Concluding the second day of the two‑day Economic and Social Council Youth Forum, young people and representatives of Government and civil society gathered to share their findings on how youth could help implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and help to build sustainable and resilient communities.
Liu Zhenmin, Under‑Secretary‑General of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said that the Forum had allowed young people, Member States and the United Nations to come together to share ideas. He called upon everyone to continue their efforts in both policy and practice.
Young people could drive sustainable consumption to build more resilient communities, and their engagement was essential for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, Mr. Liu stressed. Youth should continue to work with policymakers and governments to ensure their voices were heard.
Jayathma Wickramanayake, the Secretary‑General’s Envoy on Youth, said that the Forum had brought diverse stakeholders together to discuss the role of young people in the Sustainable Development Goals and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. The Youth Forum was a good learning experience and a great opportunity to meet young people and ministers. She looked forward to its work feeding into the high‑level political forum and being recognized for its important contribution.
Marie Chatardová, President of the Economic and Social Council, thanked the participants for gathering to share their stories and ideas about what needed to be done to build sustainable and resilient communities. She noted that she would take two steps to ensure that the work done over the two‑day session had a lasting impact on the Council and also the high‑level political forum: issue a Presidential Statement that would capture the key messages and recommendations that emerged from the Forum, and ensure that a more detailed summary, which captured the full highlights, would be prepared and shared.
During the day, the rapporteurs of three breakout sessions on regional concerns and development needs for youth reported on the outcomes of their respective sessions.
The Forum also held a round‑table session on the means of implementation and financing of youth development as well as a plenary session on stakeholders’ pledges of commitment to building resilient and sustainable communities.
Highlights of Breakout Sessions on Regional Concerns, Development Needs
GOGONTLEJANG PHALADI, Founder and Executive Director of the Gogontlejang Phaladi Pillar of Hope Project in Botswana, highlighted the main points that came out of the breakout session on Africa. Participants had said that there had to be agreement that corruption was a serious challenge in Africa. It had impeded progress, she said. The young people participating also felt that there was not sufficient political will to win the fight against corruption. They underscored that there was not sufficient space for them to participate in decision‑making processes. Youth made up 60 per cent of the population of Africa, and they could not be the missing face in decision‑making, she said.
DEJAN BOJANIĆ, Vice-President of the European Youth Forum, speaking on Europe and North America, said that his group had several recommendations that came out of the session. The group recommended that Governments should become more accessible for young people, by making sure they used accessible language, for example. The age at which young people could run for Government positions also needed to be lowered, as did the voting age. The participants of the group also recommended that Governments ensured that all young people had access to quality citizenship education. With regard to financing, no one should be left behind, and greater investment in youth organizations and initiatives was needed.
PEDRO ROBLEDO, of the Ibero‑American Youth Organization, speaking on Latin America, said that there were young people who did not have access to running water, or being able to attend secondary school. There were many women suffering from violence and violations of their rights. But everyone in the room at the Forum today was present and responsible for ensuring that everything discussed generated real action. What was needed was to find the organizations that were making the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development into a reality and taking tangible action to change lives. School curricula needed to contain tools for young people to enable them to participate in the labour market.
SHAQUILLE KNOWLES, Chairman‑elect of the Caribbean Regional Youth Council, spoke on her region’s breakout group. There was a communication breakdown between Governments in the Caribbean and young people with regard to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. In addition, young people were not encouraged to be involved in Government in the Caribbean, and there was a disconnect between youth and the older people in governmental positions. In terms of education, only certain careers were being encouraged, and education in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics needed to be encouraged further.
TAHERE SIISIIALAFIA, Chair of the Pacific Youth Council, spoke on the breakout session for her region. Participants had discussed the subjects of increasing resilience and attaining sustainability. The group had also asked how a cultivating environment could be created that would unleash the potential of youth with regard to the 2030 Agenda. Action needed to be planned and inspired by youth. Local solutions should be found and action at the grassroots level was needed. Mechanisms needed to be supported that would help the potential of youth to find creative solutions.
