ECOSOC convened the tenth annual Youth Forum, the UN’s “foremost platform” for tackling the challenges facing youth.
This year’s Forum included the launch of the first progress report of the UN’s system-wide youth strategy.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the role of young people and the rights of future generations will be at the core of his forthcoming report to UN Member States on "our common agenda".
The UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) convened the tenth annual Youth Forum, a gathering described by the UN Secretary-General as the UN’s “foremost platform” for tackling the challenges facing youth. This year’s Forum also served as the launch of the first progress report of the UN’s system-wide youth strategy.The ECOSOC Youth Forum convened virtually from 7-8 April 2021, and 11,000 young people from around the world joined as virtual participants, DESA reported. According to UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, Jayathma Wickramanayake, this makes it the largest youth gathering in the UN’s history.
Wickramanayake said the Forum showed that youth are “walking the talk when it comes to inclusivity and equality,” and called for more youth representation in decision-making. Statements during the Forum stressed that youth should be involved, in particular, in decisions on the recovery and rebuilding from the COVID-19 pandemic.
In statements to the opening session, ECOSOC President Munir Akram recalled that the Youth Forum first convened ten years ago during the final stages of the review of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and youth had to clamor to be heard as governments shaped what is now the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Now, to address urgent challenges coherently, Akram told youth that “we need your energy, your ideals, … your innovation.” He welcomed their contributions during the 2021 sessions of the ECOSOC Forum on Financing for Development Follow-up (FfD Forum), the Multi-stakeholder Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for the SDGs (STI Forum), and the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF).
UN Secretary-General António Guterres expressed “immense sadness” about the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on young people, such as disrupted schooling, loss of work, and worsened mental health. He said the role of young people and the rights of future generations will be at the core of his forthcoming report to UN Member States mandated in the UN75 declaration.
UN General Assembly (UNGA) President Volkan Bozkir said youth have been described as the “next generation of taxpayers, policymakers, and activists,” and their needs must be prioritized in order to secure a resilient future world. He said youth will be the ones to find solutions to humanity’s future existential challenges, and are the guardians of the UN Charter.
Wickramanayake said the Youth Forum is not only to celebrate young people’s resilience and leadership but also to hold decision-makers accountable for their impacts on today’s young people for decades to come. Keynote speaker Anika Jenne Dorothy, Executive Director of the Green Congress of Kenya, said “it is not enough to declare that girls must go back to school, we must also invest in systems and structures that enable girls’ holistic re-entry.” She called for a radical shift in implementing the goals for getting all girls in school, along with structural support systems to allow them to succeed.
During the Forum the UN presented the first progress report of the Youth2030 strategy, which was launched in 2018. The report provides the status of implementation across the UN system. It highlights the creation of structures for governing and coordinating action to meet the needs of youth and to work with youth to realize the SDGs.
The report is considered a baseline of where the UN system currently stands. It is accompanied by a Youth2030 scorecard tool for UN Country Teams and a public-facing dashboard, to help institutionalize performance measurement and accountability. The dashboard is a self-reporting tool that uses 20 indicators.
Other sessions during the two-day Forum included an interactive discussion on young people driving efforts to build back better from COVID-19, and a set of “regional realities” panels on gaps and scalable solutions in each UN region. [UN meeting summary, 7 April] [Youth Forum programme] [Publication: Youth2030 Progress Report]