several #youth2015 tweets from Twitter, including a question asking about roles for men and women in the post-2015 agenda and youth roles in halting the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Ms. AKOTH said youth should be involved in policy development processes. Young people were playing a key role, but they could not do so without support from Governments and the United Nations. For example, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) had seen the benefits of working with young people. As some people had pointed out, running in elections carried a threat of violence; sometimes the only safe place to express views was in a policy meeting with the Government.
Ms. ADAMS said a programme had been in place to create 1,000 entrepreneurs in Africa each year. If those types of opportunities were scaled up, a burst of entrepreneurial energy would be seen. Young people’s mindsets needed to be “unlocked” with leadership tools showing them how to turn problems into opportunities. The Yale Young African Scholars Program was aimed at high school students interested in exploring global opportunities. The question that all participants should be trying to answer was how to expand those efforts.
Mr. CEESAY said increasing youth participation in politics could be done through mentorships. With young people inheriting the climate change challenges, they should be included in global discussions on related efforts.
Mr. NIRAGIRA said change was a long process. “When you had a dream or belief, it could be difficult, but it was achievable,” he said. When Burundi had begun the disarmament process, sensitization and information sharing had helped the effort. He encouraged young people in Libya to follow that example.
Session IV: Gender Equality and Youth
The Council then opened the session, titled “Gender Equality and Youth: 20 years since the Beijing Platform for Action and onwards to a Post-2015 Development Framework”. Under that theme, it held a panel discussion chaired by Council Vice-President María Emma Mejía Vélez (Colombia) and moderated by Femi Oke, Journalist, Al Jazeera. Featured presentations were given by: Vivian Onano, Education Spokesperson for Moremi Africa and Global Youth Ambassador for “A World at School”; Mirna Ines Fernández, Professor, EMI University and Member, WAGGGS; Melissa Ruvimbo Kubvoruno, Member, Rozario Memorial Trust and the World Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA); and Dakshitha Wickremarathne, Social Worker and Member of the Global Civil Society Advisory Group (GCSAG).
Commencing the discussion, Ms. VÉLEZ said that although 2015 marked the twentieth anniversary of the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action, women still faced gender-based violence and discrimination. More than 700 million women today had gotten married when they were girls, and more than 60 per cent of young people living with HIV/AIDS were women. For such reasons, women and girls had a particular interest in the accelerated implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action.
Asked by Ms. Oke about what had changed over the last 20 years, Mr. WICKREMARATHNE said the topic of gender equality had become less controversial, but not as much as he would have expected. By way of example, he said his cousin had wanted to pursue a master’s degree in dance, but was told she needed to get married and that pursuing higher education would not be attractive. Her experience had changed his opinion on gender equality.
Ms. ONANO said she was four years old when the Beijing Platform for Action was launched. Since that time, gender parity had been achieved in primary school, but not yet in secondary and tertiary education. She had been raised in a village in Kenya, where she was the first girl to obtain a college degree. Because of her education, she was now able to sit with policymakers and help create change. Without it, she would have become a statistic. “Most girls are left in the darkness,” she said. “Education empowers. Somebody invested in me.”
Ms. FERNÁNDEZ said she was five years old when the Beijing Platform was launched. Since then, she had seen changes in decision-making, but not in other areas. For example, in Bolivia, her home, 206 cases of femicide were registered between 2011 and 2013. In just eight of them were sentences handed down.
Ms. KUBVORUNO said the Beijing Platform for Action was signed three years before her first birthday. Often, girls were married before they finished school. The youngest married person she knew was 14 years old and lived in Zimbabwe.
To a question by Ms. Oke about why gender equality was an urgent issue, Mr. WICKREMARATHNE said gender equality guided how people respected the girls and women around them. Discussions on gender equality should happen in kindergarten, when stereotypes were formed.
To the same question, Ms. KUBVORUNO said girls who wanted to play with cars, rather than dolls, should be allowed to play with cars. Those were small experiences that shaped people’s opinions on gender equality later in life.
