Home » General » ECOSOC Youth Forum Day 2

Note: A complete summary of today’s meetings will be available after their conclusion.

Interactive Roundtable

The Forum began its second day with an interactive round table on “Investing in youth development:  financing and other means of implementation”.  Moderated by Oliver Schwank, Senior Economic Affairs Officer in the Financing for Sustainable Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, it featured ministers, other high‑level speakers and youth representatives, who explored national lessons learned and how to implement them more broadly to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

SHAMMA AL MAZRUI, Minister of State for Youth Affairs of the United Arab Emirates, said her country is working to achieve its “Vision 2021” plan, which aims to make it among the best countries in the world to live a fulfilling life.  As meeting this objective would be impossible without making sustainability a leading aim, the Government created a national body for achieving it.  It also integrated the Sustainable Development Goals into Vision 2021.  Moreover, the national youth strategy explores five major life transitions:  education, work, family, active lifestyle and citizenship.  As each transition involves various challenges, the Government is moving beyond sport to harness an entire youth ecosystem.  “Our most important job is to identify need and create smart policies,” she said.

AZAD RAHIMOV, Minister for Youth and Sports of Azerbaijan, said young people comprise more than 60 per cent of his country’s population of 10 million people.  Noting that the President adopted three main programmes covering the 2009‑2021 period, he said the youth programme reflects most of the Sustainable Development Goals and noted that young ambassadors have been selected from among 300 people.  As 3 million young people are looking for work, he suggested that the Secretary‑General’s Youth Envoy work with Azerbaijan to create a coordination committee that would help address the issue of youth employment.

SOCHEATH SROY, Director General of Youth, Ministry for Education of Cambodia, said her country has prioritized young people in its national development plan, with young people themselves playing an increasingly important role.  Her ministry has launched policies to mainstream youth volunteerism into the national strategic plan, with opportunities provided to young people.  More broadly, the Government has carried out reforms to ensure inclusive, quality education for all young people, as well as created jobs.  “We have a lot of work ahead of us, which needs collective efforts,” she said, urging youth delegates to take part in that mission.

JOSEFINA VILLEGAS, Chair of Youth Constituency for Latin America and the Caribbean of the Civil Society Organization Partnership for Development Effectiveness, said the global financial structure constrains the achievement of international commitments.  The recent Inter‑agency Task Force for Financing for Development report points out that, rather than elaborating a coherent strategy for financing, countries are facing rising debt risks, inequalities and greenhouse gas emissions.  She pressed the international community to strengthen national financing frameworks, as enhanced global support to overcome structural challenges is needed.  She drew attention to the impact of debt on sustainable development, and particularly on youth, stressing that an intergovernmental tax body has not been created to explore more mutually beneficial tax systems.  The trend of resolving development challenges though finance lacks balance, she said, underscoring the importance of promoting integrated social protection systems.

CARLOS DO CANTO MONTEIRO, Deputy Minister for Youth of Cabo Verde, said his country empowers young people through entrepreneurship, training, internships and educational reform.  For example, the Government reserves $6 million annually for youth projects and $1 million for professional training.  Cabo Verde’s internship programme is quite large, with 60 per cent of salaries ensured by the Government.  An ambitious education reform meanwhile allocates 20 per cent of the national budget for education, with subsidized preschool and free education access through twelfth grade.  In addition, a youth consultative council works with the Government to help determine priorities, he said.

YAVUZ SELIM KIRAN, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Turkey, said its cooperation efforts with the United Nations span projects with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), all with a strong mandate based on the Sustainable Development Goals.  His country also contributes to humanitarian assistance.  Eighty per cent of cross‑border humanitarian operations to Syria are conducted via Turkey, which hosts more than 3.6 million refugees.  Turkey’s 12.5 million young people represent 16 per cent of its total population, the highest in Europe, and policies and programmes are in place to address their needs.  Highlighting the need to establish a United Nations youth institution, he reiterated President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s offer to host such a centre in Istanbul.

FELIPE SALOMÓN, Minister for Youth of Paraguay, said a national development plan embraces the Sustainable Development Goals.  A recent draft bill raises his ministry to the cabinet level and provides for funding for targeted programmes for young people.  Current programmes include scholarships for vulnerable youth and the construction of libraries in remote areas.  Ideals must match action, he said, emphasizing the importance of investing in youth.

Mr. SCHWANK then posed a series of questions to participants.

NASSER AL-SHEIKH, Director of Research at the Ministry of State for Youth Affairs of Kuwait, elaborating on programmes and youth participation, said Kuwait attaches great importance to initiatives targeted at young people.  It has invested $6.6 billion in non‑profit initiatives and adopted a national youth policy that demonstrates a clear commitment in this regard.  Governmental action focuses on challenges and priorities underpinned by data that reflect reality on the ground.  Indeed, data has played a critical role in updating youth policies.  So has youth participation, he continued, noting that a youth action plan will be managed with the Council for Youth in Kuwait, engaging young people who can share their views and make decisions.

