Concluding Biggest-Ever Youth Forum, Speakers Call for Young People’s Vital Participation in Intergovernmental Processes, Summits, Decision-Making
As the biggest gathering of the Economic and Social Council Youth Forum of all time concluded today, youth delegates and high-level Government and United Nations officials underscored the vital role of young people in policy and decision-making and their more enhanced engagement in related intergovernmental processes, particularly the upcoming Summit on the Sustainable Development Goals.
In her opening remarks Amina J. Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General, stressed that: “Youth have the energy, creativity, the vision and drive to take a lead.” To turn the tide on today’s worrisome reality, the world’s 1.9 billion young people could act as torch bearers for change. Youth 2030 — the United Nations Strategy on Youth — is now being engaged by 51 United Nations entities and 131 country teams. “We have the vision, and we have the means. Now is the time to deliver,” she declared.
The all-day meeting focused on achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals with and for youth and included different thematic segments, interactive discussions and spotlight sections, where young people — along with representatives of United Nations agencies — debated the implementation of the Youth Strategy and ways to promote meaningful youth engagement.
Also included in the events was a novel and interactive online segment, Slido WorldCloud, where youth delegates from around the world were invited to submit one word that defines the world they want to build by 2030. “Inclusive”, “equitable” and “just” were but a few words that came up.
While many youth delegates highlighted the importance of intergenerational dialogue, emphasizing that different generations could learn from each other, others reiterated calls for youth empowerment in decision-making and implementation.
In that regard, Delphine Schantz, Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime New York Office, reported that an intergenerational dialogue between personnel under 35 and senior managers of the Office is being organized to innovate its mandate implementation.
Welcoming the establishment of the Youth Office, many delegates recognized that this decision is long overdue: The United Nations was established in 1945, and the first such office has only been created in 2023.
Emphasizing that the Organization needs the energy, creativity and dynamism of young people, one delegate underscored the importance of creating an enabling environment where young people are recognized as key partners in decision-making. Still another, moderating the panel on exploring solutions, thanked participants for “making multilateralism sexy!”
“We have a power to make decision-makers listen,” said one of the youth delegate panellists. She cited the Secretary-General, who told her: “When you want something — take it.”
Youth delegates also emphasized the importance of including youth from marginalized communities and underrepresented backgrounds in sustainable development processes, with one speaker underlining the need to equip local leaders with technological means and promoting digital inclusion.
In her closing remarks, Jayathma Wickramanayake, the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, announced that this Youth Forum was the largest and the most diverse young people’s gathering ever at the United Nations, with more than 800 young people attending in New York and almost 20,000 participating virtually. Young people from all walks of life are determined to leave a better world behind than the one they are inheriting, she stressed, adding: “We still have time to change the reality if we stop making excuses and act now.”
Lachezara Stoeva (Bulgaria), President of the Economic and Social Council, encouraging young delegates to seize the momentum created, said: “Keep engaging and inspiring your communities.” She affirmed her commitment to promoting participation of youth representatives in every session at the high-level political forum on sustainable development in July and called for enhancing youth engagement at the Sustainable Development Forum in September. “Your energy and dedication give us hope that the future we want is within reach,” she said.
AMINA J. MOHAMMED, Deputy Secretary-General, speaking via a pre-recorded video message, said that “Youth2030: achieving the SDGs with and for youth” is an opportunity to listen and learn from young people prior to the upcoming Sustainable Development Goals Summit. To turn the tide on today’s worrisome reality, the world’s 1.9 billion young people could act as torch bearers for change. “Youth have the energy, creativity, the vision and drive to take a lead,” she said. Little can be achieved without their meaningful inclusion. Noting that the Youth2030 initiative now includes 51 United Nations entities and 131 country teams, she posed three important questions: how young people’s potential can be recognized towards changemakers; how to prioritize young people’s participation in decision-making; and how Youth2030 can be accelerated to transform the Organization’s work with and for youth. “We have the vision, and we have the means. Now is the time to deliver,” she stressed.
