Helen Clark: Closing Remarks to 2016 ECOSOC Youth Forum

Feb 2, 2016


I am delighted to join you at the closing session of the 2016 ECOSOC Youth Forum. 

In the Forum in the past two days you have heard a lot about the new Global Agenda, Agenda 2030. It is a comprehensive, sustainable development agenda, and it addresses the wide range of opportunities and challenges the future holds for young people. 

Young people were very much part of shaping the new agenda. Youth participated in national consultations and through the UN Major Group for Children and Youth. In the My World survey, more than ten million voices have now been heard, and a huge proportion of these were youth voices: about 77 per cent of those who responded to the survey were under thirty years of age. 

All that input helped to ensure that the new agenda affirms the role that young women and young men, including the most marginalized, must play as agents of change in building a better world.  

How can young people be partners in the implementation of Agenda 2030?

Agreeing on global agendas is one thing. Implementing them is another. Agendas are mere words on paper unless action follows. A critical part of the action will be the participation and engagement of young people. 

Today you’ve debated the critical issues for youth in the new agenda, including the priority to be given to: 

• Jobs, livelihoods, entrepreneurship, and quality education and skills. These support the path out of poverty to lives of dignity. UNDP is proud to work alongside ILO and sister agencies to develop and support the UN Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth. The initiative will: 

o engage world leaders in high-level policy action on youth employment; 

o promote better national policies and interventions on youth employment; and

o bring together knowledge and best practice on what works in creating youth employment opportunities. 

• The critical importance of access to the health services youth are looking for, including with respect to sexual and reproductive health and rights. This is vital for empowerment and determining one’s destiny. 

• The imperative of gender equality and the empowerment of girls and women. No society will reach its potential if half the population has less than equal rights and opportunities. 

• The importance of inclusive societies, inclusive of all of us in all our diversity, and of societies in which youth have the space and the right to contribute to development and engage in political and civic affairs. That will enable youth to engage directly in making the SDGs relevant to their societies, and ensure that the areas most critical for youth development are addressed. 

UNDP’s commitment to youth empowerment

In March, UNDP will launch a new Global Project on Youth Empowerment for Development and Peace. Our Youth Strategy guides us to:

• use our active presence in more than 168 countries to support the inclusion of youth in development;

• scale up our support for youth entrepreneurship and employment, civic engagement, and political participation – giving special attention to young women and to youth from marginalized groups; and

• promote youth movements, organizations, and networks.

We have been helping to create opportunities for direct youth engagement in development in communities around the world. For example:

- In Colombia, following a regional meeting of young Latin American politicians and representatives which we organized in Bogota, two draft laws have been prepared on youth engagement in local development and on the establishment of a permanent legal commission on youth in the country. 

- In Yemen, UNDP is supporting youth entrepreneurship and vocational training in the midst of the current crisis. Our aim is to see youth fully engaged in building the resilience of their communities and positioning for recovery at the end of the conflict, which we hope for as soon as possible. 

- Recently, UNDP co-organized with UN and civil society partners the Global Forum on Youth, Peace and Security, in Amman. It affirmed the positive role young people can play in building peace, and preceded the adoption of the groundbreaking  Resolution 2250 of the Security Council on youth, peace, and security. Conflict is a major obstacle to development, and it is scarring the lives of youth and their communities in many places in our world today. 

- On inclusion and diversity, we support youth-focused human rights campaigns, such as #PurpleMySchool, which aims to create safe spaces for LGBTI youth in schools throughout Asia. 

Youth as partners of change in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda

UNDP will continue to work for the full alignment of youth policies with national development priorities, for inclusion of youth in national dialogues, and for the full engagement of youth with the SDGs. 

We will work with partners to overcome bottlenecks to progress for youth, to act against youth discrimination, and to support the expansion of civic and political space for youth.

I hope that many of you will be able to engage with UNDP in the coming year around youth empowerment initiatives. We invite you to stay in touch with us via social media using @UNDP and @UNDP4YOUTH. And please also use: helen.clark@undp.org!