VANJA UDOVICIC, Minister for Youth and Sports of Serbia, said a national strategy and a new law on youth were created in partnership and with active participation of young people, with the Youth Council acting as the most important monitoring mechanism.  The Ministry of Youth and Sports funds projects linked to the national strategy in line with the 2030 Agenda.  Pointing out that the city of Novi Sad won the title of the Youth Capital of Europe for 2019, he invited young people to come to their “youth capital” to participate in activities conducted with and for young people.  Speaking to youth delegates, he said:  “We are here to support you to invest your energy and knowledge in your own development.  You should be at the top of the agenda of all Governments and we will work with you and for you, so please do not wait for someone else to create the future you want for yourselves.  You are not only the future of your countries, you are the empowered present, so please, participate, be active and work hard to create the world you want to live in.”

ADIL SKALLI, World Federation of United Nations Associations, answering a question on data collection, said strong systems influence policymaking and can lead to improvements in quality of life.  Data collection and analysis can also lead to entirely new data sets that provide more accurate information about existing situations.  He suggested a number of ways to advance data collection, including for young people to take ownership of the indicator framework.  One way would be mapping their own Sustainable Development Goals indicators, which could identify gaps.  Harnessing the private sector is also important.

GUILLERMO RAFAEL SANTIAGO RADRIGUEXA, Director General of the Institute of Youth of Mexico, said young people are being put at the heart of economic policies, with targeted resources to fund projects.  For instance, a $2 billion training programme that partners with Microsoft aims at ensuring 120,000 people are equipped with technology skills.  Other efforts include opening 100 universities in remote regions.  A national youth plan will provide further guidance for such targeted efforts, he said, adding that the Government’s vision sees young people have rights.

YANG YEGONG, Deputy Secretary General of China Young Volunteers Association of China, said efforts centre on the 2030 Agenda and priority areas.  The Chinese Government encourages youth to act as agents for building a future for all humankind.  Citing examples of youth volunteer activities, he said many are in line with the Sustainable Development Goals, and include targets related to poverty reduction, education and environmental protection.

CURTIS PERRY OKUDZETO, Deputy Minister for Youth and Sports of Ghana, said the Government prioritized five areas for implementing the Sustainable Development Goals, notably the role of the private sector, data and innovation, women and youth, policy imperatives for underpinning the 2030 Agenda, and mobilizing innovative financing.  Stressing that millennials face a lack of jobs, feeding into the bigger lack of requisite skill sets, he described a “skills corps” project that employs 1 million young people to participate in job training.  The programme has employed youth in Government and the private sector alike.  A $10 million fund has also been created to finance young businesses in efforts to meet Goals 8, 9, 10, 11 and 17, he said, adding that the “One District, One Factory” initiative aims to establish a factory in each district to provide jobs, including for young people.

IGOR ZHDANOV, Minister for Youth and Sports of Ukraine, noting that youth unemployment in his country is 18 per cent, cited a skills gap between the education offered and expectations of employers, as well as a large number of young internally displaced persons as a result of the Russian Federation’s occupation of the autonomous republic of Crimea and military aggression in the eastern part of Ukraine as factors impacting youth unemployment.  The Ukrainian Pact for Youth: 2020 is a unique platform for dialogue on youth unemployment.  It has united more than 120 companies from nearly all regions of the country, and created more than 32,000 new internships and jobs, and 600 partnerships with the educational sector.  Ukraine is also drafting a national action plan on youth employment.

Participants then shared experiences in preparing young people in the areas of science, technology and innovation.

RUTH CARRASCO, Director General of the National Institute of Youth of Spain, said the Government’s “change agenda” hinges on the 2030 Agenda, stressing that “education is a passport to the future”.  Spain is building a flexible system so that young people enjoy equal opportunities.  In formal education, it is working to reduce the dropout rate, from a belief that the gap reflects a failure of the system to address what young people need.  A youth guidance programme helps to ensure young people are prepared, while a young mediator programme pairs young people with their out‑of‑school peers to help them return to school.  Regarding skills, Spain is working to ensure recognition of informal education, volunteerism and internships so that young people have the skills for the new labour market.

WAZIHA RAQUIB, Major Group for Children and Youth, on ensuring that innovations are inclusive, said artificial intelligence and renewable energy can help achieve many of the Goals.  Yet, the gaps between the poor and super rich are hard to miss.  She noted apprehension, as well as excitement, about the impact of new technologies, signalling the need for discourse.  Recommending ways that science and technology can maximize achievement of the 2030 Agenda, she advocated for greater resources for the science and technology facilitation mechanism, and conducting anticipatory assessments on the social, environmental and legal implications of technology systems.  An intergenerational lens is important in that regard.  It is also crucial to consider formal, informal, indigenous and traditional knowledge systems, and as technology replaces human work, all people should have access to the benefits of greater productivity, including through universal labour guarantees and social protection floors.