MONEERA YASSIEN, of the Youth Leadership Programme, spoke on the Arab States region breakout session. She noted that her group was able to find important insights regarding the region. The Arab States were not a homogeneous group, but faced different situations both between and within countries. During the discussion, they were able to find strength in that diversity, she said, as well as a wealth of views on how best to implement the Sustainable Development Goals. Barriers to political participation, the hindering of gender equality, conflict, difficulties accessing finance and lack of access to innovation support networks were some of the problems faced in the region. Action was needed to help youth make contributions as engaged citizens, she said. The United Nations was equipped to assist in many areas, and should help remove barriers to the inclusion of youth in development.
Round Table on Means of Implementation, Financing Youth Development
Before introducing the round‑table discussion, Jayathma Wickramanayake, the Secretary‑General’s Envoy on Youth, made some observations on the outcomes of the morning’s breakout sessions. She said that they had harvested several common themes, including the idea that partnerships were most effective when they brought together Governments and young people. There was also a focus on fostering education and skills development, and a strong gender perspective was also apparent in the various group discussions. Turning to the subject of the means of implementation for the 2030 Agenda, she said that a global partnership was needed to help Governments, civil society, the United Nations system and others work together. She also highlighted the vital role of the Conference on Financing for Development in the implementation of the Agenda. There was a growing global recognition of the role that young people could play in the implementation of the Agenda, she said, noting that she hoped to see more youth delegates and youth organizations getting involved.
The moderator of the round‑table event was Andreas Karsten, a board member from the organization Demokratie & Dialog. Raising the subject of voluntary national reviews, he emphasized that they were an important mechanism for young people to hold Governments to account on their progress on the Sustainable Development Goals.
The representatives of several countries noted their national policies with regard to youth and the 2030 Agenda. Among the many speakers taking the floor, the Director General for the Institute for Youth of Spain discussed his country’s voluntary national review, noting that his Government would also soon create its own national United Nations young delegates programme. That programme was part of a strategy for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the political participation of young people. The youth delegate from the Netherlands, meanwhile, said that his country’s voluntary national review showed that his Government was recognizing young people as valuable partners in the co‑creation of a sustainable future.
The Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Sport, Youth and National Service of Namibia said that young people in her country were being empowered, and their needs were given space in its national development plan. Namibia had also worked to help lower youth unemployment and developed employment creation projects for them. In addition, youth‑friendly clinics had been set up, mainly for reproductive health.
The Additional Secretary (Youth Affairs) for the Ministry of National Policies and Economic Affairs of Sri Lanka said his country had given due consideration to the 2030 Agenda in its national priorities. Youth skills development was being addressed to meet the needs of local and global employment markets, he said.
The Secretary of State for Youth and Sport of Portugal said that his country felt the responsibility to build better youth policies. It was also developing a national plan for youth. That country’s youth delegate, who also spoke, noted that young people were leading their organizations and making things happen for themselves.
A representative of the Ministry for Youth of Paraguay, where 60 per cent of the population was under the age of 30, said her country’s President was determined to prioritize youth. Public policies and innovative projects aimed at young people were designed by young people, who were game‑changers, she said. Government scholarships to more than 10,000 students represented a strong bet for the development of human capital. Youth unemployment, running at twice the national average, was a pressing issue. Paraguay was putting a strong focus on technical training, she said, adding that a voluntary programme enabled young people to serve in the most vulnerable communities.
A representative of the Agency of Youth and Sport of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia discussed his country’s national youth strategy, which envisioned youth as independent, equal and active participants in all sectors of society. Young people deserved easier social inclusion, he said, noting also the Government’s initiative of youth employment projects.
A representative of the Mexican Institute of Youth said his organization was pushing for the establishment of a specialized technical unit within Mexico’s statistical agency for studying youth.
