New York – As world leaders prepared for the opening of the UN General Assembly’s General Debate on September 19, more than 100 young leaders met with world leaders to discuss the role of youth engagement and leadership in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

The event, co-hosted by the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, the Permanent Missions of Denmark and the United Arab Emirates to the UN, enabled a unique and lively exchange between young people, government, private sector and UN leaders. Among the participants were HE Ulla Tørnæs, Minister for Development Cooperation of Denmark, and HE Shamma bint Suhail Faris Al Mazrui, Minister of State for Youth Affairs of the United Arab Emirates and the youngest government minister in the world.  

J breakfast 3

The UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, Ms. Jayathma Wickramanayake, kicked off the event setting the tone for the roundtable discussions saying “we want to enable real conversations between young leaders and world leaders”. Through roundtable conversations, participants highlighted the importance of empowering young people and showcased examples of youth-led implementation efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. One of the young leaders pointed out that “youth are the source of innovation”, while another stressed that “we need to empower young people to make change themselves, not just tell them what to do”.

In addition to highlighting youth participation, the discussions showcased the contributions that young people are already making to advance sustainable development. Young leaders in attendance were invited based on their work towards the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, from peacebuilding and innovation, to entrepreneurship and gender activism. In this regard, the event featured three of the Young Leaders for the SDGs: Ankit Kawatra, Jake Horowitz and Trisha Shetty.

The discussions also focused on how to foster strong partnerships between young people and world leaders to accelerate progress on the Goals. “Youth aren’t the leaders of the future, they are the leaders of today”, highlighted one of the young participants during the event. When building these partnerships, the attendees concluded, it is essential to give young people real opportunities to participate in conversations with world leaders and create mechanisms for youth to hold governments accountable.


During the welcoming remarks, HE Ulla Tørnæs and HE Shamma bint Suhail Faris Al Mazrui also urged governments to partner with youth and give young people a key role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, respectively.

The event was supported by UNDP and UNFPA and hosted in the United Nations Delegates Dining Room.

Check out our Twitter Moment with coverage from the event!