New York – On September 20, young leaders and world leaders gathered for a special event on the sidelines of the high-level segment of the UN General Assembly to assess progress in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and discuss ways for engaging young people.

The event, co-hosted by the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, the Permanent Missions of Denmark and Netherlands to the UN, UNDP and UNFPA, offered a unique opportunity for young people to interact directly with government representatives and UN officials, sharing their views on steps taken so far in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

(UNDP Photo)

Youth Envoy Ahmad Alhendawi during the event (UNDP Photo)

“It is time to put an end to our role as simple spectators. We need to be invited at the table, so that we can make our voice heard,” said one of the young participants during the lively exchange. “This means bringing the SDGs to the local level, where we can learn about them, understand them and ensure they are accessible to everyone.”

The Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, Ahmad Alhendawi, reminded participants that to make this a reality, young people need to be seen as an opportunity, and not a liability.

“Governments need to make serious commitments toward the work and activities of young people,” he said. “By committing resources to youth empowerment, society becomes the biggest beneficiary of their skills and expertise.”

Many of the young participants in the room are currently involved in different endeavors aimed at the implementation of the Global Goals—from peacebuilding and innovation, to entrepreneurship and gender activism. 

The event featured the newly announced 17 Young Leaders for the SDGs, a group of inspiring innovators part of an initiative convened by the Youth Envoy’s office. Unveiled in New York on September 19, the Young Leaders for the SDGs have been selected from over 18,000 nominations for their leadership and contribution to the achievement of the Global Goals—another testament to the ingenuity of young people everywhere.

(UNDP Photo)

(UNDP Photo)

The event was generously supported by the Government of Kuwait and saw the participation of several government ministers and dignitaries, including Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, Danish Foreign Minister Kristian Jensen, and the Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation of the Netherlands, Lianne Ploumen.

During his remarks, Minister Jensen announced a series of new measures adopted by his government, including the creation of additional Junior Professional Officer (JPO) positions to support UN efforts on youth.

“To bring real change, we need your energy, your innovation and your ideas,” he said. “The future starts today, and we can’t wait for a faraway tomorrow.”

Also among the speakers were: Laura Londen, Deputy Executive Director of UNFPA; Sarah Poole, Deputy Director of UNDP’s Bureau for Policy and Programme Support; Werner Faymann, Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Youth Employment; and Sahar Afzal, Dutch Youth Representative at the United Nations.