Ms. FERNÁNDEZ responded that it was urgent to hear from women and girls. “We need to hear their priorities,” she said, noting that the Girl Guides had developed non-formal curricula to help raise awareness about violence against girls and women, designed in part to help young men and boys understand how they could take action against such abuse. Furthermore, the root causes of gender inequality must be taken into account. The Millennium Development Goals had failed to address them.
For her part, Ms. ONANO said gender equality was not about empowering women and disempowering men. “We’re talking about empowering your sisters, mothers, future girlfriends and future wives,” she said. For example, women faced difficulties in running for office when they were asked if they were married. If they were not married, often they were not qualified to run. Men had to be part of the conversation and action from the grass-roots level.
Interjecting, a youth representative from Nigeria commented that he had tweeted yesterday about the 10 presidential aspirants his country, one of whom was a woman. He had argued that she was the most qualified candidate and that women should vote for her. In response, one female voter commented that women did not want a “sympathy vote”.
To that point, Ms. KUBVORUNO said everyone was responsible for creating gender equality. “It’s a collective role,” she said. Everyone should be fully engaged, especially traditional leaders. “If you’re a woman on your own, you’re criticized as talkative,” she said, urging men to lend their voices.
Mr. WICKREMARATHNE said he had been criticized for not being politically correct when talking about gender equality. In Sri Lanka, he engaged faith-based leaders on the issue, having seen that Pope Francis had taken to Facebook on the issue of ending modern-day slavery. Similarly, international organizations, development agencies and young people should engage faith-based leaders on gender equality.
When the floor was opened for questions and comments from delegates, a youth representative from Jordan, who said she was a young professional network coordinator at the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), urged that attention be paid to emerging situations around the world. For example, in camps in Jordan, women and girls faced gender-based violence and reproductive health challenges.
Another youth participant, recalling her childhood in Pakistan, said: “You can’t aspire to be what you cannot see.” She asked panellists about their mentors and who they themselves were mentoring.
In response, Mr. WICKREMARATHNE said safe spaces must be created for marginalized communities to talk about gender equality, including female sex workers, young transgendered people and women living with HIV. It was difficult to hear their voices in events as big as the Youth Forum. “Have the conversations in local languages, about, for example, harassment in public places,” he said. His mentor was his mother, whom he had seen negotiating with his father and in the workplace.
Ms. ONANO said that in high school, she had been sponsored by someone in New York City, with whom she was currently staying. Her mentor always had engaged her in open conversations about gender equality. She herself now mentored girls from Gambia and Kenya. She also mentored men. “Dream big and work on it. It doesn’t cost you anything,” she said.
Ms. FERNÁNDEZ said she had received an informal education since she was 16 years old and had then mentored others from the age of 17. “When you have amazing women telling you that you can do anything you want, you don’t think twice about following your dreams.” Her heroes in environmental science were women. She was now an ecology professor mentoring young women studying environmental engineering.
Ms. KUBVORUNO, who was 17 years old, said she had several mentors, one of whom was her father, who had taught her about gender equality and had empowered her to be who she was today.
Responding to a question by Ms. Oke on what panellists most wanted Governments to know about gender equality, Mr. WICKREMARATHNE said documents like the Beijing Platform for Action had not been fully implemented. Governments had to be held accountable. Civil society must be integrally involved, notably through regional and national watchdogs that should be represented in bodies like the Commission on the Status of Women and the Commission on Population and Development.
Ms. ONANO said conversations in places like the Youth Forum must trickle down to societies and it was up to the youth delegates here today to open conversations with their communities. “Engage the chief leader, the chief Member of Parliament and the Governor who can take the information to bigger bodies,” she said. Gender equality laws also must be created and fully implemented. That would help women approach institutions like the police, which often did not take complaints seriously without legislation to formalize a response. Discussions also could take place from the top down. For example, the President of Zambia appointed the country’s first female Vice-President, showing that the nation believed in its women, she said.