MA-UMBA MABIALA, Director of Education and Youth of the International Organization of la Francophonie, said his organization attaches high priority to young people, citing its 2014 youth strategy which focuses on education and training, with a view to facilitating decent jobs for young people.  Also, the Francophonie Education and Training Institute in Senegal supports Member States in carrying out policies that meet the needs of their young people.  He also cited a digital strategy to help young people become job creators, an international youth and green jobs initiative, and a “youngest entrepreneur” initiative, which facilitate young people’s immersion in businesses in the Francophone area.

JAGAT BAHADUR BISHWAKARMA SUNAR, Minister for Youth and Sports of Nepal, said the Government has laid out plans to empower and include young people in efforts to achieve the 2030 Agenda.  Noting that young people between 16 and 30 years old comprise 25.3 per cent of the population, he said the 2015 national youth policy focuses on education, entrepreneurship, skills development, youth engagement, and health and entertainment, among other areas.  However, there is an acute shortage of resources for such work and it is often difficult to prevent skilled youth from migrating abroad.  Equally, efforts must focus on educating youth on the importance of using their knowledge for youth‑centred purposes to prevent them from becoming victims of human trafficking and drug abuse.

ANDREW RABENS, Special Advisor for Global Youth Issues of the United States, cited trips he has taken to Juarez, Mexico and Baghdad and Erbil, Iraq, to see how to best help youth abroad.  It is rarely the fault of young people who are vulnerable, but rather, it is conflict, discrimination and conditions on the ground that affect youth.  He has seen how terrorists prey on these ills.  As education remains a springboard to meaningful employment, the United States funds related programmes, with training and assistance projects to, among other things, create jobs.  The United States is also trying to combat discrimination.  As Governments and youth stakeholders around the world, “we cannot sit back while the lottery of birth plays out”.  Instead, efforts must focus on addressing the needs of youth to ensure building a better future.

LAYNE ROBINSON, Economic, Youth and Sustainable Development Directorate of the Commonwealth Secretariat, said intergovernmental organizations can provide context‑specific training programmes for Government officials to ensure all people working with youth are equipped with the knowledge and skills to best achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.  Such organizations can also provide a critical platform for dialogues with youth, which is essential for effective programming.  This type of contact is critical to advance achievement of the Goals.  International organizations can help monitor and track progress.  For its part, the Commonwealth has developed indicators to do so.

FAIZAL ABDULLAH, Deputy Minister for Youth and Sports of Indonesia, said a national focal point is ensuring the involvement of many stakeholders.  Efforts include fostering foreign direct investment, corporate social responsibility and philanthropy.  Initiatives also aim at ensuring the Sustainable Development Goals are part of the objectives of national projects.  Providing examples of activities across a range of sectors, he said Indonesia is committed to employing youth to implement projects at the national level.

KIRSTY COVENTRY, Minister for Youth, Sports, Art and Recreation of Zimbabwe, said that given the current levels of education and job readiness, youth today need updated tools to realize their potential.  To address some of these needs, higher technology‑driven skills training is part of an effort to create an enabling environment to achieve that aim.  Striving to become a middle‑income country, Zimbabwe is working to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and examining its youth policies towards that end.  The Zimbabwe Youth Council will review these developments.  Highlighting some activities, she said funds directed towards young people are helping them to start their own businesses.  She emphasized the importance of investing in youth.

The Forum then held an interactive dialogue on “Youth, peace and security:  challenges and prospects”.  Moderated by Mridul Upadhyay, Asia Coordinator, United Network of Young Peacebuilders and Co‑founder of Youth for Peace International, it featured presentations by:  Rosario del Pilar Diaz Garavito, Founder and CEO, The Millennials Movement and Regional Caucus Coordinator, Major Group for Children and Youth‑Latin America and the Caribbean; Ana Pirtskhalava, Global Focal Point, International Union of Socialist Youth; Farai Mubaiwa, Member, The Aurum Institute and Africa Matters Initiative; and Yazan Gneim, Member, Youth Leadership Programme of Palestine, UNDP Arab States.

INGA RHONDA KING (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines), President of the Economic and Social Council, opening the discussion, pointed out that young people have frequently been perceived as either perpetrators or victims of violence, with little attention given to their positive contributions to preventing and resolving conflict.  “Fortunately, this is changing,” she said.  Young people’s contribution to peace and security is increasingly recognized as essential to realizing the 2030 Agenda.  It is important to stop considering young people as “just the future”.  Young people are the present and it is essential that they are fully included in civic, political and economic life.

