‘Youth’ was a clear theme echoed by UN Senior officials at the High-level stocktaking event on the Post-2015 Development Agenda that took place 11 September 2014.

Remarks by the Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, President of the General Assembly, Ambassador John W. Ashe, and President of the Economic and Social Council, Ambassador Martin Sajdik all emphasised the unequivocal role of youth in achieving peace, stability and sustainability.

In his remarks, the UN Secretary-General referenced the ongoing UN system consultations working towards the inclusion of youth and societies globally in the post-2015 development agenda. He referenced the My World and the Global Youth Call that sought the voices and views of millions of people around the world on a new development agenda.

Mr. Ahmad Alhendawi, the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth mentioned that the My World 2015 survey garnered over 4.5 million votes globally—over 3.4 million of them from young people under the age of 30. Youth are engaging in the United Nations system and political process in historic numbers as volunteers, activists and vested stakeholders.

Ambassador Sjadik advocated to “make youth a critical part of the development agenda.”

“Don’t alienate youth from the process,” he urged.

Mr. Alhendawi echoed these sentiments, drawing attention to stories from global travels that showcased that at national, regional and global levels, both on and off-line, young people have actively participated in the numerous debates and consultations on the Post-2015 Agenda, in some cases traveling for over 12 hours in public transportation to ensure that their voices are heard. His statement reinforced the notion that young voices are needed in the new development agenda to ensure that youth needs and rights are not marginalized.

Over 1700 youth organizations and networks from around the globe came together with key stakeholders, including UN agencies and major international youth alliances, to form the Global Partnership on Youth in the Post-2015 development agenda. Thousands of young people exercised their global citizenship by joining the challenge of moving beyond the identification of youth priorities toward the developing of an actual consensus of what concrete youth-related targets the Post-2015 should include. Young people, through a crowdsourcing platform, created an unprecedented Global Youth Call for Prioritizing Youth in the Post-2015 Development Agenda presented at the ECOSOC Youth Forum.

[Read the Global Youth Call here]

The five months of intensive crowdsourcing for youth ideas and an analysis of the outcomes of hundreds of youth meetings around the world allowed young people globally to define their own priorities as: education, employment, health, governance and participation, and peace and security.

“We cannot expect to achieve peace and security without focusing on development and the protection of human rights” Mr. Alhendawi stressed. “Around 1.5 billion people live in fragile states or areas affected by conflicts—the majority of whom are under the age of 30. It is their dream for better lives and opportunities that are being threatened and the development of their communities and countries that is at stake.”

Mr. Achim Steiner, Executive Director of UNEP, encouraged listeners to move towards creating a “future we want, versus a future we can get.”

While we have seen much progress in advancing the access of youth to policy making—much more needs to be done. Mr. Alhendawi shared that the term “youth policy” was unheard of in the 1980s—in just 20 years, over 140 countries are engaging in conversations around youth policy. “In the year to come, the challenge ahead of us is to keep this global momentum around the new development agenda, to set new, transformative goals for the future, and to ensure everyone’s ownership” urged Mr. Alhendawi.

Mr. Alhendawi emphasised that the United Nations should not only work for youth, but with youth as critical partners in shaping the post-2015 development agenda. “The success of the post-2015 development agenda lies in many factors, but let me tell you a public secret,” says Mr. Alhendawi, “one of the most critical factors is the ownership of half of the inhabitants of this planet.”

Mr. Alhendawi reminded attendees that the Post-2015 agenda coincides with the 20th anniversary of the General Assembly adoption of the World Programme of Action for Youth, which remains the overarching global policy framework on youth. He invited the General Assembly to host a special session on youth to commemorate this special anniversary and important benchmark.

To this end, the Office of the Secretary-General’s Youth Envoy shared information about the First Global Forum on Youth Policies that they are organizing, in collaboration with a number of partners, in Baku, Azerbaijan at the end of October 2014. “At this important juncture, the Forum offers a unique opportunity to the global youth sector to start discussing the alignment of youth policies with the new development agenda, and thus ensuring that the youth agenda continues to move forward,” said Alhendawi.

Youth will be following development conversations closely and are ready to carry the heavy lifting of the post-2015 agenda.