Last month, hundreds of heads of state, delegates, and governments from all over the world gathered in New York City for the High-Level segment of the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly. From high-level meetings with Heads of States, to events with celebrities, young people certainly made their mark on the UN Headquarters’ most important annual meeting.
1. Launch of UN Young Leaders
On 19 September, the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth Ahmad Alhendawi took the stage at the Social Good Summit and unveiled the inaugural class of Young Leaders for the Sustainable Development Goals. These 17 young change-makers are leaders catalyzing the achievement of the Goals.From food to fashion to finance, the Young Leaders come from many different backgrounds, represent every region in the world and help activate young people in support of the Goals.They were selected from a pool of more than 18,000 nominations and are the living proof of what it looks like when young people take the lead. Meet them here!
2. Member States mentioned young people in their statements
With 194 statements delivered by Member States from the iconic podium during the plenary session of this year’s General Assembly, 59 of them specifically referenced young people and youth issues. The official statements highlighted the importance of youth development and participation, recognizing young people’s contributions to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and to international peace and security. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari even called for the creation of a specialized UN agency on youth development.
3. Young leaders and world leaders chatted about youth and the SDGs over breakfast
On Tuesday 20 September, the high-level Young Leaders x World Leaders breakfast side-event was held before the official opening of the General Assembly bringing young leaders and world leaders to the same table. One year after the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, they sat down and assessed progress implementing the SDGs and the role of youth in this process.The young leaders in the room had the chance to speak up and offer their opinion while world leaders listened and made commitments.
4. Launch of the SDGs in Action app to directly engage people everywhere
The Global Goals were adopted last year by governments, but it’s up to to everyone – young people, civil society, businesses – to achieve them. The new SDGs in Action app was launched during the General Assembly week to make the Goals more accessible to the people, especially young people. With an SDG-related newsfeed and clear actions for each Goal, taking action for the SDGs has never been easier!
5. African presidents commit to young people
During the busy week, African presidents joined UN and World Bank officials to strengthen their commitments to the millions of young people across the continent. Today’s young people are the largest youth generation in the history of mankind, and Africa is home to the vast majority of them. UNFPA’s Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin rightfully stated: “we have estimates that show that if we do this, and we do it right, we can actually add to the GDP of Africa – $500 billion every year for 30 years. It’s mind-blowing.”
6. Forest Whitaker wants a seat for young people at the peace table
On 21 September at the Secretary-General’s Peacebuilding Fund Pledging Conference, governments pledged a total of 152 million dollars. These funds will help more than 20 countries move away from war and closer to peace. During the pledging conference, Forest Whitaker made a very strong case for putting young people at the center of peacebuilding: “There are currently 1.8 billion people on our planet between the ages of 10 and 24. Imagine what a tremendous force for good they would be if we invested as much time, energy, and money in their education and development as we do in fighting wars.”
7. Reimagining a role for young people in humanitarian situations
At the panel on “Transforming Humanitarian Action with and for Young People” hosted by IPI, young humanitarians, UN officials and experts sat down to outline their vision of a world where youth-led humanitarian action is a reality. Ahmad Alhendawi, the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, stressed the positive impact young people have in humanitarian contexts: “young people are viewed as the victims, and sometimes as material for fundraising purposes, but we neglect to see what contributions young people can make to the resilience of their communities.”
8. A call to action for youth and by youth
At UNFPA’s workshop on “Adolescents and Youth: The Driving Force for the SDGs”, the Young Leaders for the SDGs, UNFPA Youth Innovator Fellows, and other adolescent and youth organizations came together to develop a common advocacy agenda for adolescents and the SDGs. The full-day workshop brought together youth voices from every corner of the world to contribute to the drafting of a call for action open to endorsement by organizations and networks of adolescents and youth.
9. Making agriculture sexy again by engaging youth in the industry
At the high-level side event “Pathways to Zero Hunger”, heads of state, industry influencers, and civil society came together to discuss achieving Zero Hunger and the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. World Food Programme Executive Director Ertharin Cousin stressed the importance of “making farming sexy again” to encourage youth engagement in agriculture. And Young Leader for the SDGs and 25-year-old co-founder of FarmDrive Rita Kimani relayed: “young people are at the heart of achieving Zero Hunger. Engage them. Work for them and with them.”