Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth
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The UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth stresses as paramount that Member States include youth both in the drafting of their voluntary national reviews (VNRs) and in the delegations that come to the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) to present the VNRs.

Kenyan Restless Development Accountability Advocate says youth engagement in data collection is instrumental as the process both informs and educates youth on the SDGs

19 July 2017: UN Youth Delegates, representatives of youth civil society organizations (CSOs), and representatives of the UN system gathered for a side-event on the final day of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) to discuss youth’s role in Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs), which assess countries’ national efforts for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Participants addressed mechanisms for youth participation in decision-making and ways in which youth-led accountability can ensure the eradication of poverty and promote prosperity.

The event, titled ‘Youth and the SDGs: From Local Roots to Global Reality,’ took place on 19 July 2017. The meeting was organized by the Permanent Mission of Denmark, the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, UN Development Programme (UNDP), Restless Development, and the UN Major Group for Children and Youth. The VNRs are a component of the 2030 Agenda’s follow-up and review process at the global level and are presented annually during the HLPF. .

Jayathma Wickramanayake, UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, said the annual Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Youth Forum has become “a turning point in the UN system,” allowing youth to increase their participation in the UN processes, as the outcome of the Forum is one of the inputs to the HLPF. Wickramanayake stressed that Member States must include youth when drafting VNRs and on the delegations that come to the HLPF to present VNRs.

Max van Deursen, UN Youth Delegate, the Netherlands, said the Dutch Youth Council created a 10-page paper on how youth believed that the Netherlands is performing in SDG implementation. The paper was based on consultations with the Council’s youth constituency and included in the official process of drafting the Netherlands’ VNR. When engaging youth in governmental processes, Van Deursen recommended that government representatives should: value the experience-based expertise of young people rather than formal qualifications; ask the right youth to get involved, working through national youth structures; and ensure that youth have the capacity and funding needed to get involved.

Peter Otiende, Restless Development Accountability Advocate, Restless Development, said his organization is mobilizing and training youth from the grassroots on how to collect data on the SDGs. He explained that the data collected led to the creation of the ‘Kenya Youth Manifesto,’ which youth are now advocating to be mainstreamed in Kenya’s political manifesto. He stressed that youth engagement in data collection is instrumental as the process both informs and educates them on the SDGs.

Ashley Ngwenya, Act!2030 Alliance, said Act!2030 Alliance is focused on youth-led actions on accountability for sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). She underscored that it is important for governments to create participatory mechanisms for youth as “there is no 2030 Agenda without youth,” donors to invest in youth, and youth to empower fellow youth by raising awareness on the SDGs and sharing knowledge and resources.

Magdy Martínez-Solimán, UNDP, noted that youth are “SDG accelerators,” and highlighted that UNDP launched, in 2016, its first Youth Global Programme (‘Youth-GPS’) for young people, led by young people. He underscored the need for: data on youth, including through disaggregation of data by age, and youth-focused and youth-sensitive indicators; establishing formal youth participation channels; listening and responding to young people; and adopting relevant national policies, including youth policies, programmes and projects.

In the ensuing discussions, participants focused on barriers to youth participation in decision-making processes and SDG implementation, including barriers related to gender, age, culture, and religion. [HLPF Website][UNDP Remarks][IISD Sources]

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