JAYATHMA WICKRAMANAYAKE, United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, gave an overview of how the United Nations system is advancing global commitments on youth through several actions. Such initiatives include making data and evidence on youth widely available, setting standards for work on youth, supporting Governments in policymaking and programming, establishing programmes, projects and partnerships, and advocating and communicating on youth issues in partnership with young people. Nearly all United Nations entities have available up-to-date data on youth through global and regional databases, with 80 per cent of them releasing new data to inform evidence-based programming and advocacy.
Data for 2022 shows that all 131 country teams supported youth-oriented work by various ministries, including on education, health, and employment, she continued. Further, all entities and 60 per cent of country teams brokered partnerships and brought in resources for incubating and/or scaling youth-led solutions. As well, 90 per cent of entities supported advocacy events on youth in intergovernmental forums and global/regional summits and conferences. Engaging youth meaningfully is at the heart of the strategy, she emphasized, adding that annual reporting on progress has been institutionalized, including the third progress report, which will be launched in July during the high-level political forum.
Youth2030: Accelerating to 2030
Moderated by Dunja Trifunović, Member of the Youth Advisory Group of the United Nations in Serbia and, Taahir Bulbulia, Member of the Youth Advisory Group of the United Nations Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean Multi-Country Office, it featured speakers Zsófia Rácz, Ministerial Commissioner of the Ministry for Regional Development of Hungary; David Chua, Chief Executive of the National Youth Council of Singapore; Stephen Jackson, United Nations Resident Coordinator for Kenya, via a video message; Mustapha Ussif, Minister for Youth and Sports of Ghana; Esma Gumberidze, Youth Lead Board Member at United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) GRACE initiative; Nokuzola Gladys Tolashe, Deputy Minister of the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities of South Africa; Noor Faizan, Youth activist of Yemen; Francoise Jacob, United Nations Resident Coordinator for Serbia (via a video message); Faija Parween, National Youth Council member of the Ministry of Youth and Sports of Nepal; Didier Trebucq, United Nations Resident Coordinator for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean States, via a video message; Alexander Guillén, Youth representative of El Salvador; and Ronald Luiz dos Santos, National Youth Secretary, Brazil.
Moderating this segment was the Youth Envoy, Ms. Wickramanayake, and it featured Haoliang Xu, Assistant Secretary-General, Director of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Bureau for Policy and Programme Support; Diene Keita, Deputy Executive Director for Programmes, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA); Rosemary Kalapurakal, Deputy Director of the Development Coordination Office; Beate Andrees, Director of the Office of the International Labour Organization (ILO) for the United Nations; Rosario Garavito, youth representative, Major Group for Children and Youth; Pär Liljert, Director of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Office in New York; Eliot Minchenberg, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Representative to the United Nations; Yifan Zhou, youth representative, International Coordination Meeting of Youth Organisations; Ralf Bredel, Director and Representative, United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) Liaison Office in New York; and Delphine Schantz, Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) New York Office.
More than 10 speakers, among them directors and representatives of United Nations agencies and other entities, highlighted how they are leading implementation of the United Nations Youth Strategy, with speakers once again underscoring that youth-oriented action must be done in partnership with young people.
In that vein, Ms. GARAVITO said that the Major Group has taken a pivotal role to disseminate the strategy, participating in Member States briefings and sharing how young people were an active ally for the creation and implementation of the strategy. Further, the Major Group, within the Youth 2030 Secretariat, co-organized the largest youth briefing about the strategy, thus ensuring youth across the world can join these efforts for a more meaningful youth participation in United Nations affairs.
Adding to that, Mr. BREDEL said concrete action to economically empower youth means tapping into their huge potential and creativity as entrepreneurs, innovators and agents of economic change. Through the Learning and Knowledge Development Facility, UNIDO works with the private sector to advance industrial skills among young people. “Young people are our implementation partners,” he emphasized, adding that a Youth Advisory Group leads the development of a guidebook for meaningful youth engagement on sustainable energy and climate change. It will be launched at a dedicated Youth Day during the Vienna International Energy and Climate Forum in November.