MARÍA FERNANDA ESPINOSA GARCÉS (Ecuador), President of the General Assembly, voiced her full commitment to the youth, peace and security agenda, as well as to youth inclusion and dialogue, stressing that youth issues have benefited from recent attention in the Economic and Social Council, and the Security Council, with the latter’s adoption of resolution 2419 (2018) on the importance of young people as change agents.

Along similar lines, she said her goal is to ensure that youth, peace and security issues are at the heart of her work.  Roughly 600 million young people — or one third of the world’s youth population — live in vulnerable States or those affected by conflict, making it difficult to guarantee essential services, especially education.  By empowering young stakeholders, “we are paving the way for peace in the future,” she said, noting that she had seen first‑hand how young people have advanced peace processes and promoted integration to achieve peaceful coexistence.  At the first International Symposium on Youth Participation in Peace Processes in Helsinki in March, she heard peace activists share their experiences in fostering dialogue in Colombia, Liberia, Syria and elsewhere.  Their stories strengthened the already robust argument for fostering young people’s involvement in peace efforts.

Equally, today’s dialogue is an opportunity for young people to recommend ways to foster a safer, more sustainable world.  She asked participants what steps can be taken to change the narrative on youth, noting that the “Missing Peace” report had found that States associate youth with violence and extremism.  She also asked what more could be done to fully include young people in civic and economic activities, noting that less than 6 per cent of the world’s parliamentarians are under age 35.  At the United Nations, increased funding is needed for young people’s activities and she asked for suggestions on both creating and improving mechanisms for ongoing youth participation.  Assuring participants that the ideas expressed today will be taken seriously, she said she will summarize and integrate them into the main messages she will deliver going forward.

Mr. UPADHYAY shared a fear that youth contributions to making the world a better place are insignificant compared with global challenges such as the refugee crisis and an increase in civil wars.  These phenomena affect young people disproportionately at a time when young people play a small role in peace efforts.  Underlining the importance of making such contributions and of including young people in various processes, he said reports show that $1 of investing in youth can provide a $13 return.  Yet, challenges remain, as only 0.012 per cent of funding for peace targets youth.  Indeed, about 49 per cent of youth peacebuilding organizations are operating with budgets of less than $5,000.  It is important to examine how this information and subsequent recommendations are being implemented and used to establish trust‑based relationships with youth.  Opening the dialogue, he asked panellists for their views on broadening the involvement of young people on a range of issues, from political participation to roles for youth in peacebuilding processes across regions.

Ms. PIRTSKHALAVA said youth traditionally are kept aside.  But, when young people are given the space, time and platform, they demonstrate that they have the skills to be decision makers.  Pointing at the young people currently in the room, she said political parties must open avenues to hear youth.  Addressing the crisis of traditional political systems is essential, as youth are often seen as victims, perpetrators of violence or people who need protection.  “We have been the objects, not the subjects of solutions,” she said, stressing:  “We need to be at the negotiating table.”  Instead of creating underfunded youth councils, young people must be at the table making decisions.  As representatives of governmental and non‑governmental organizations, young people represent the voice of the voiceless.  Coming into politics and peacebuilding processes is difficult, but efforts must be made to give youth access to education and other benefits.  Having more young people involved in peacebuilding will not solve all problems, but it will create more inclusive societies.

Mr. GNEIM said the Israeli occupation must end so all people can live equally.  “We are not asking for the world, we are just asking for our basic human rights,” he said.  In the State of Palestine, 29 per cent of the population are between 15 and 29.  While movement restrictions and blockades prevent youth from improving their lives, hope persists.  Still, a total of 69 per cent of youth in Gaza are unemployed, which is why thousands of young people are going to the Israeli border to protest.  Palestinian youth, who face Israeli settlers that are threatening their lives, want to live in peace.  The Sustainable Development Goals are a guide forward.  Using peaceful means, in line with Security Council resolution 2250 (2015), he said outreach efforts include a smartphone legal application for mobile phones and volunteer efforts that are finding ways to assist communities to stand up to Israeli violations.  Above all, Palestinian youth want to create a future of peace.

Ms. GARAVITO said Latin America is a diverse region, with youth being among the biggest assets.  However, youth are running away from violence and corruption with a view to chasing their dreams, she said, pointing out that young women are often victims of systematic violence.  Asking for rights has become common yet ensuring the real participation of youth requires a focus on pressing issues, such as climate change.  Youth must start to be seen as agents who can transform their societies.  Currently, youth organizations are organizing a participatory process to open space for young people in monitoring the 2030 Agenda.  Even though youth in Latin America are dealing with a multitude of challenges, young people’s organizations are working together towards this objective.  Youth are building a youth agenda despite their differences and are showing that that they are indeed resilient and real peacebuilders.