ISAAC KWAME ASIAMAH, Minister for Youth and Sports of Ghana, emphasized the role of youth in fighting corruption, which across Africa had not only depleted resources, but deprived young people of opportunities. He drew attention to Government initiatives to boost youth employment, adding however that much more needed to be done to include young people in Ghana’s development agenda.
The United Nations Youth Adviser for Sustainable Development Goals Implementation of Indonesia said availability of data was a country‑level challenge. The United Nations system was working with the Government to address that issue, helping it to come up with baselines that would identify the challenges faced by Indonesian youth. He also described his country’s Youth Hub programme, aimed at mainstreaming the Sustainable Development Goals vis‑à‑vis Indonesian youth while helping develop a sense of youth ownership in the Goals.
A representative of the Russian Federation discussed the recent nineteenth World Festival of Youth and Students, which brought together 25,000 participants from 188 countries. She also emphasized the importance her country attached to the development of international youth cooperation.
A representative of the Inter‑Parliamentary Union said it was important to campaign for younger members of Parliament, in addition to connecting with parliamentarians to ensure that youth concerns were taken into account in the legislative processes.
SOLOMON SELCAP DALUNG, Minister for Youth and Sports Development of Nigeria, said his country was particularly mindful of the role of youth in rebuilding Nigerian communities devastated by conflict and violent extremism.
A representative of the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations said mental health was not getting enough attention at the global level. Emphasizing the link between mental health care and universal health coverage, she said her organization was providing its 1.5 million members with materials to campaign for better mental health care. It was not a shame to have a mental health disorder, but it was shameful not to help those who did, she said.
The Minister for Youth and Sports of Nepal said his Government recognized youth as an invaluable asset, but owing to a lack of adequate employment opportunity, many young people in Nepal left in search of work elsewhere. In response, the Government was establishing policies to encourage their return.
The State Secretary of the Ministry of Demography, Family, Youth and Social Policy of Croatia said a main cause of high unemployment in his country was the disparity between education and labour market requirements. Young people in rural areas were particularly vulnerable in that regard, he said, emphasizing that it was vital to develop life skills that were often not related to formal education.
The Special Advisor for Global Youth Issues of the State Department of the United States said many young people in his country and elsewhere were struggling to turn their education and their passions into meaningful work. That would get harder as technology changed the type of jobs people had, he said. There was no need to be fearful, but more must be done to prepare for the twenty‑first century, with Governments better understanding how the world of work was changing.
The Minister for Youth and Sport of Serbia said that his country had financially supported projects for young people in the areas of mobility, information, creativity and activism, employment and education, among other areas. Serbia had also established a mechanism for the active participation of youth in society. The Minister for Culture, Youth and Sports of South Sudan, meanwhile, said that her country was affected by conflict, and its young people were struggling to catch up with the 2030 Agenda. The Government’s responsibility was to work hard to encourage the productive work of young people to overcome their challenges, she said.
Pledges and Commitments
The representative of Mexico said that his country was convinced of the importance of the role of youth, and it had set up a strategy to achieve the 2030 Agenda. Mexico, along with other international actors, had pledged to organize an an international conference on the Agenda that would provide a forum for dialogue for youth.
The representative of Singapore said that his country would hold an event this June called UNLEASH, which would empower young people to shape a more resilient and brighter future.
The representative of Panama said that projects currently under way in her country included a forum for youth for water, through which her Government was trying to raise awareness on how to properly manage water resources.
The representative of Saudi Arabia said that its initiative, Vision 2030, was built in 2016 and was the country’s national commitment to future projects on the 2030 Agenda. Young people were the key to realizing that vision, as they made up 70 per cent of the population.
MAIMUNAH MOHD SHARIF, the Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN‑Habitat), said that she believed that investment in youth must continue. Environmental challenges, climate change, and radicalization were among the challenges faced by youth today. If urbanization was the engine to prosperity, then youth were the engineers, she said.