Ms. SCHANTZ said that UNODC, through the “Line Up, Live Up” Initiative, is empowering local leaders through sports to engage with vulnerable youth in building resilience to drug use and criminal activities. More innovative work needs to be done in this area to better support young people in building resilience at the community level, she said, noting that UNODC Executive Director Ghada Waly is organizing an intergenerational dialogue between personnel under 35 and senior managers to innovate on how the Office can better implement its mandate.
Following the presentations of the participants, Ms. WICKRAMANAYAKE, in her closing remarks, underlined that there are only seven years to go to the 2030 Goals. The emphasis should be on strengthening policies and platforms for meaningful youth engagement. Spotlighting Our Common Agenda, particularly the recently launched Secretary-General’s Policy Brief on Meaningful Youth Engagement, she quoted the Secretary-General, who stressed: “If the multilateral system is to be fit to deliver a present and future that works for all, then meaningful youth engagement must become the norm rather than the exception.”
Young Leaders Spotlight Session on Partnerships
Moderating this session was Paul Ndhlovu, HIV/AIDS Advocate, Radio Champion at Zvandiri and Young Leader for Sustainable Development Goals, and featured Okan Dursun, Education and Social Entrepreneur, Co-Founder of Twin Science and Robotics, and Young Leader for the Sustainable Development Goals; Luisa Machado, Digital Rights and Data Justice Activist and Influencer, and Young Leader for the Sustainable Development Goals; Jamal Hill, Paralympic Medallist, Disability Advocate, Founder of Swim Up Hill Foundation, and Young Leader for the Sustainable Development Goals; and Varaidzo (Vee) Kativhu, Education Activist, YouTuber, Founder of Empowered by Vee, and Young Leader for the Sustainable Development Goals.
Opening the segment, Mr. NDHLOVU emphasized that different generations could learn from each other through intergenerational dialogue. “Involve us in the implementation of SDGs,” he stressed
Mr. DURSUN said he decided to become an entrepreneur to create a better world. At Twin Science, “double-winged” education — science and conscience — works to inspire children to use scientific knowledge to make a positive impact in people’s lives and prevent problems with the guiding light of the 2030 Agenda. His team has reached 1,500 schools and 1 million children in 67 countries, creating unique solutions for each region. “Our compass is love and science is our guide in the world,” he said, encouraging youth delegates to “sow the seeds of hope” even if they may not live to see the harvest.
Mr. RYDER said that the Secretary-General’s youth engagement agenda contains concrete proposals and mechanisms for meaningful involvement of young people at national and international levels. The Forum is a chance for young people to raise their voices. “If we are not working with youth, it is an illusion that we can work effectively for youth,” he said.
Following this, Ms. KATIVHU, underscoring that young people are not short of talent, but need to be heard and listened to, stressed: “Give us a chance and watch magic happen!” Recalling that the United Nations was established in 1945, she said that “only” in 2023 are the young people about to get their first Youth Office, adding: “Start letting us in these rooms and start letting us implement things.”
Strengthening Trust of Youth in Multilateralism
The session, divided into three sections, featured speakers who examined issues underpinning youth’s lack of trust in the multilateral system. Addressing the lack of inclusion, accountability and efficiency in the multilateral system, they shared good practices, inclusive models, and recommendations to advance the meaningful engagement of youth in the multilateral system and improve its accountability and efficiency.
The first section, “Taking Stock”, was moderated by Jacob Ellis, Next Generation Fellow, and featured Nephtaly Pierre-Louis, International Association of Women Judges; Christy Marlene Wong Bobadilla, the Millennials Movement/LAC Children and Youth Regional Caucus MEsLAC – MGCY; Dilanaz Guler, National Gender Youth Activist; Laura Guay, UNESCO’s Youth as Researchers Global Initiative/GYC Steering Committee; and Abideen Olasupo, Global Director, Brain Builders Youth Development Initiative.
Mr. PIERRE-LOUIS, noting his collaboration with multilateral institutions in Haiti since 2014, pointed out that 90 per cent of the time, he and the other youth activists invited to consultations never hear back about their outcomes. He spotlighted UNESCO’s “Youth as Researcher” programme, which gave youth the autonomy to research how the pandemic impacted their lives.
