End of Year Letter from the Envoy on Youth

End of Year Letter from the Envoy on Youth

As 2015 draws to an end, I would like to take this opportunity to reflect on the progress we have collectively made during 2015 to move the global youth agenda forward, some of the highlights include:
  • At the Security Council: 2015 brought us a tremendous advancements in the Youth, Peace and Security agenda starting off in April with the Security Council Open Debate on “The Maintenance of International Peace and Security: the Role of Youth in Countering Violent Extremism and Promoting Peace” held under Jordan’s Presidency followed in August by the first Global Forum on Youth, Peace and Security and its resulting Amman Declaration, to which 11,000 young peace builders from around the world provided inputs and which describes youth’s commitment to forging a peaceful global society and most recently the historic Security Council Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security, which presents a major breakthrough in the recognition of the role of young people in building sustainable peace and preventing violent extremism. We also had a session of the Peacebuilding Commission dedicated for the first time to discuss the role of youth as peace builders.
  • At the General Assembly, the High Level Event of the General Assembly to mark the 20th Anniversary of the World Programme of Action for Youth on 29 May 2015 was a historic opportunity for UN Members States to come together to review the WPAY’s implementation and offered an important occasion for Member States -many of which attended at the highest level of national authority on youth- and other relevant stakeholders to take stock of progress made in the implementation of WPAY, as well as identify the gaps and challenges, and the way forward for its full, effective and accelerated implementation.
  • Also at the General Assembly, I am very encouraged by the overwhelming support that my Office received from so many Member States as reflected in the UN General Assembly Resolution A/C.3/70/L.11/Rev.1  “Policies and programmes involving youth”, which not only echoed the Secretary-General in recognizing the role of his Envoy on Youth as a “harmonizer” among UN entities and other stakeholders in elevating the global youth agenda, but also recognized the work of my Office in addressing the needs of youth and calls on the Envoy on Youth to continue to act as a harmonizer working closely with Governments, United Nations entities, civil society, youth organizations, academia and media, empowering and strengthening the position of young people within and outside of the United Nations system. I am also pleased that the Resolution noted recent important fora, including the First Global Forum on Youth Policies, the Global Forum on Youth Peace and Security, as well as the High Level Event of the General Assembly to mark the 20th Anniversary of the World Programme of Action for Youth. The Resolution”s call on the UN Programme on Youth to act as focal point within the UN System for promoting further collaboration and coordination on youth-related matters, furthermore gives an important space to strengthen youth work within the system and gives an important impetus to step up our collective efforts as a system to meet the expectations of Member States and young people around the world.
  • At the ECOSOC level, the ECOSOC Youth Forum which over the past years has continued to grow and improve, and to date represents the highest level of a youth participation mechanism as part of the UN institutional processes, feeding into other processes of the Economic and Social Council, including the High Level Political Forum and the Annual Ministerial Review.
  • After a lengthy process marked by a remarkable youth engagement, 193 youth representatives from around the world marked the historic moment of the adoption of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development, which was the culmination of 3 plus year of efforts of negotiating a universal, integrated and transformative agenda for a better world. Youth-specific and youth-related targets have been included in several of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and youth development is a cross-cutting issue that runs through the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development, including the opening declaration.
  • The Third United Nations World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction included a youth forum as a formal event of the Conference. The 3rd DRR Conference brought forward the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 which recognizes the important role of youth as leaders and agents of change.
  • For the first time in history a Financing for Development Conferences, its negotiated outcome recognizes that investing in youth is critical to achieving inclusive, equitable and sustainable development for present and future generations and calls on Members States to promote national youth strategies as a key instrument for meeting the needs and aspirations of young people, while also committing to develop and operationalize, by 2020, a global strategy for youth employment.
  • I am also very pleased that the COP21 achieved the Paris Agreement on climate change, which is a monumental triumph for people and planet. Young people from around the world actively engaged for years on this process, including the 5000 youth who attended the 11th Conference of Youth, which produced the Youth Manifesto to the COP21 expressing young people’s consolidated views, calls and commitments in mitigating the worst effects of climate change. I wish here to commend the remarkable efforts of YOUNGO in brining the youth voices to the COPs.
  • At the UN Chief Executive Board, I am excited that the board recently endorsed the Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth, which aims to scale up action in support of youth employment – one of the main global challenges and priorities of our time, and represents an exemplary system-wide effort for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in particular of Goal 8 on “inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all,” and the other goals concerned with youth employment.
  • 2015 saw the marking on 15 July of the very first World Youth Skills Day, in follow up to GA resolution UN General Assembly resolution A/C.3/69/L.13/Rev.1, as well as another widely celebrated International Youth Day on 12 August across the world.