Ms. FERNÁNDEZ called for gender equality to be mainstreamed among the sustainable development goals, and for a stand-alone goal on women’s empowerment to be created. In addition, the post-2015 development agenda should have indicators that measured changing attitudes and stereotypes towards women and girls. The data gathered should be used effectively in policymaking.
Ms. KUBVORUNO said she wanted accountability and responsibility from Governments, as well as political will and the domestication of regional and global policies they had signed. “I need major support when I go home to work with my organization,” she said, urging that budgets targeting adolescent mothers be created, as they normally did not return to school. Comprehensive sex education was also needed, as were reproductive health facilities that were user friendly for young mothers.
To a question from a youth delegate on how to help women choose between motherhood and career, Ms. KUBVORUNO responded that in some countries, paternal leave allowed fathers to care for children, which made such choices easier for women.
To a question from another youth delegate on why there were no young women with disabilities on the panel, Mr. WICKREMARATHNE said the needs of those young women should be addressed. He worked for many marginalized groups, including young women living with HIV and sex workers. Safe platforms were needed so women with disabilities could discuss their issues together and raise awareness.
In closing remarks, Mr. WICKREMARATHNE said delegates were here for a cause: to raise the voices of young people in their countries. He asked them to start tweeting and sharing information about gender equality, so that conversations and change could follow.
Ms. ONANO urged making gender equality an urgent issue. “Let’s structure actions that are tailored to our local communities,” she stressed.
Ms. FERNÁNDEZ said it was crucial for States to honour their gender equality commitments and to create genuine change for women and girls in their countries. Mechanisms to hold Governments accountable were also needed across the board.
Ms. KUBVORUNO urged reaching urban slums through radio, newspapers and magazines. The 860 million young women and girls living in the developing world were more than statistics. “We are 860 million voices. We are 860 million dreams. We can share the future,” she declared.
Session V: Global, Regional and Other Processes
The Council, opening the session titled “Global, Regional and Other Processes”, held a panel discussion chaired and moderated by Council President Martin Sajdik (Austria). It featured a keynote speech by Edeltraud Glettler, Director General for European, International and Social Policy Issues, Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Consumer Protection of Austria, as well as six presentations by: Andreas Karsten, Co-Founder, youthpolicy.org; Alejo Ramirez, Secretary-General, Ibero-American Youth Organization (OIJ); Ma-Umba Mabiala, Director of Education and Youth, OIF; Yama Akbari, Hope XXL Foundation; Nicholas Bian, Chair of the World Bank Group Youth Summit; Marija Lugarić, Member of the Board, Forum of Young Parliamentarians of the Inter-Parliamentary Union and Member of the Parliament of Croatia.
Opening the session, Ms. GLETTLER said the economic crisis had created difficult conditions for young people in many European countries. The long-term negative impacts of unemployment meant that each young person should complete training and find a job. For its part, Austria, which boasted one of the lowest unemployment rates in Europe, had taken comprehensive labour market policy measures. Its youth programmes, for example, had become models for other European countries, as had its apprenticeship programme. Each year, 40 per cent of young people finished their compulsory schooling and apprenticeship training.
But, more must be done to support the transition from school to job entry, she said, especially for those who had broken with their training or ended up with no job. In 2008, Austria introduced a so-called “training guarantee”, ensuring training for everyone up to age 18, including for slow learners and disadvantaged youth. The Government was now discussing the idea of mandatory training and education up to age 18. Its “Future for Youth” action programme offered 20- to 24-year-olds intensified job placement and training or employment subsidies, while youth coaching was provided for those who had dropped out of the education system.
