Helen Clark: Speech at the ECOSOC Youth Forum

Jan 31, 2017

The 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can’t be achieved without the support of young people. Credit: UNDP

I am delighted to join this closing session of the ECOSOC Youth Forum. I congratulate the Forum co-organizers and partners on a successful meeting, and on consolidating the role the Forum plays in support of the SDGs. I thank all the UN Resident Co-ordinators who facilitated the participation of young people from more than twenty countries in this Forum.

I also wish to acknowledge Ahmad Alhendawi, the outgoing UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, who has worked so hard to support young people to have voice and be heard at the United Nations.

The 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can’t be achieved without the support and full participation of young people.

Around the world we see youth:

• promoting poverty eradication and peace and justice;

• launching grassroots advocacy campaigns and youth-led data monitoring and accountability initiatives; and

• contributing to high-level consultations. 

These early experiences of youth engagement with the SDGs show that youth leadership and commitment make a big difference. The challenge now is to do even better. To meet the vision of the 2030 Agenda, all youth must be engaged and empowered. Much more civic and political space is needed for young people - at the local, national, regional and global levels.

UNDP’s commitment 

UNDP is committed to supporting young people and their organizations around the world. In my travels, I often meet youth leaders, and, listening to them, I know that the future of their countries will be in very good hands.

Last year, UNDP launched its first Youth Global Programme for Sustainable Development and Peace – the “Youth-GPS”. It responds to the 2030 Agenda and to United Nations Security Council Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security. It’s a five-year programme with four linked areas of work: 

1. Civic engagement & Political Inclusion: we’ve developed guidance on including youth in electoral processes, and we’ve launched a ‘Not too Young to Run Campaign’ which encourages youth to become candidates in elections.

2. Peacebuilding & Resilience: UNDP is hosting a global, multi-stakeholder platform to promote youth participation in peacebuilding: ‘www.youth4peace.info’. We’ve already co-convened regional consultations on youth, peace, and security in the Arab States region, and these are feeding into the preparation of a progress study on youth, peace, and security mandated by the UN Security Council.

3. Economic Empowerment: UNDP is working with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and others to take forward the UN Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth. We’ve contributed to the design of youth employment strategies in Equatorial Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire, and many other countries.

4. SDG implementation and monitoring: UNDP has developed tools to promote SDG implementation which is fully inclusive of youth. We’ve also launched the “Youth Governance and Accountability Partnership” with the NGO Restless Development and other partners. With UNFPA, the Office of the Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth, and others, we are contributing to work on how to measure youth participation and wellbeing around the world.

In the Arab States region, UNDP launched a second Youth Leadership Programme focusing on “Innovation for Sustainable Development”. In December, with the support of the Government of Kuwait, sixty youth representatives from eleven Arab States participated in a regional workshop, where they debated creative ways of making a sustainable impact in their communities, including in those affected by conflict, forced displacement, and migration. The recently released UNDP Arab States’ Human Development Report is on “Youth and the Prospects for Human Development in a Changing Reality”.

In the Asia Pacific, UNDP and UN Volunteers launched the regional “2030 Youth Force” initiative. It brings together young leaders from across ten countries who are working on advocacy and priority setting around the SDGs. Efforts are now being made to develop national chapters to support youth participation in the SDGs.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, UNDP co-convened a regional workshop in Mexico in November. 140 representatives of youth organizations, governments, and academia from 22 countries came together to discuss the design and implementation of evidence-based youth policies and initiatives to reduce inequalities and advance sustainable development. UNDP and USAID also just launched CARISECURE, a programme to strengthen youth participation in citizen security in the Eastern Caribbean.

In Africa, UNDP is scaling up the “YouthConnekt Initiative” which has been so successful in Rwanda in supporting youth entrepreneurship.

In a number of places in Europe and Central Asia, UNDP works with youth to boost civic engagement, challenge gender stereotypes, and promote corruption-free and transparent governance.

At UNDP, we know that without the commitment and participation of youth, the SDGs can’t be achieved. Please continue to connect with UNDP and all the UN agencies linking with young people. Please stay in touch with us through social media using @UNDP and @UNDP4YOUTH. 

Thank you once again for your commitment to place youth participation and wellbeing at the very heart of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs.

UNDP Around the world