Remarks by Ms Beate Trankmann at the World Youth Development Forum - Digital Economy Session

July 23, 2022

 Mr. Fu Zhenbang, Vice President of the All-China Youth Federation,

 Mr. Xu Kemin, Chief Economist, Ministry Industry Information Technology

Distinguished Guests, Ladies, and Gentlemen,

Youth representatives,

My warmest greetings to you all! I am very pleased to join you today at the Digital Economy session of the World Youth Development Forum.

In 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted by UN member states as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030.

However, with 8 years left, we are not on track to achieve these goals. Before COVID-19, progress was already off pace, and now we are even further behind. An estimated 423 million people have fallen back into extreme poverty due to the global economic slowdown and global conflicts have led to food shortages and soaring oil prices around the world, impoverishing millions more.

At the same time, we are on course to exceed the 1.5 degree target of the Paris Agreement by twofold. The consequences of this are dire. Coastlines and cities will be under water, and the other environmental crises of biodiversity loss and pollution will only be exacerbated.

But there is still room for optimism.

Digitalization is transforming our world at an unprecedented rate. Sophisticated new technologies are being developed every day. If we can sustainably harness them and direct them towards the many pressing issues our world faces, digitalization can be a force for good and help us to get back on track in our mission to achieve SDGs.

The other reason for optimism is all of you – the youth. As the largest and most tech savy generation of young people in history, you are not only central but poised to lead the digital economy. You are “digital natives” with the potential to create innovative solutions, drive social progress, contribute to the resilience of your communities, and inspire change for a more inclusive and sustainable world[1].

Understanding this potential, UNDP has consistently worked to support youth entrepreneurs. Over the past 4 years, through our Youth Co:lab, we have supported youth to utilize e-commerce platforms to help farmers sell rural products online, advancing China’s rural revitalization. We have worked with them to develop strategies for companies to reduce carbon footprints thru blockchain technology contributing to China’s decarbonisation targets.

Another example is one of the alumni from UNDP’s Youth National Dialogue, Liu Jichen. He was named China’s first SDG Young Leader by the UN Youth Envoy office for his efforts in creating Clear Plate, a mobile phone application to promote a low-carbon lifestyle among the youth.

Going forward, we will continue to empower young people in leading the digital transformation. This also includes making sure that we close the digital divide so that all youth, and especially those marginalized, are able to adapt to the future of work.

It is estimated that tens of millions of future jobs will require advanced digital skills, such as coding, software development, and Big Data analysis. We must therefore take care that the digital economy does not exacerbate divides and deepen inequalities by ensuring that all youth have access to job-relevant digital skills.

To accomplish these goals, we will need support from everyone here today, including the government and the private sector, as digitalization becomes a more and more inseparable part of all aspects of our society. The fresh minds and innovative thinking of the youth can help to lead this ongoing technological revolution.

So, to all the young people here today, never underestimate yourself. The world needs you now more than ever. Your role as change-makers will only be amplified with the growth of technology, so we count on you to drive these agendas forward.

In closing, I’d like to thank and acknowledge the All-China Youth Federation for hosting the Forum, and all partners supporting it. I wish the Forum success and look forward to our continued joint efforts in working with youth and for youth in achieving the 2030 Agenda.

Thank you!