Today, the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) kicked off the third annual youth forum. Member States, youth organizations and youth leaders from around the world convened to join the continuing discussion about a new global agenda to succeed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) under the theme ”#Youth2015: Realizing the Future They Want.”

“This is about your future – so it must be your agenda,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressed.

The UN Secretary-General addressed participants of the forum by urging youth to become more active in their communities and in decision making processes. “We need your engagement more than ever before,” he stated. The Secretary-General continued by acknowledging the challenges young people today face globally, from health to unemployment, but he optimistically noted that young people have the power to create and seize opportunity.

The Forum opens as the United Nations and its Member States are working to craft a sustainable development agenda beyond 2015, the deadline for reaching the mainly anti-poverty targets set in 2000 when the MDGs were adopted. These negotiations must take into account that half of the world’s population is under the age of 25, which is why specific targets focused on youth should be integrated into the future development framework.

Day one began in the Trusteeship Council with a performance by Lisa Russell Spoken Word’s Artists. In addition to the Secretary-General’s address, remarks were delivered by the President of ECOSOC, H.E. Ambassador Martin Sajdik; the President of the United Nations General Assembly, H.E. John. W. Ashe; the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, Ahmad Alhendawi; and keynote addresses by Ms. Brittany Trilford, Activist and Youth Advisor with the CIVICUS Alliance, and Mr. Nik Hartley, CEO of Restless Development.


Youth Envoy Ahmad Alhendawi, presenting a photo of a young Ban Ki-moon and students with President John F. Kennedy

Youth Envoy Ahmad Alhendawi, presents a photo of a young Ban Ki-moon and students with President John F. Kennedy

Ambassador Martin Sajdik emphasized that young people were agents of change and catalysts for change in their society. He punctuated this sentiment by stating that youth are “problem solvers of today.” The President of the General Assembly, Mr. John W. Ashe, encouraged youth to get involved through work at the UN, and he extended an open invitation for young people to engage with the General Assembly and foster dialogue. The Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth picked up on the thread of dialogue by highlighting the conversations that have taken place through the crowdsourcing platform, the online mechanism part of the Global Partnership for Youth in the Post-2015 Development Agenda. Through dialogue and the sharing of ideas, concrete targets and indicators have been developed based on the five key thematic areas — Education, Employment & Entrepreneurship, Health, Governance, and Peace & Security. ”Youth of today have showed that they can present a unified voice,” Alhendawi stressed.

A video recording of the opening session is available here.

The Youth Envoy later participated in a noon press briefing with the President of ECOSOC to discuss the youth forum, as well as to present the main outcome of the Global Call on Youth. Ambassador Sajdik outlined the two major topics of the forum, which are youth unemployment and the Post-2015 Development Agenda, and discussed the work ECOSOC is doing to further the youth agenda.

Youth Envoy Ahmad Alhendawi; the President of UN ECOSOC, Ambassador Martin Sajdik; UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric during the noon briefing

Youth Envoy Ahmad Alhendawi; the President of UN ECOSOC, Ambassador Martin Sajdik; UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric during the noon briefing

Alhendawi in his remarks announced that the Global Call on Youth had garnered over 1,000 endorsements from youth organizations in 140 countries. The Global Call will be presented on the second day of the forum.

A video of the noon press briefing is available here.

Day one also included a side event for the “Launch of the Advocacy Toolkit for Youth,” organized by the Global Education First Initiative and the Youth Advocacy Group (YAG) and in which Alhendawi participated. The launch of the toolkit included an interactive and informative session led by Chairperson of the Youth Advocacy group.

The ECOSOC Youth Forum will continue through 3 June. For a full list of official side events, please click here.