Ms. WONG BOBADILLA was among several speakers who underscored the importance of accountability and transparency mechanisms. She urged Member States and stakeholders to ensure that such mechanisms are included and implemented. Echoing that, Ms. GULER emphasized that accountability takes many forms and includes accessibility of language, as well as transparent processes.
Ms. GUAY, noting that trust in multilateral institutions is at an all-time low, said a big part of finding a solution is through engaging global youth. UNESCO’s Global Youth Community is a space where youth from all countries of the world, with shared interests in the Sustainable Development Goals, collaborate to advance their initiatives and solutions regionally and globally.
Mr. OLASUPO said that, as more super-Powers expand their influence, ”weaker” countries are forced to align their interests with these Powers. Multilateralism cannot replace sovereign States, but structural deficiencies in multilateralism call for a reinvigorated multilateralism, he said.
The second section, “Exploring Solutions”, was moderated by Yande Banda, Generation Equality Adolescent Girl, and featured Arlinda Ramqaj, United Nations Youth Delegate, Switzerland; Sameh Kamel, Major Group for Children and Youth Organizing Partner; Alejandro Quecedo, Spanish writer, YoUCAN Youth Climate Action Network of UNESCO; Lani Anaya, MY World Mexico and Juventudes por Paz; Justice Faith Betty, Co-Founder of Révolutionnaire; Sousan Suna, Researcher and Development Worker in Bangladesh, via video message; Poonam Ghimire, United Nation Secretary-General's High-Level Advisory Board for Effective Multilateralism; and Dev Nagar, Youth Engagement and Empowerment Programme alumni.
“Thank you to these speakers for making multilateralism sexy!” Ms. BANDA said, opening the segment. She noted that the ensuing discussion will address sexism, agism and discrimination.
Ms. RAMQAJ emphasized: “We are not too young”, as she questioned who and what determine when the young people are “old enough” to address global issues. In the multilateral space it is never too early to address the multiple challenges, she said, underscoring the importance of intergenerational dialogue and expressing concern about the limited role of young people in decision-making.
Adding to that, Mr. KAMEL said: “We need the energy and creativity of young people.” Commending the creation of the Youth Office, he acknowledged that after long, complicated negotiations, the Organization listened to young people’s voices. He also spotlighted the “Not Too Young To Run” initiative, urging young people to run for office, noting many countries appointed young people for high level positions, among other efforts.
In another vein, Ms. BETTY also underscored the importance of technology in enhancing youth engagement around the world. She called for local leaders’ technological empowerment, while prioritizing digital inclusion. . Justice Faith BETTY
In his turn, Mr. NAGAR highlighted the potential of peer-to-peer engagement, outlining the importance of including young people from marginalized communities. Spotlighting the Youth Engagement and Empowerment Programme, he underlined the need for capacity-building to bridge intergenerational dialogues.
The third section, “Formulating Recommendations” was moderated by Zihan Xuan, YOUNGO Global Focal Point.
Turning to the session’s draft recommendations, Mr. XUAN stressed that advancing the implementation of the 2030 Agenda must be done through inclusive, intersectional, interdisciplinary, intergenerational, and gender-transformative processes. Sustained follow-up of youth consultations must be ensured. Also needed are transparent mechanisms through which youth can hold policymakers accountable. Moreover, youth-led decision-making mechanisms must be institutionalized at all levels. All stakeholders should invest in youth- and adolescent-led initiatives and support the leadership of youth to drive change on the ground, while leveraging the power of technology to promote innovative solutions to modern challenges, he said, detailing other recommendations.
Sustaining multilateralism in global governance requires restoring trust in global institutions, democratizing United Nations processes, and creating an enabling environment where young people are recognized as key partners in the co-creation of solutions, he continued. Peer-to-peer engagement strategies should be adopted to ensure ownership and agency among youth and adolescents, he added, underscoring that the full participation of young people and adolescents in all their diversity, including, inter alia, those from vulnerable, marginalized, and underrepresented backgrounds and communities, is key to transforming ambition into future-oriented action.
