Youth and the SDGs

Today, there are 1.8 billion people between the ages of 10-24—they are the largest generation of youth in history. Close to 90 per cent of them live in developing countries, where they make up a large proportion of the population. Their numbers are expected to grow—between 2015 and 2030 alone, about 1.9 billion young people are projected to turn 15 years old.  Connected to each other like never before, young people want to and already contribute to the resilience of their communities, proposing innovative solutions, driving social progress and inspiring political change. They are also agents of change, mobilizing to advance the Sustainable Development Goals to improve the lives of people and the health of the planet.

Provided with the necessary skills and opportunities needed to reach their potential, young people can be a driving force for supporting development and contributing to peace and security. Youth-led organizations need to be encouraged and empowered to participate in translating the 2030 Agenda into local, national and regional policy. They play a significant role in the implementation, monitoring and review of the Agenda as well as in holding governments accountable. With political commitment and adequate resources, young people have the potential to make the most effective transformation of the world into a better place for all.

The UN and Youth

Building on its global convening role, the United Nations is uniquely placed to act as a source of protection and support for young people, and a platform through which their needs can be addressed, their voice can be amplified, and their engagement can be advanced.

The UN fully embraces young people’s diversity in all its forms. Therefore, the UN employs and advocates for methods and approaches reflective of this diversity to make sure all young people can reach their full engagement, empowerment and development. The UN recognizes young people as rights-holders, and promotes and facilitates transparency, accountability, and responsiveness from governments, international organizations and others  toward young people.

The Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth

Ms. Jayathma Wickramanayake was appointed United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth in June 2017. As a global advocate for youth, she works to ensure the participation of young people in issues that matter to them, giving them a voice at the UN and around the world. Championing the SDGs, she also brings the work of the UN closer to young people around the world.

The Young Leaders for the SDGs

In September 2016, the inaugural class of 17 Young Leaders was announced. Convened by the Envoy on Youth, the Young Leaders for the SDGs come from different backgrounds, sectors and regions, and are recognized for their leadership and contribution to a more sustainable world.

The Young Leaders work with the Envoy on Youth to engage young people towards advocating for the achievement of the SDGs in accessible and innovative ways and contribute to a brain trust supporting the UN’s efforts to mobilize young people.  A new class of Young Leaders will be announced in September 2022.

Roles for youth and the SDGs

  1. Critical thinkers: Part of being young involves making sense of personal experiences and asking questions about the world around you. Youth have the capacity to identify and challenge existing power structures and barriers to change, and to expose contradictions and biases
  2. Change-makers: Young people also have the power to act and mobilise others. Youth activism is on the rise the world over, bolstered by broader connectivity and access to social media.
  3. Innovators: In addition to bringing fresh perspectives, young people often have direct knowledge of and insights into issues that are not accessible to adults. Youth best understand the problems they face and can offer new ideas and alternative solutions.
  4. Communicators: Outside the international development sector, few people are aware that world leaders have come to a historic, far-reaching agreement to improve the lives of people and the planetby 2030. Young people can be partners in communicating the development agenda to their peers and communities at the local level, as well as across countries and regions.
  5. Leaders: When young people are empowered with the knowledge of their rights and equipped with leadership skills, they can drive change in their communities and countries. Youth-led organisations and networks, in particular, should be supported and strengthened, because they contribute to the development of civic leadership skills among young people, especially marginalised youth.​

Youth campaigns

Resources for Young People 

Related News

Youth advocates demand immediate action to address urgent challenges

10 Apr 2019|Featured, News, Press material, Youth|

Youth leaders, gathered at the two-day Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Youth Forum, voiced alarm that 11 years before the 2030 deadline, progress on the Sustainable Development Goals remains slow, including on climate change – the greatest challenge of the world of today and tomorrow.

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