  • The online social engagement campaign #YouthNow, which was launched by the Secretary-General to mark the 20th Anniversary of the World Programme of Action for Youth reached an impressive 2 Billion digital impressions during its course. We also produced a more up to date statistics on youth: The Situation of #YouthNow
  • UNESCO also organized a very successful 9th Youth Forum. The forum brought together over 500 young women and men from all over the world to focus on issues related to Climate Change and the post-2015 Sustainable Development agenda to ensure that the voices of future generations remain front and centre of the new development agenda.
  • This year I saw my hundredth mission as the SG”s Envoy on Youth. I have been on the road (and in the air) a lot demonstrating the UN leadership in championing the youth agenda and to discuss youth needs and rights and the meaningful participation of young people at all levels of decision making, and am pleased that over time more UN Country Teams have reacted and more established UN Youth Task Forces as well as Youth Advisory Boards.
  • During 2015 we also witnessed intensified collaboration at regional level, which included the following highlights:
    • The establishment of a Regional UN Task Force for Europe (including Eastern Europe and Central Asia), and the launching of a regional report on youth for the Asia and Pacific Region. We also expect the launching of the Arab Human Development Report soon, the report will be dedicated to analyze the situation of Arab youth 5 years after the Arab Spring.
    • With the African Union we marked World Youth Skills Day during the event on Investing in Youth and Ensuring Decent Jobs to Harness the Demographic Dividend and Africa week this year included a High-Level Event on “the African Continental Framework on Youth Development: Mainstream into Agenda 2063”
    • The Pacific Community’s 9th Conference brought together ministers from over twenty countries, development partners, and youth representatives, and its High-Level Dialogue on “Nurturing a resilient generation and future Pacific leaders”, which I had the honour to address.
    • I also addressed in April of this year the Council of Ministers of Youth and Sport of the League of Arab States calling on them to elevate the youth agenda in the region in order to address the particular challenges that many Arab countries are struggling with today, and again most recently in December in Kuwait and am pleased to share that the League of Arab States will put forward a formal request for UN support for the development of regional Arab youth policy at this critical time for the region.
    • We joined the 1st ASEAN Young Leaders Summit, held in conjunction with the 27th ASEAN Summit, brought together young leaders from the ASEAN community under the theme “Maximizing Young Leaders Potential Towards One ASEAN Community”.
    • We joined the VII Summit of the America that for the first time included Cuba was preceded by the Young Americas Forum which produced a Declaration for the consideration of their Heads of State in the Summit’s deliberations.
    • We also joined the European Youth Work Convention convened during the European Youth Week 2015. The Convention produced the European Youth Work Declaration and gave a new impetus to youth work policy and recognition of the value and significance of youth work.
    • We have also continued to work closely other regional and inter-regional partners, such as the Ibero-American Organization, CARICOM, the European Union, the Council of Europe, the Commonwealth and the International Organization of the Francophonie to strengthen the collaboration with the UN on youth-related issues.
  • Also we have been fortunate to partner with countless youth-led organizations and networks throughout the year in numerous events and fora, from grassroots levels to the largest youth gathering of 2015, which was the World Scouts Jamboree that brought together over 35.000 young people from all over the world.
  • As in previous years, my Office has continued to closely engage with the Major Group for Children and Youth, who have continued to undertake impressive advocacy efforts in numerous UN intergovernmental processes. We are proud supporters of the MGCY and we will continue partnering with the outstanding network of MGCY in building a Youth Gateway to the SDGs and collaborate to ensure the youth voices are represented in the various UN processes. Similarly, my Office also continued to coordinate with ICMYO, the International Coordination Meeting of Youth Organizations, and its numerous member organizations consisting of International Youth NGOs and Regional Youth Platforms
  • This past year my Office continued to deliver in our promise to make the UN more accessible to young people. That”s why we supported many side events and participated in others and hosted the summits of JCI and AIESEC who I commend for both having recently realigned their strategic frameworks committing their members to contribute to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

These are some of the highlights but there have been many more missions and country-focused developments. You may also wish to check this story which gives a summary of the summer engagements (Summer full of Youth!).

In conclusion, as I look back on a year of important advances in elevating youth issues in a plethora of fora and processes, I also wish to underscore that these achievements are the results of dedicated efforts and collaboration of so many colleagues and agencies who have made tremendous contributions. I would like to thank all my colleagues in the UN system as well as the members of the Inter-Agency Network on Youth Development as well as the dedicated UN Youth Networks at the regional and national levels.

Now as we enter 2016, I look forward to continued collaboration and partnership to build off on the important progress of this past year and to working together to ensure the spill-over continues for a greater momentum for youth.

My team and I look forward to continue working with you for the betterment of young people around the world.

I wish you all very Happy Holidays!

Best regards,

Ahmad Alhendawi

UN Secretary-General”s Envoy on Youth