Following further recommendations from the session’s speakers, he said the final recommendations, which will also reflect audience input, will be prepared after the session.
Youth Recommendations for Sustainable Development Goals Summit
In the afternoon the Forum held a moderated conversation, “Youth and SDGs: Youth Insights and Recommendations in the Lead Up to the SDG Summit 2023”.
Facilitated by Inés Yábar, Next Generation Lead Fellow, and Asma Rouabhia, Global Focal Point, SDG 7 Youth Constituency, it featured Lachezara Stoeva (Bulgaria), President of the Economic and Social Council; Fergal Mythen, Permanent Representative of Ireland; Yugratna Srivastava, Organizing Partner, Major Group for Children and Youth; Ulrika Modéer, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General, Director, Bureau for External Relations and Advocacy, UNDP; Diene Keita, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director, Programme, of United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
Opening the session, Ms. STOEVA said that the conversation along with the insights paper — summarizing the consultation — will constitute key inputs for the Sustainable Development Goals Summit, ensuring the focus on youth empowerment and leadership and young people’s contribution to the 2030 Agenda.
Mr. MYTHEN recalled a “genuinely magical moment” of 2015 when a simple yet ambitious set of Sustainable Development Goals was adopted. Noting that the Youth Forum is a part of a “renewal process”, he encouraged young people to draft a declaration that brings country recommendations, urgency, ambition, dynamism and hope. “Your job is to challenge, turn over and […] set a bar high,” he stressed, noting that change happens through activism and engagement.
Ms. SRIVASTAVA observed that, following the Forum, young people will produce a sectorial paper with recommendations, position papers, and a lead-up to the Forum compiled in the “Voices of Youth” report. Acknowledging the progress made, she highlighted the need for designating youth-led spaces free from non-youth actors. “If billions of dollars can be mobilized […] in the name of defence and military, we ask you to protect people and planet and not destroy them,” she stressed.
Ms. MODÉER said the Sustainable Development Goals’ adoption was a result of science-based discussions and engagement across many actors in society. “We should avoid tokenism,” she stressed, recalling that she herself had been a youth delegate. Young people have the power to make change possible and the strength to challenge the processes. Her organization supports youth — as “designers of the future” — through youth-engagement programmes in 100 Member States.
Ms. KEITA, outlining the power of young people’ dynamism, said the young generation is fighting against inequality. “We stand with you today,” she emphasized, recalling that this is the decade for action. “Let’s accelerate, let’s innovate and let’s motivate each other,” she stressed.
Youth Contributions, Implementation, Key Challenges and Opportunities
The session was co-moderated by Petar Mladenov, Program Analyst, Youth-led advocacy, CSE, digital technologies, UNFPA, and Inés Yábar, Next Generation Lead Fellow, and featured Armel Azihar Sly-vania, Head of Education Science Technology Cluster at Southern Africa Youth Forum of the Southern Africa Development Community; Kristian Kampmann, UNLEASH Adviser and Generation17 young leader; Omer Jamal, Project Officer at Southern Voice, Unlock Coalition; Tyeisha Emmanuel, Member of the Youth Parliament – Anguilla; and Ianthe Douglas, Youth Delegate, Ocean and Climate Change Adviser.
Ms. SLY-VANIA, stressing the importance of education in achieving sustainable development, called for partnerships across Governments, organizations and young people to solve global issues. Young people are playing a tremendous role in coming up with innovative solutions to transform education and the world, she added.
Echoing that, Mr. KAMPMANN underscored that solutions come from innovation and entrepreneurship led by young people around the world. Entrepreneurship does not have to be fancy or hard, he emphasized. He called for microfinance not only to fund but to boost confidence among young entrepreneurs. Mapping out connections between incubators and accelerators is also important. Young people can start in a local community; that is where the change happens, he said.
Mr. JAMAL pointed out that youth organizations are taking on an increasing role through leadership and empowerment. Incorporating youth perspectives is critical more than ever. Merely following the conversation is not enough, he added, stressing that youth leading global dialogues and empowering others is a solution to unlocking the future.
