Urgently address ‘defining challenges of our time’, to empower youth worldwide, top UN official tells forum

UN Photo/Evan Schneider The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Youth Forum provides a platform for young leaders globally to share ideas for, among things, advancing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, April 2019.

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.


Young people require “skills, values, jobs and livelihoods that empower them” so they can help forge a more sustainable world, the President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) said on Monday, kicking off its eighth Annual Youth Forum.

“We need to urgently address the defining challenges of our time: access to quality education, unemployment, inequality, social exclusion and climate change”, Inga Rhonda King asserted in her opening remarks. “We cannot achieve this at the UN alone. We are all in this together”.

Under the theme “Empowered, Included and Equal”, this year’s Forum aims to mobilize support for young people across the globe.
While noting some encouraging signs concerning the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), she pointed to emerging evidence that suggests “the world is not yet on track to meeting many of the SDGs by 2030”.

“I urge you to assess where we stand and mobilize together to move us forward” she stressed.

The Youth Forum provides a platform for young leaders globally to engage in a dialogue among themselves and with UN Member States and to share ideas for advancing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on financing for development, and the Paris Agreement on climate change.

It also gives youth the space to share their vision and contribute to upcoming UN meetings, including the 2019 ECOSOC Substantive Session in July, the 2019 High-level Political Forum on sustainable development (HLPF) and the high-level events taking place on the margins of the General Assembly in September, including the Climate Summit, the High-level Meeting on Financing for Development and the SDG Summit.

General Assembly President María Fernanda Espinosa called the Youth Forum “one of the most important mechanisms for young people to shape the 2030 Agenda”.

Underscoring that the world needs inclusive inter-generational cooperation, she said the contribution of the 1.8 billion young people around the world was “crucial” for success in 2030.

Ms. Espinosa spoke about the challenges of having 64 million young people unemployed along with the situation of youth in conflict-affected States — where one-third of all young people live.

This year’s Forum is of particular importance, she explained, as it informs the annual political forum in July as well as feeds into the HLPF in September, which “will be the first comprehensive stock take”, pushing the agenda upwards to Heads of State level.

“There is no limit to what this generation, the largest, most educated, most globally-minded in history can deliver”, she spelled out.
In her opening statement, UN Youth Envoy Jayathma Wickramanayake said that the outcomes of this year’s Youth Forum will help steer discussions to prioritize young people’s needs and rights ahead of the SDG and Climate Action Summits later this year.

“The UN is pursuing action across many fronts to support Member States in meeting these [challenges] and it continues to pursue a path towards a fair globalization that works for all, while seeking to instill continued appreciation for multilateralism and dialogue, including among young people”, she stated.                    

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