ECOSOC Youth Forum: The Time for Action is Now

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Guest blogger Amadou Moctar Diallo attended the UN ECOSOC’s fourth annual youth forum in February 2015 on “Youth Engagement in the Transition from MDGs to SDGs: What will it take?”

The two-day event has been an opportunity for young people from different corners of the world to interact with Member States representatives, UN officials and their peers. (See previous post).

Many issues were addressed such as universal access to quality primary and post-primary education; reduction of the number of unemployed youth; meaningful and inclusive participation of young people in decision-making processes, governance and peace building; adolescent and youth health; elimination of violence and discrimination, etc.

At the opening session, the UN Secretary-General Mr Ban Ki-moon qualified the current youth as the “first generation with the potential to end poverty and the last generation to avoid worst effects of climate change.”

The UN has expressed its commitment to get young people involved in the post-2015 agenda called the “Sustainable Development Goals” (SDGs), as demonstrated by UN ECOSOC President Mr. Martin Sajdik, when stating,

the question is no longer if youth engagement is necessary but how to strengthen it.

In that regard, the UN Secretary-General Envoy on Youth, Mr. Ahmad Alhendawi called on Member States to include at least one young person in their delegations to the next UN General Assembly session (New York, September 2015) and to the UN Climate change conference (COP21, Paris, December 2015). He highlighted that these crucial meetings are expected to adopt documents that would greatly impact the future of the young people.

Through the different sessions, young people underlined the challenges their generation faces when it comes to participate in the SDGs: lack of education for many marginalized groups, the discrimination against girls and women, the lack of funding, etc. However, they focused on their potential to greatly contribute to the implementation of the next SDGs.

Everything is possible. When you have a dream or belief, it could be difficult, but it’s achievable.

So advocated Eric Niragira, a former child soldier from Burundi and Founder and Executive Director of the Training Centre for Development of Ex-Combatants (CEDAC), an organization that has helped many ex-combatants.

The critical question pointed out by many young people is how to hold governments accountable for their international commitment in the framework of the SDGs and the climate change agenda. In that regard, many suggested to include young people in the national policies regarding the implementation and evaluation of the future SDGs.

The other biggest challenge is the financing. In that respect, Ibrahim Ceesay, Chair of the African Youth Alliance on Post-2015 warmed that “youth policies without youth funds is youth bulls**t”.

After this two-day event, the main messages from young people are:

  • Youth should play an active role in their countries, including in monitoring and accountability.
  • Partnerships with young people are essential; they are even prerequisite for a successful post-2015 agenda.
  • Governments and United Nations agencies must live up to their commitment that youth have a hand in the implementation of the goals.
  • The needs for inclusion and for youth to hold their governments accountable are important.
  • Peer-to-peer training and capacity building at the grass-roots level are crucial.
  • Women and girls should be important players in the SDGs and efforts should be done to eradicate all forms of discrimination against them.

Generally speaking, the ECOSOC youth forum was a success. However, for the next forum, two areas need to be improved.

  • More youth delegates: just few countries included young person to their delegations to the ECOSOC Youth Forum 2015. Many young participants came from youth-led organizations and financially supported by UN bodies – especially UNDP, UNICEF and UNFPA.
  • More interaction: the Forum had very interesting thematic sessions, but unfortunately due to time and the format, many young people were not able to interact with the panelists and share their perspectives.

The 2015 ECOSOC Youth Forum was also an occasion for the UN Secretary-General to launch #YouthNow campaign commemorating the 20th anniversary of the World Programme of Action for Youth (WPAY) adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1995.

Submitted by human rights law graduate and long-time PCI friend Amadou Moctar Diallo, who attended the ECOSOC Youth Forum in New York City and covering the event for PCI.

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The views, opinions and positions expressed by the authors and those providing comments on these blogs are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or positions of Peace Child International.

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