Ms. EMMANUEL, in a similar vein, said three national non-partisan youth organizations in her country operate with the executive, legislative and judicial branches of Government; the Government has given the youth inclusion to participate in all levels of decision-making. Noting the success of its national youth policy, she said every national and statutory board must have a youth representative. During its annual National Youth Week, youth from more than 50 organizations are invited to address youth issues and speak with national policy markers both in Government and the opposition. She stressed: “Let us ensure that the voices are not just whispers in the backroom and halls, but rather heard in the places and spaces that matter most.”
Ms. DOUGLAS, in a similar vein, said: “It is time that we shift from being advocates to being advisers.” The adoption of the historic resolution calling for the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on climate change, which was led by Vanuatu and initiated by Pacific Youth, should serve as a reminder of the power of young people. She highlighted a non-profit organization in Palau which educates individuals, especially young people, on the importance of environmental protection and proper management of natural resources using traditional knowledge. It provides educational programme and activities, such as community beach, mangrove and coastal clean-ups and tree planting, annually to over 800 young adults and children.
In the question-and-answer session that followed, the session’s speakers took questions from Youth Forum participants, both in the room and online.
Responding to a question about how stakeholders can move beyond talk and action plans to innovative action, Mr. KAMPMANN encouraged individuals to go to the field and talk to beneficiaries, adding that that is where ultimate impact happens. In addition, people should also meet in smaller settings to advance talks that happen in larger forums.
Responding to a question about how youth can get a meaningful seat at the table in intergenerational spaces, Ms. EMMANUEL pointed out that accessibility is easier in a small country like hers. A national youth policy is critical, she underscored, stressing: “Without policy, documentation or a framework to hold policymakers accountable, how can we move forward?” However, that national youth policy must be implemented and enforced.
Responding to a question about the possibility of the Youth Forum taking place in a different city, Ms. STOEVA noted that youth participate in regional commissions. The Youth Forum’s virtual session allows online participation, especially for those who could not travel, she said, noting that over 16,000 are participating online. The Council is also exploring all possible opportunities to enable the largest possible inclusion of youth at the Forum, she added.
Youth Recommendations to the SDG Summit
Moderated by Noëlla Richard, Youth Team Leader (Global), UNDP, and Asma Rouabhia, Global Focal Point, SDG 7 Youth Constituency, the discussion featured Anita Dywaba, UNF Next Generation Gender Fellow; Ahmed E. El Sabagh, MENA YPS Network and Arab Youth, Platform for Sustainable Development; Thùy Anh Ngô, Generation17 young leader; and Daniel Calarco, Director, International Youth Observatory.
Ms. DYWABA said young people require support to implement the Sustainable Development Goals. Noting that Africa has the youngest population — constituting 42 per cent of the global youth — she recalled that the push for South Africa’s democracy was led by young people. “Listen to the conversations on the ground: what are young people saying?” she stressed, adding that no partnerships can be forged with mistrust.
Mr. EL SABAGH, commending the creation of the Youth Office, said young people should be recognized as equal partners in decision-making. He acknowledged that the social contract between youth and the United Nations system should be readjusted to address today’s realities and called for reviewing the United Nations Youth Strategy and accelerating youth employment.
Ms. NGÔ underscored the importance of intergenerational partnerships, while detailing her professional experience in this domain. “We have the energy and the creativity to bring new solutions to the table,” she declared.
Mr. CALARCO, recalling that the Sustainable Development Goals were created in Rio de Janeiro prior to adoption in 2015, observed: “I grew up in a favela, but I was not alone: we have around 12 million people living in favelas in Brazil.” To this end, he underscored the importance of including people from marginalized communities in sustainable development processes and recognizing their initiatives. “We have the right to be heard, consulted and funded,” he stated.
As the floor opened for questions, several youth delegates asked how young people from developing countries could be better empowered and better positioned to have their voices heard. Others asked about what specific steps other United Nations entities could take to create youth offices.
Mr. El SABAGH noted that the mandate of the newly established Youth Office and its structure have been confirmed. However, its organizational architecture has not yet been defined.
