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The UN Economic and Social Council's (ECOSOC) sixth annual Youth Forum convened at UN Headquarters in New York, US, from 30-31 January 2017.

Proceedings underscored the role of young people in tackling poverty and achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the SDGs and the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Youth representatives called for creating a permanent UN entity to enable young people to have an ongoing voice in implementing the 2030 Agenda.

31 January 2017: Participants at the UN Economic and Social Council’s (ECOSOC) sixth annual Youth Forum underscored the role of young people in tackling poverty and achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement on climate change. The Forum focused on the theme, ‘Role of youth in poverty eradication and promoting prosperity in a changing world,’ and highlighted the importance of youth in championing their own interests.

The Forum brought together youth representatives, ministers, UN officials and other stakeholders, who convened at UN Headquarters in New York, US, from 30-31 January 2017. The Forum featured interactive roundtables, breakout sessions on the SDGs and key regional priorities for youth development, and discussions on means of implementation (MOI) and financing for youth development, as well as opportunities for youth to contribute to sustainable development.

Youth representatives called for creating a permanent UN entity to enable young people to have an ongoing voice in implementing the 2030 Agenda. The UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth Ahmad Alhendawi also supported an upgraded Youth Forum, and advocated for establishing a Global Fund for Youth Development and Peace.

Many speakers called on youth to play a role in implementing the SDGs and the Paris Agreement. UN Secretary-General António Guterres highlighted youth’s role as entrepreneurs, activists and community leaders, saying “you have the talent, energy and ideals to prevent conflicts, defend human rights, secure peace and realize the 2030 Agenda,” in a video message. UN General Assembly (UNGA) President Peter Thomson urged the inclusion and participation of youth in implementing the SDGs, noting that he has requested Heads of Government to include the SDGs in their countries’ education curricula to broaden awareness and ensure that “all young people can learn of the Goals as both rights and responsibilities.” ECOSOC President Frederick Musiiwa Makamure Shava called on youth to “play a role in shaping the world you will be living in.” Lenni Montiel, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), identified youth as “key to unlocking the great potential of the 2030 Agenda.” UN Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark said the full support and participation of young people is critical to achieving the SDGs’ targets, and she said youth have already contributed to progress on poverty eradication, peace and justice, and monitoring and accountability initiatives.

Alhendawi said youth are “ready and able to do the heavy lifting” to implement the SDGs.

A few speakers advocated for an increased focus on youth in the SDGs. Thomson recommended considering youth development issues as a cross-cutting priority in SDG implementation initiatives. Alhendawi, similarly, cited an “invisible” SDG on youth, and urged States to increase their efforts to report on that goal. He added that youth are “ready and able to do the heavy lifting” to implement the SDGs.

Speakers also reflected on the challenges faced by youth, including unemployment and refugee status. According to UN estimates, approximately 74 million youth around the world cannot find a job, while others are driven from their homes due to conflicts or suffer from discrimination and violence. Shava reported that young people risk their lives every day to seek refuge from war and conflict, war or crises caused by climate change and financial dislocations. He said the combination of these unplanned movements and globalization can amount to “a path to lower wages, a weakening of cultural and religious identities and rising inequality.”

On connecting youth, Marc Lepage, UNDP, highlighted ‘YouthConnekt,’ a platform that brings together young people looking for employment, resources or skills to launch a business with partners like UNDP, the private sector and governments. In an ‘Our Perspective’ piece, Lepage describes how YouthConnekt has engaged over four million youths and resulted in the creation of nearly 4,000 permanent and temporary jobs, underscoring the potential of such platforms to contribute to harnessing the dividend from Africa’s young population.

Also at the Forum, the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) released the ‘Youth Solutions Report,’ which celebrates and showcases 50 “game-changing projects” led by young people. The publication encourages young social entrepreneurs to pursue solutions to support SDG achievement, and highlights the financing needs of the featured start-ups. In addition, the One for All campaign was launched by the PVBLIC Foundation and other partners. This awareness campaign, which also counts UN Office for Partnerships (UNOP) and the World Federation of UN Associations (WFUNA) among its anchor partners, encourages individual pledges on implementing one or more of the SDGs.

ECOSOC and DESA organize the Youth Forum each year in collaboration with the Office of the Youth Envoy and the UN Inter-agency Network on Youth Development. [Forum Website] [UN Press Release, 30 January] [UN Press Release, 2 February] [DESA Press Release] [ECOSOC Press Release] [UNGA President Statement] [UNDP Administrator Statement] [UNDP Our Perspective Piece] [Youth Solutions Report] [One For All Campaign]


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