LAURA LONDÉN, the Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said that the Forum had heard from the most open‑minded and best connected generation the world had ever seen. UNFPA had placed adolescents and youth at the centre of its work and had been a trusted ally of young people. Its strategic plan pledged that adolescents and youths would be empowered to make informed decisions about their futures, and would have access to the information they needed about their reproductive health and rights.
RICHARD CURTIS, film‑maker and Sustainable Development Goals advocate, said that in his experience, politicians were more interested in listening to young people than they were to old people. He said he had met many young people who had, for example, changed child marriage laws and changed attitudes to peace.
TATANA GREGOR BRZOBOHATA, Miss World 2006, activist and philanthropist of the Czech Republic, said that her mission was to inspire others to be of service in the world. Her 10‑year‑old foundation helped the elderly and also helped the work of other non‑governmental organizations in the Czech Republic. Everyone might live in different areas around the world, but the language of service was one that everyone shared, she said. She invited those listening to give back to their communities and start volunteering.
WANG YUAN, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Special Advocate for Education in China, said that education was a key factor in building confident and resilient children, and noted that he had recently visited a school where children were encouraged to work together to solve problems. He was committed to his role with UNICEF to call attention to universal quality education for every child.
JOLLY AMATYA from the National Youth Council of Nepal, representing the Major Group for Children and Youth, said that children and youth were the foremost right holders, and Member States were duty bearers, she said. Young people had a critical role to play in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. The Group was committing and investing its capacities in policy and advocacy, and youth action and knowledge, she said.
EVELINA CABRERA, the President of the Women’s Football Association of Argentina, said that it was important to ensure that there was individual resilience among youth. Youths were the key tool in implementing and achieving the 2030 Agenda, and the Association would work to disseminate it so that youth could implement it in their societies.
RALPH JOHNSON, the representative of the World Federation of United Nations Associations Youth Advisory Council for North America, spoke on behalf of the International Coordination Meeting of Youth Organisations. He highlighted the actions of several groups, including the International Young Catholic Students organization, which was continuing its work in the implementation of several Goals through advocacy and data collection.
LIU ZHENMIN, Under‑Secretary‑General for Economic and Social Affairs, said that the Forum had allowed young people, Member States and the United Nations to come together to share ideas. He called upon everyone to continue their efforts in both policy and practice. The Department of Economic and Social Affairs held a key mandate on youth in the United Nations system, which included the implementation of the World Programme for Youth. The discussions at the Forum had highlighted many examples of national progress of youth participation and engagement. Participants had also shared ideas on how to create sustainable cities, including the implementation of initiatives that promoted more inclusive cities. Young people could drive sustainable consumption to build more resilient communities, and their engagement was essential for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Youth should continue to work with policymakers and governments to ensure their voices were heard.
Ms. WICKRAMANAYAKE said that the Forum had brought diverse stakeholders together to discuss the role of young people in the Sustainable Development Goals and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. She looked forward to the work feeding into the high‑level political forum, and hoped it would recognize the important contribution that the Youth Forum had made. She said the Forum was a good learning experience and a great opportunity to meet young people and ministers. She asked for feedback on the Forum to see if expectations were met, in order to improve and support everyone as equal partners. She asked the government officials in the rook to take the outcomes of the Forum back to their countries and implement what they had learned. She asked the young people in the room to keep holding governments accountable and to continue to represent young people in Forums like the present one.
MARIE CHATARDOVÁ, President of the Economic and Social Council, thanked those who had participated in the Youth Forum for gathering to share their stories and ideas about what needed to be done to build sustainable and resilient communities. She noted that she would take two steps to ensure that the work done over the two‑day session had a lasting impact on the Council and also the high‑level political forum. She would issue a Presidential Statement that would capture the key messages and recommendations that emerged from the Forum. She would also ensure that a more detailed summary, which captured the full highlights, would be prepared and shared.