On 8-9 April 2019, the 8th Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Youth Forum took place in the United Nations Headquarters in New York. Over 1000 young people from all over the world gathered together and shared their valuable insights with Governments, Civil Society Organisations and Youth Networks. The ECOSOC Youth Forum is the largest annual youth gathering at the United Nations. It serves as an important channel for both young people and Government officials to exchange updates on global youth engagement, to initiate discussions on global issues, and to reiterate the full-level collaborations to implement the 2030 Agenda and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

This year’s Forum was held under the theme of “Empowered, Included, and Equal”. This theme highlights the importance of including young people’s engagement in the scope of global discussions. It also aims to promote international collaboration between Member States and Civil Society to be supported in empowering young stakeholders’ active engagement.

Young people’s force is an opportunity we cannot miss. Representing over 1.8 billion young people all over the world, participants of the ECOSOC Youth Forum continued to strive for their participation at the decision-making table, and fearlessly came up with meaningful recommendations on the process of realizing the SDGs. This year’s forum firstly focused on reviewing the following six SDGs: SDG4 (Quality Education), SDG8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), SDG10 (Reduced Inequalities), SDG13 (Climate Action), SDG16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions), and SDG17 (Partnerships for the Goals).

Here are some exciting moments from the 2019 ECOSOC Youth Forum, starting by the Envoy on Youth kicking-off the Forum with the President of ECOSOC, Ambassador Inga Rhonda King, and the President of General Assembly, Ms. María Fernanda Espinosa, following by thematic discussion on the implementations of SDGs, regional discussions on key concerns and priorities for youth by regions, interactive dialogues between young representatives and government officials to identify young people’s role in the SDG implementation process, etc.

“Empowered, Included and Equal”
To conclude this year’s Forum in one sentence: “young people must have a seat at the table”. The record-breaking number of youth participants joined different plenary sessions in the two-day forum, and shared their valuable inputs from how to actively step-up climate action, to how to ensure a better future of employment. In the opening, the United Nations Envoy on Youth, Ms. Jayathma Wickramanayake welcomed all participants with Ambassador Inga Rhonda King, President of ECOSOC, and Ms. María Fernanda Espinosa, President of General Assembly with a meaningful dialogue.

In the dialogue, Ms. Wickramanayake stressed that, “There is no limit to what this generation – the largest, most educated, most globally-minded in history – can deliver.” She also mentioned the importance of prioritizing young people’s needs ahead of the SDG and Climate Action Summits later this year, in September. To achieve such goals, it is pointed out that continuous appreciation and trust in multilateralism and dialogue – especially among young people and Governments – are needed to achieve a fairer globalization for all. Amb. King also shared her insights in the dialogue by pointing out that “Young people’s contribution to peace and security is increasingly recognized as essential to realizing the 2030 Agenda.” It is utterly important to fully include young people in political and economic life. She also shared her worries of how young people are still victims of violence and conflicts in many regions, but their positive influence should not be neglected in the process of preventing and solving such conflicts. In agreement, Ms. Espinosa, said her goal is to ensure youth, peace and security is at the center of her work and noted that the first International Symposium on Youth Participation in Peace Processes in Helsinki has strengthened the argument that young people have advanced peace processes.

Regional Breakout Sessions and Thematic Sessions on the SDGs
This Year’s Forum consisted of various regional and thematic sessions in which young participants and Member States shared updates on the implementation of the SDGs in different regions, initiated the future plans of realizing the 2030 Agenda, and offered insights on tackling pressing issues from quality education to climate change.

During the sessions, young people from different regions raised key regional concerns for youth relating to the SDGs implementation. For example, Mr. Yi Yangqianxi – World Health Organization China Special Envoy for Health – briefed the Asia-Pacific Regions Session and pointed out that gender equality, education, and empowerment as three top needs for young people. In another session, Ms. Farai Mubaiwa – Member of The Aurum Institute and Africa Matters Initiative pointed out that the urgency of solving youth unemployment issue in South Africa, and shared her opinion on how economic exclusion can lead to both mental and physical violence, which were key threats to young people in her region.

As young participants from all over the world shared their concerns during the sessions, they also proposed meaningful recommendations on how to solve these issues and support the 2030 Agenda. Ms. Sophia Fei Ya Chen, the thematic focal point, updated on the breakout session on SDG8 and proposed that “States must involve young people in creatively incentivizing partnerships among Governments, the Private Sector, Academia and other stakeholders,” and putting young people at the core of development efforts is crucial to solve most of the economic issues we face today. In another session, Gogontlejang Phaladi stressed that young people must be supported in political leadership roles, so that their needs can be fulfilled.

Representatives from UN agencies and Member States also provided valuable insights during the review of the SDGs. All of them continued to reiterate their support engaging youth globally, and urged young people to be the change our society needs to push world leaders to carry their responsibilities and ensure all of us can have a brighter, sustainable future.

Looking into the future: the Climate Summit, the SDG Summit, and beyond
2019 is a year full of opportunities for young people to participate in global discussions, and for Heads of States and Governments, and Member States to recognize young people’s contributions and realize their recommendations. As the curtain went down for the ECOSOC Youth Forum, it is more of a start rather than an end. The forthcoming events such as the United Nations General Assembly, the Climate Summit and the SDG Summit in September will examine the progress of the 2030 Agenda, and draw new plans based on such evaluation. Carrying the torch of #Youth2030: the UN Youth Strategy launched last September, the ECOSOC Youth Forum has paved of the way for young people’s active participation in all the imminent global discussions.

In the closing ceremony of the ECOSOC Youth Forum, Ambassador King reaffirmed the need to include young people in all levels of policy-making processes, and expressed the wish to see this need translated into action, starting at the annual political forum in July. All participants of ECOSOC Youth Forum are expected to take the Forum’s outcomes and their experience to their communities – further boosting the work to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.