Young people today are more connected, informed, tech-savvy and better educated than any previous generation. They are responding to 21st century challenges with innovative approaches, contributing fresh ideas and driving human development for themselves, their communities and their societies.  

65 out of the 169 Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets relate directly to young people, focusing on youth empowerment, participation and well-being. With less than 10 years left to realize the 2030 Agenda, young people are a critical force to leverage to support the SDGs and a better future for everyone.  

Supporting young people in achieving the SDGs is one of our top priorities. In China, which hosts the world’s second-largest youth population, we work with government counterparts, private sector partners and civil society to empower youth through SDG awareness-raising, digital and entrepreneurship skills development, along with volunteer service. 



In Depth

Youth Entrepreneurship

Over the past four years, more than 300 young social entrepreneurs have started their entrepreneurship journey from UNDP’s National Dialogue China. The initiative supports young entrepreneurs and social innovators in developing ideas and business models that can make a positive social impact in their communities, by placing the SDGs at the center of their start-up missions.  

Since 2018, the National Dialogue China has focused on various topics ranging from Accessibility and Rural Revitalization to Digital Disruption and Climate Action, helping to empower marginalized youth with entrepreneurial skills. Clear Plate, the winning team of the 2019 cohort, was presented with the SDG Young Leader Award by the office of the UN Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth. As the first SDG Young Leader in China, the youth-led start-up is working to promote a low-carbon lifestyle among young people.  



In 2021, UNDP worked with the private sector to set up a 1 million RMB (150,000 USD) Youth Innovation Grant Programme to bridge financial and technical gaps for start-ups. Eight start-ups received initial funding, enhancing their opportunities to receive further investments from impact investors and financial institutions. Twenty start-ups also received entrepreneurship training from top experts across the private sector, impact funds, civil society, startup incubators and academia.  

As the regional youth flagship event, the annual Asia-Pacific Forum on Youth Leadership, Innovation and Entrepreneurship (APYFLIE) was cohosted by UNDP and the All-China Youth Federation. Since its beginning, youth from 35 countries and regions have shared success stories and experiences on their actions to advance the SDGs. The forum has engaged key actors of the entrepreneurial landscape in the Asia Pacific, including governments, academia, incubators, the private sector, youth organizations and youth start-ups. It has also opened up networks for collective learning and facilitated experience-sharing between countries - creating a more inclusive and productive youth entrepreneurial ecosystem across the region. 

UNDP is also encouraging youth to explore the application of frontier technologies in solving global development challenges. In particular, through U&AI Camp, our annual 6-month bootcamp organized together with Tsinghua University, we are helping to strengthen youth knowledge on leveraging new technologies to advance the SDGs. The inaugural bootcamp in 2021 received more than 1,300 youth participants from over 50 countries. 



Youth Volunteerism for Sustainable Development 

UNDP has worked with government partners in China on promoting youth participation in advancing sustainable development through volunteerism. 

In 2020, UNDP launched the Movers Programme in China, a grassroots movement of youth volunteers who help develop SDG awareness, entrepreneurial mindsets and 21st-century skills by conducting local workshops and trainings. The programme uses a train-the-trainer approach and works with community partners to target harder-to-reach groups so that no one is left behind. 

Since its launch in China, the Movers Programme has trained 8,209 young people through 181 workshops. Eleven interactive Movers modules on SDG advocacy, social entrepreneurship and digital skills have been designed targeting youth and adolescents in China.  


UNDP has also been working with United Nations Volunteers (UNV), Beijing Volunteer Service Federation and the China International Centre for Economic and Technical Exchanges (CICETE) to increase youth enrollment through online and on-site advocacy activities that build up the national talent pool. In 2021, we jointly held a Training Camp for International Volunteering Talents to strengthen the skills of youth participating in international volunteer services. 

The same year, we also designed training courses for 20,000 volunteers for the Beijing Winter Olympics to raise their SDG awareness and promote youth volunteer services, for the winter games and beyond.  

In addition, we help enable Chinese youth to work for UN agencies as UNVs. The first cohort in 2021 successfully deployed eight UN Youth Volunteers to seven UN agencies.  

Youth Empowerment for Climate Action 

Climate change is the single most pressing challenge of the 21st century. It touches on every aspect of life and compromises development efforts, with consequences ranging from immediate to long-term. Adapting to and mitigating the effects of climate change is therefore set to define the future of today’s youth. 

UNDP works to promote and amplify youth voices in China advocating for climate action through the Youth Empowerment in Climate Actions Platform (YECAP). Over the past one year, YECAP has reached more than 800 Chinese youth climate leaders through regional dialogues. Youth from NGOs, the private sector and startups actively participated in a youth consultation workshop on how to build a green and healthy planet that can sustain future generations.