Mr. KARSTEN spoke about the first Global Forum on Youth Policies, held in Baku, Azerbaijan, last year, explaining that the co-conveners of the event did not want to have another negotiated outcome document. Instead, they put commitments on the table. “If you’ve tried moving a bureaucracy to commitment in public, you know how difficult this can be”, he observed. However, now there was a global commitment to provide technical assistance to States. And in turn, States, civil society and other networks were increasingly getting on board. More than 40 States were revising their policies and 10 others were developing one for the first time.
Mr. RAMIREZ, explaining that his organization worked with youth ministers around Latin America, stressed the importance of defining roles in the formulation of the sustainable development goals. Often, there were Governments working as non-governmental organizations, and vice versa, as well as country representatives saying they represented youth, when, in fact, they did not. The goal of his organization was to include youth in the sustainable development goals. The Ibero-American Convention on the Rights of Youth was the only such regional accord. The Millennium Development Goals had left the impression that developed countries had an agenda for developing nations. The absence of youth in such objectives could not be repeated. “You represent 25 per cent of the world,” he said.
Mr. MABIALA said his organization’s Secretary-General, elected last year, was paying particular attention to youth. At the fifteenth Summit of Heads of State and Government, held last year in Senegal under the theme of “Women and Youth”, the organization outlined a strategy for young people in the French-speaking world, drafted for — and with — young people. Indeed, youth faced problems in accessing decent work, finding adequate training to meet market needs, participating in the labour market or decisions that affected their lives, as well as in accessing information and communications technologies. In adopting the strategy, Heads of State and Government committed to meet those challenges and evaluate any gains made. “The time has come for action,” he asserted.
Mr. AKBARI said his organization had drafted long-term view for future: a list of ingredients to create a decent society, based on reason, empathy and dialogue. It had been created with contributions from young people worldwide. Last week, his organization finalized a six-year process with an event held in Costa Rica. “Beware of people who are always negative,” he cautioned, saying that the main indicators for creating a decent society were well-being and happiness. “We strive for everyone to rate their life as at least an 8 out of 10,” he said.
Mr. BIAN said the World Bank Group had set an ambitious goal to eliminate poverty and boost prosperity by 2040, efforts in which young people’s involvement were crucial. The $2.3 billion portfolio of active and pipeline projects focused on jobs, skills, social services, health, innovation and technology. The Bank was bringing together students, development practitioners and Governments to strengthen its global youth outreach. Its second Youth Summit was held on the theme of “The Need for Open and Responsive Governments,” chosen after a survey of 120 countries revealed that topic as the issue most impacting youth. Questions centred on how to engage youth most effectively with public governance. More than 400 representatives from global youth-led civil society and non-governmental groups, students, activists and parliamentarians took part in the event.
Ms. LUGARIĆ said the Union’s Forum of Young Parliamentarians was a youth-led body tackling the “democracy deficit” engendered by a youth deficit in politics. Young people often boycotted elections. As a parliamentarian, she was disappointed to see that young people had become less engaged in politics. Today, people below age 30 constituted only 1.7 per cent of parliamentarians, she said, stressing that such underrepresentation threatened representative democracy. To bring young people back into the fold, the Union aimed to boost inclusiveness and combat age discrimination. Last October, it convened its first global parliamentarian conference. Participants had made clear the need to renew and modernize democracy, including through the use of information and communication technologies. “Boring debates” and the long time needed for policies to bear fruit must be reconsidered. They recommended quotas for young people in parliaments — including at the local level — to allow for the emergence of a new political class, and a lower age required to run for office.
Following the presentations, youth delegates from around the world peppered panellists with questions and comments. A youth delegate from Germany, noting that most people in his country did not know about the sustainable development goals, asked how to raise awareness and activate youth participation.
A youth representative from Saudi Arabia said a two-day forum did not allow enough time to tackle such questions. He urged holding discussions nationally with United Nations offices to keep the conversation going.
A youth representative from Niger asked how young people could enter politics, saying that, in her country, a lot of money was required.
