ECOSOC Youth Forum – Day 2

By Jamie Judd 

The second day of the ECOSOC Youth Forum, while still seeing as much passion from young people in attendance and as much willingness to work with them to achieve common goals by Member States, saw a reconciliation between the positions of some of the more radical youth leaders and the more hesitant representatives of national governments. During the morning session, debate centred around the role of young people in helping to achieve the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. While referring to the creation of infrastructure networks that would help to facilitate youth investment in their own countries, Member States emphasised that to capitalize on this young people must bring their efforts into line with those already underway to implement the 2030 Agenda. Youth consensus was that while this would greatly help with some areas of youth activism, such as in gender equality, an end to discrimination, and halting climate change, it left youth-specific causes unanswered. 

Further attention was then given to specific issues affecting young people, particularly where those that intersect with the sustainable development goals (SDGs). Youth unemployment was an issue revisited multiple times during the debate, with Member States highlighting the need to make specific efforts to stop unemployment being a defining feature of this generation of young people, despite their higher levels of education. One solutions that received specific approval from some of the young people was the need to provide informal education to assist with the transition to the labour market from full time education. A final point of contention which came up multiple times throughout the day, both in informal discussion and in the general debate, was the issue of youth participation in decision-making. With less than 6% of parliamentarians being under 35, delegations made strides in seeking to resolve this, with one even advocating for a quota to be placed upon parliaments for a far higher proportion of youth inclusion.

The day was closed with speeches made to the whole Youth Forum. Jayathma Wickramanyake, the Secretary General’s Special Envoy on Youth, focused on the distance was left to cover to achieving the SDGs, and that young women and girls, in particular, are being left behind. She closed by saying that the 2030 Agenda was not merely for the benefit of young people, but a requirement to fulfil their rights. These points were elaborated on by Liu Zhenmin, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, who said that the 2030 Agenda was primarily designed for young people, and that the youth must be at the forefront of efforts to achieve the SDGs in their entirety. The Secretary General, António Guterres closed the event, likening young people to being “lightning rods” for change. He instructed governments of the importance of investing in young people, to ensure that they are “educated, empowered, and employed”. He then commended the drive of organisations of young people to push for change on those issues which would be instrumental in determining their future, such as “peace, justice, inclusion, gender equality, and human rights”. He concluded by reiterating the value of young people to the UN, saying that “we need your ideas, your energy and your creativity”. His speech did much to enhance trust and cooperation between the youth organisations and member states present at the event, and concluded the event with a general feeling of mutual respect and of hope for future collaboration.

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