Experts referenced the recent SDG Lab’s commentary on the Our Common Agenda policy brief on meaningful youth engagement, highlighting how “[m]oving away from “youth-washing” practices does not only require commitments on paper [but] must be accompanied by transparent resource allocation, equal access to policymaking, and constant stewardship from dedicated entities at the local, national, and international level”.
Discussions emphasized the need for youth engagement to: be self-organized to represent authentic voices; be enshrined in partnership agreements; and have adequate and designated resources that avoid creating competition with other civil society actors.
The German Institute of Development and Sustainability (IDOS) and the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) convened an online event to discuss the main findings of a policy brief on meaningful youth engagement issued by the UN Secretary-General to “provide more detail” on proposals contained in Our Common Agenda (OCA). Experts discussed how actions to support meaningful youth engagement in policy- and decision making can help advance SDG implementation.
Titled, ‘Meaningful Youth Engagement in Policy and Decision-making Processes,’ the policy brief will serve as an input for the Summit of the Future in 2024.
Silke Weinlich, IDOS, recalled the findings of the report of the High-Level Advisory Board on Multilateralism (HLAB), which calls for a youth office and accountability structures for youth inclusion.
Marianne Beisheim, SWP, introduced the policy brief, reminding participants of existing youth mechanisms, such as the Major Group for Children and Youth, the Young UN, and the UN Youth Delegate Programme, as well as other mechanisms across a range of intergovernmental decision-making bodies. She also drew attention to the commitment to establish a Youth Office in the Secretariat.
The policy brief’s key recommendations aim at expanding and strengthening youth participation at all levels through UN bodies, including at the UN General Assembly (UNGA), UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Security Council, and Human Rights Council, and through regional processes. In so doing, it asks Member States and the UN to follow the guiding core principles “that, when implemented collectively, can help to ensure that youth engagement is more meaningful and effective – from the perspective both of youth constituencies and of policymakers,” the OCA policy brief highlights.
The brief also focuses on youth engagement at the national level, calling for the establishment of a youth national consultation body in every country to formally engage young people in national policymaking and decision-making processes. It also recommends establishing a standing UN Youth Townhall to serve as a dedicated space for young people to prepare for participation in the UN’s decision-making mechanisms.
The brief also proposes the establishment of a monitoring and evaluation framework to track progress against these commitments, including reporting to the UNGA.
As part of the discussion, experts referenced the recent SDG Lab’s commentary on the OCA policy brief, highlighting how “[m]oving away from “youth-washing” practices does not only require commitments on paper. It must be accompanied by transparent resource allocation, equal access to policymaking, and constant stewardship from dedicated entities at the local, national, and international level. These elements are fundamental to finally close the gap between input and impact and to surpass the limits of our current arrangements on youth engagement, which often generate frustration, a sense of helplessness, and paralyzing isolation of youth around the globe.”
Acknowledging efforts achieved so far, experts reviewed the current challenges to meaningful youth participation. Among these challenges, they noted:
- the language barrier;
- the lack of a common definition of youth;
- the “mindset barrier” in understanding the importance of integrating youth perspectives for SDG implementation;
- the lack of financing for youth programmes; and
- thinking in silos.
Discussions emphasized the need for youth engagement to: be self-organized to represent authentic voices; be enshrined in partnership agreements; and have adequate and designated resources that avoid creating competition with other civil society actors. Speakers called for the Youth Townhall to be co-designed with young people to avoid isolation from other intergovernmental processes. Participants also emphasized the potential role of the Youth Office in ensuring knowledge management to enable youth’s participation in these processes.
The event convened on 10 May 2023, as part of the Wednesday Expert Talk Series, organized by IDOS and SWP. [SDG Knowledge Hub Sources]