A youth representative of the State of Palestine asked whether the United Nations and the World Bank had considered the needs of local communities in their work. Young Palestinians faced different challenges than those in the United States, for example. He also asked how young people could hold powerful nations accountable within the United Nations context.
A youth representative from Panama inquired about steps being taken for countries that had not signed the Ibero-American Youth Convention, as well as how young people could better participate in efforts toward regional integration. She also asked Ms. Lugarić about the Union’s relationship with young people in civil society, wondering how their voices reached parliaments.
A youth representative from Suriname said he had been appointed as a youth ambassador for a conference on the Millennium Development Goals, after which there had been no follow-up. He urged setting up a structure to follow up with youth and to include them in the achievement of the sustainable development goals.
In response to that last comment, Council President SAJDIK said the 15-member body would consider that idea. “It is not an empty promise,” he asserted.
A youth delegate from Jamaica said that in the transition from the Millennium Development Goals to the sustainable development goals, young people were obliged to hold themselves accountable. “We can’t sit and wait for our Governments to give us the tools we need,” she said. “We have our minds. It’s time for us to use what we have.”
Two youth delegates from the United States asked, respectively, about challenges of reaching out to young people in developing countries, and about creating a comprehensive website to disseminate information.
A youth delegate from Georgia noted that he represented a traditional region where people were reluctant to change, especially vis-à-vis gender equality, urging that faith leaders join the conversation.
A youth delegate from Mexico, recalling the “security crisis” that Ciudad Juarez had recently experienced, described that city’s recovery, thanks to the partnership between the Government and young people. She asked Mr. Ramirez if the Ibero-American Youth Organization had ways to establish such partnerships, and more broadly, about initiatives to include youth in public spaces that were often underused.
A youth representative from China inquired why none of the sustainable development goals specifically addressed young people’s general well-being.
Emphasizing that youth around the world were diverse in terms of class and culture, a youth representative of Bolivia pointed out that imperialist and capitalist systems had created first- and second-class youth. Bolivia was re-inventing itself after years of cruel neo-liberalism, she said, noting that 51 per cent of the legislative assembly was female.
A youth representative of the United States asked how youth could keep Governments accountable.
In response to a youth representative of Japan who asked about programmes to disseminate information to young people, Mr. SADJIK responded that the Council would address the issue of information, most likely after the post-2015 development agenda was developed.
A youth representative of Pakistan asked if a unit could be established at the United Nations to help countries with special needs, especially in the area of vocational training, so they could be offered customized solutions.
As panellist offered closing remarks, Ms. LUGARIĆ told the youth representatives that, according to the laws of aerodynamics, a bumble bee should not be able to fly. However, the bee did not know that, and so, it kept flying. “The point is that if you have a vision, you will make it,” she emphasized, adding that holding Governments accountable was at the heart of citizenship.
Mr. RAMIREZ said Forum participants had a major responsibility to engage in politics in their countries, not necessarily by becoming parliamentarians, but by using their power to defend those in need.
Mr. KARSTEN drove home the importance of keeping young people involved in decisions that affected them.
Mr. BIAN, to the query by the delegate from the State of Palestine, said the Bank aimed have as much input from local communities as possible, notably through its country offices which opened its doors to students, parliamentarians and civil society. To another question, he cited the Bank’s forum on keeping Governments accountable. He could share the results of a Bank survey, which suggested that Governments were becoming more open for the purpose of allowing people to scrutinize their budget data.
Investing in Youth
Chaired by Council Vice-President Oh Joon (Republic of Korea), the panel, titled “Financing Sustainable Development: Investing in Youth”, featured presentations by George Wilfred Talbot, Permanent Representative of Guyana and Co-Facilitator for the preparatory process of the third International Conference on Financing for Development; May-Elin Stener, Deputy Permanent Representative of Norway; and Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, Deputy Executive Director, UNFPA.
