Amidst global uncertainty, UN youth envoy urges more support for world’s largest generation of young people

Ahead of the largest gathering of young people at the United Nations, the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth today called on the international community and governments to strengthen their efforts to support, empower and engage young people, at time of uncertainty and turmoil around the world.

“It is really the best of the times to be a young person but also the worst of the times,” said Jayathma Wickramanayake at a press conference in New York ahead of the UN Economic and Social Council Youth Forum (30 to 31 January 2018).

The Forum connects more than 500 youth advocates with government and civil society representatives to discuss critical issues affecting young people, ranging from poverty, unemployment, inequalities to climate change, clean energy and safe cities.

“We are the most connected generation ever – we have access to technology and have every opportunity to be innovative and creative, yet some 600 million young people live in conflict-affected and fragile states, and some 71 million of them are unemployed.”

Today, there are an estimated 1.2 billion (15 to 24 years-old) young people in the world, the largest generation of youth the world has ever seen. Many of them are living in developing countries, and more than half of them are in Asia and the Pacific alone.

With young people across the world facing a future full of uncertainties due to conflicts, economic variability, climate change, and rising inequalities, she stressed the importance of seeing them as agents of change and placing them at the centre of the global development process, including leading the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – the world’s plan of action for a more sustainable future.

“This is a time in history that we can really make a change because, ultimately, it is the youth who will lead the implementation of 2030 Agenda,” added Wickramanayake who at 26 became the UN’s youngest senior official when Secretary-General António Guterres appointed her in June 2017 “to bring the UN closer to young people and bring young people closer to the UN.”

After participating in her first Youth Forum in her current capacity later this month, Wickramanayake will travel to several countries in Africa, a continent with the world’s fastest growing youth population. While in Senegal, Gambia, Ghana, Nigeria, and South Africa, from 1 to 16 February, she will meet young people from a diversity of communities and learn about the issues that they are facing in efforts to ensure youth voices are heard and valued at all levels of government and at the UN.

About the ECOSOC Youth Forum

The 7th ECOSOC Youth Forum will take place under the theme “the role of youth in building sustainable and resilient urban and rural communities,” to address the challenges that today’s generation of young people is facing. The Forum, the largest official annual gathering on youth issues at the UN, offers an opportunity for young people to engage with Member States to discuss policy frameworks as well as promote innovative approaches and initiatives for advancing youth development.

For more information on the ECOSOC Youth Forum and the SDG Media Zone at the Forum, please visit: and

Media Contacts:

UN Department of Public Information
Devi Palanivelu, T: +1 (212) 963-1104


Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth
Iryna Gudyma, T: +1 (732) 330-7180