Mr. CALARCO, underscoring the need for creating youth law and youth institutions, said that national youth legislation makes it easier to protect young people.
Ms. DYWABA, responding to the question related to inclusion of young people in decision-making, cited the Secretary-General, who told her: “When you want something — take it.” Adding to that, she emphasized: “We have a power to make decision-makers listen.”
Feedback from High-Level Active Listeners
FERNANDO A. MARANI, Deputy Chef de Cabinet of the President of the General Assembly, spotlighted the fresh perspectives and ideas shared by Youth Forum participants and underscored that the inclusion of young people in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the creation of the Youth Office is important. Young people are inclusive communicators, he observed, adding that they speak not only for themselves but from cross-cutting perspectives, including their language, country, culture, sexuality, gender and education. Looking ahead to the SDG [Sustainable Development Goals] Summit in September, he called for young people’s collaboration in working together on the Goals’ “rescue plan” to bring the world back on track.
SHANNON LISA, Interim Global Focal Point, Major Group for Children and Youth, Chemicals and Waste Constituency, said that over the last several months its members and focal points have worked hard to make the Youth Forum a success, including organizing open pre-consultations, youth assemblies, consultations and surveys. The Major Group will also capture the outcomes of the Youth Forum, as well as the activities in the lead up to it in the Voices of Youth report. She called on participants’ continued engagement to remove existing legacy barriers and structural inequalities to civil society engagement. “Let us work together to break down the barriers that prevent marginalized youth from having a seat at the table and ensure that their voices are heard loud and clear,” she stressed.
Ms. WICKRAMANAYAKE said the interconnectedness of energy, poverty, deforestation, water scarcity, health, gender and conflicts are very clear to young people living those realities in countries and communities. Member States and other stakeholders, as they work on national commitments to put the Sustainable Development Goals back on track, must ensure that young people are consulted and their demands reflected. “Youth washing”, which over the past years has become a common practice, must be eradicated, she added. She urged Member States to add strong language on meaningful participation and engagement in the final document of the SDG Summit Political Declaration. She also called for increased and flexible financial support to young entrepreneurs tackling the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as to youth-led projects and community-based initiatives.
CHIDO MPEMBA, Youth Envoy for the African Union, observed that, while some people associate the word “youth” with “discouragement, unemployment, and living the consequences of forefathers”, others identify it as “hope of being vibrant and persistent”. Expressing solidarity with Sudan’s youth, she said: “It is time we silence the guns.” The issues young people are facing are interdependent, she observed, encouraging youth to join hands and amplify the need for the 2030 Agenda. Noting that around 2065, the world youth population will reach its peak, she proclaimed: “Years down the line it will be us in this room that another younger generation will hold accountable. The youth of tomorrow depends on us.”
Ms. WICKRAMANAYAKE, reporting that more than 800 young people attended the Youth Forum in New York, with almost 20,000 participating virtually, said it was the largest and the most diverse young people’ gathering ever at the United Nations. Young people from all walks of life are determined to leave a better world behind than the one they are inheriting, she stressed, while also expressing concern about the increase of banned books in schools — particularly on sexual and reproductive rights — and women being barred from education. However, hope and optimism are the most efficient propellers for change, she said, adding: “We still have time to change the reality if we stop making excuses and act now.”
LI JUNHUA, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations, outlining productive discussions and actionable recommendations of the Youth Forum, said young people’s vision is crucial in shaping global discussions and identifying new solutions. He invited all partners to adopt an inclusive approach and an intersectional perspective to ensure youth’s broad-based participation. “Let all young people benefit from the Forum as their own space,” he declared, while calling for a stronger mandate for the Forum.
Ms. STOEVA underlined that progress and change cannot happen without youth. Encouraging young delegates to seize the momentum created, she said: “Keep engaging and inspiring your communities.” She also voiced her commitment to promoting participation of youth representatives in every session at the high-level political forum on sustainable development in July and called for enhancing youth engagement at the Sustainable Development Forum in September. “Your energy and dedication give us hope that the future we want is within reach,” she proclaimed.