Mr. TALBOT underscored that to end poverty young people could be part of the solution. Noting that one in every six members of the human family was between ages 15 and 20, he said “what the world does today will be important to your future. It is critical that together we provide the environment for your invaluable potential.” The third International Conference on Financing for Development to be held in Addis Ababa in July would be an opportunity to contribute to those efforts, he said, adding that he hoped youth would play an active role at that event.
Ms. STENER said to succeed in delivering on the post-2015 agenda, a clear approach was needed with regard to funding. Economic empowerment of women and girls had broad positive benefits. Emphasizing the importance of education and the consequences of lost earnings, she cited a number of examples, including that adolescent pregnancies in India had resulted in $10 billion in lost earnings. She encouraged young women to participate in the Conference in Addis Ababa.
Ms. ALBRECTSEN provided highlights of the 2015 State of World Population Report, which focused on youth. Making an investment in youth before they entered the labour market could have massive transformative effects on national economies. Noting that the new development agenda aimed at bringing a range of issues together, she cautioned that the biggest risk was financing the goals in silos. Investing in youth could be an integrated way to finance and accelerate sustainable development achievements, she said, pointing out that for every $1 invested in young people, $15 would enter the economy. The Republic of Korea was an example of how to do that, with its economy growing by more than 2,000 per cent. The conditions were ready in many countries to follow that path. If sub-Saharan African countries did the same at Republic of Korea, an economic “miracle” could occur. If 10 per cent more girls finished their secondary education, 3 per cent could be added to the gross domestic product (GDP). The question going forward was how to shift investments into “smart” investments. “Investing in youth could be the glue, the integrator, the accelerator to sustainable development,” she concluded.
Key Messages and Next Steps
Chaired by Mr. Oh, the panel, titled “Key messages and next steps: Youth engagement in the transition from the Millennium Development Goals to Sustainable Development Goals”, featured presentations by: Christopher Dekki, United Nations Liaison Officer, International Coordination Meeting of Youth Organizations (ICMYO); Jilt van Schayik, youth delegate of the Netherlands; Jean Manney, United States Country Representative, Restless Development; Maribel Ullmann, Plan International; and Karolina Piotrowska, Children and Youth major group representative.
The speakers presented summaries of yesterday’s four parallel thematic breakout discussions on process and consultations, accountability, measurement and on partnerships, capacity-building and implementation.
Mr. DEKKI said that, as “torch bearers” of development, youth should play an active role in their countries, including in monitoring and accountability. Welcoming the presenters’ recommendations, he said partnerships with young people were essential for a successful post-2015 agenda and that Governments and United Nations agencies must live up to their commitment that youth have a hand in the implementation of the goals.
Mr. VAN SCHAYIK, presenting outcomes of the session on process and consultation, said recommendations included devising new and innovative communication strategies and seeking out effective youth action on the national level. About 25 youth delegates were staying in New York on to participate in the Commission on Social Development, he said, encouraging other delegates to talk to their Governments about taking part in processes where young people’s contributions were needed.
Ms. MANNEY updated delegates on the discussion on accountability, saying the need for inclusion and for youth to hold their Governments accountable was important. Exploring roles of all stakeholders, the session saw a lot of agreement on young people’s part in working towards the sustainable development goals. Her organization, Restless Development, had agreed to continue the dialogue with delegates on efforts including monitoring progress on the goals. “We need to be the torch bearers,” she said.
Ms. ULLMANN said the session on measurement had resulted in recommendations that called for improvements in national statistical systems. Privacy was discussed alongside other relevant issues, including youth-specific indicators in the new development goals, she said.
Ms. PIOTROWSKA said yesterday’s session on partnership, capacity-building and implementation had produced several suggestions. Peer-to-peer training and capacity-building at the grass-roots level was crucial. In addition, the new goals needed to be included in educational materials. Different stakeholders needed tailored approaches, she said, adding that raising awareness about the goals was key. Online and offline media would allow the message to reach broad numbers of young people, she said, noting that increasing visibility would build partnerships to implement the goals.