Each year, Ministers from all over the world gather at the United Nations Headquarters in New York to review the progress made in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals at the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF). This year’s HLPF provided an opportunity to highlight youth participation in the implementation of the SDGs and showcase lessons learned and national practices.

Here’s three areas where young people were really brought to the fore:

Increased importance placed on young people in national processes

While a good number of the 22 Voluntary National Reviews (VNR) submitted to last year’s HLPF had some mention of youth, few included an in-depth assessment of how youth development and engagement factor into implementing the SDGs.

This year, the number of Member States reporting on their progress substantially increased to 43, and several of them mentioned young people as important stakeholders in their official presentations and reports. This year’s HLPF also saw an increase in the number of youth delegates attending the Forum

Some Member States, such as Sweden, Slovenia, and the Netherlands even included a youth delegate to take part in the official presentation of their national progress.  

Young people in several instances were able to directly contribute to the VNR reports, such as in the Netherlands, where a piece of the report had been written solely by the national youth council.

Reflecting on this experience, youth delegate from the Netherlands, Max Van Deursen highlighted the added value of including young people into these processes in three main points: young people saw different priorities than the government; they identified different demographic groups that were left behind; and the exercise in itself forced young people into discussion about the SDGs.

“VNRs are complex exercises and youth delegates can help bridge the gap between young people and these complex discussions” -Jayathma Wickranayake, Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth

Focus on young people on the side-lines of the Forum

On the sidelines of the Forum, there was a clear increase in the number of events focusing on youth participation, including a large number youth speakers and moderators, and an important representation of Youth Delegates in attendance.  

Ahead of the Forum, Restless Development and the Major Group for Children and Youth, with support of the Permanent Mission of Denmark hosted a 2-day capacity building workshop for young people attending HLPF to jointly brainstorm and strategize on the maximum impact of their participation.

Monday, 17 July marked both the first day of the Ministerial Segment of the HLPF and also High Level Event  to celebrate World Youth Skills Day, where the Youth Envoy, Jayathma Wickramanayake, gave her first public remarks in her new role on her first day in office. She put a special emphasis on the need for skills to keep up with rapid developments in technology, and stated that “there is no better investment than in the capacities and potentials of young people.”

Earlier in the day, the President of the General Assembly, H.E. Peter Thompson, the President of the Economic and Social Council, H.E. Frederick Musiiwa Makamure Shava, and UNFPA co-hosted a High-Level luncheon, where the Youth Envoy joined UN and government officials, and youth representatives in a discussion on the demographic dividend.

Wednesday 19 July saw “Youth and the SDGs: From Local Roots to Global Reality”, an event co-organized by the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth and partners, that featured Ministers from Denmark, Indonesia and Ethiopia all speaking on the critical importance of youth participation and accountability in the follow-up and review of the  2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Young people actively participated in the event in the roles of moderators, speakers and discussants from the floor and reflected on diverse experiences, spanning from youth engagement in the official processes to shadow reporting exercises. The Envoy made a strong plea to Member States to ensure review processes both include a strong focus on youth development as well as their participation.

On Thursday 20 July, the Youth Envoy used the opportunity to host an informal dialogue with some of the youth delegates and representatives of youth-led and youth-focused organizations attending at the HLPF. This first dialogue of many brought about a fruitful discussion on the priorities and ideas of young people, and set the tone for future close collaboration between the Envoy and youth representatives.

IMG_4825 "You don't need a PHD to be an expert, value the experience based expertise of youth people." -Max van Deursen, Netherlands Youth Delegate

“You don’t need a PHD to be an expert, value the experience based expertise of young people.” -Max van Deursen, Netherlands Youth Delegate

Key references in the Ministerial Declaration

The strong focus on youth throughout this year’s HLPF was also reflected in the ministerial declaration, which was adopted at the closing on Wednesday the 19th. The Declaration included two particularly strong references to, in paragraph 6, the need to recognize youth as agents of change and, in paragraph 25, the important role of the annual ECOSOC Youth Forum:

  1. Recognize children, adolescents and youth as important agents of change and underline the necessity of investing in them with a view to addressing multidimensional deprivations, ending intergenerational poverty, harnessing the demographic dividend and empowering them to build a more prosperous future. We call on all Member States to ensure that youth education, skills development and employment are at the centre of our priorities to enable them to fulfil their potential as active members of society. We also commit to including their perspectives in the development and assessment of strategies and programmes designed to address their specific needs and underscore the importance of supporting young people’s participation in the implementation and review of the 2030 Agenda. We stress the need to protect their human rights and to eliminate all forms of discrimination, violence and coercion against them, including the elimination of all harmful practices;
  2. Welcome the work of the Economic and Social Council, including that of its functional and regional commissions and segments. The Council is key to supporting efforts to eradicate poverty in all its forms and dimensions through promoting sustainable development, expanding opportunities and addressing related challenges and, in this regard, we recognize the contributions made by its forums on youth, partnerships and development cooperation, science, technology and innovation

Hats off to everyone who made this year’s HLPF a success! 

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