My Experience at the ECOSOC Youth Forum: A Transformative Journey
June 12, 2023
As someone who studied law for more than 10 years, I learned extensively about the role of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), such as the United Nations (UN), in promoting social, economic, and environmental change in societies. However, I learned how things work in the textbooks, but I had yet to see how things work in practice. Earlier this year, I received a phone call from the Misk Foundation (Misk) saying that I had been nominated, as part of the Saudi delegation, to participate in the 2023 Annual Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Youth Forum at the UN in New York. ECOSOC Youth Forum is a forum conducted prior to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Summit. The purpose of ECOSOC Forum is to empower youth to share their thoughts and proposals on social and economic issues so the member states can consider these recommendations at the UN SDG Summit in September 2023.
I accepted the nomination with great honor. I knew this opportunity would give me the chance to connect what I have studied to real-world scenarios and allow me to see how NGOs operate. It would also let me see the countries’ progress regarding the SDGs and listen to youth-suggested solutions to social and economic challenges. Most important, this opportunity would allow me to share with the world the social and economic developments that Saudi Arabia is witnessing as we are halfway through achieving our promising Vision 2030.
Getting Ready for the Forum
Before we traveled to New York, the Saudi delegation received information from Misk and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Saudi Arabia on what to expect in the ECOSOC forum. This year’s topic was “Accelerating the recovery from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and the full implementation of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development at all levels.” The forum was scheduled to take place April 25–27, 2023, in New York City. Topics would also include several SDGs, such as SDG 6, clean water and sanitation; SDG 7, affordable and clean energy; SDG 9, industry, innovation, and infrastructure; SDG 11, sustainable cities and communities; and SDG17, partnerships for the goals.
Landing in New York
On April 24, 2023, after a 12-hour flight, I landed in New York. It wasn’t my first visit, but it was undoubtedly the one I had been most enthusiastic about. On that day, I was delighted to spend time with other Saudi delegation members—some of whom are also Misk fellows. It was great catching up with them and hearing about their exciting progress in their studies and lives. After that warm gathering, my first day in New York was over, and I was ready to start the first day of the forum.
The First Day
On April 25, 2023, the forum kicked off with an inspiring talk by H.E. Ms. Lachezara Stoeva, president of the Economic and Social Council. She emphasized the importance of young people’s participation in the decision-making processes that shape the world. Her talk was followed by a number of panels and interactive roundtable discussions among government representatives, ministers, and youth delegates. These discussions focused on countries’ economic plans, implementation of SDGs, and progress/gaps in achieving SDGs.
Later in the day, I had the opportunity to attend two breakout sessions. The first was a roundtable to discuss SDG 6, clean water, and sanitation. In this session, I learned about the water quality issues that some developing countries are still facing and how these problems affect the health and well-being of the society. The second session was a roundtable concerning SDG 9, industry, innovation, and infrastructure. In this session, I learned about the latest developments and trends in economic and social policies from world-renowned experts.
On the first day, I also attended the ECOSOC Youth Forum Reception—Be Seen, Be Heard—at the Ford Foundation. At the event, I networked and established relationships with people from all over the world. I was inspired by their ideas and perspectives on global economic and social issues.
The Second Day
On the second day of the forum, we attended breakout sessions divided by regions—Arab States, Asia and the Pacific, Africa, Europe, North America, Latin America, and the Caribbean. In these sessions, government officials and youth leaders discussed the challenges their regions face. I attended the Arab States session, where government representatives addressed the issue of unemployment and the lack of soft skills for young people entering the workforce. I had the privilege of hearing directly from government officials how Arab countries are trying to solve these problems by providing young people with programs and training to acquire the necessary work skills.
The Third Day
For the Saudi delegation, the third day started with a visit to Saudi Arabia’s permanent representative to the UN, Abdulaziz Al-Wasil. In the meeting, we discussed the importance of youth participation in international forums, such as the ECOSOC forum. After the meeting, we returned to the UN headquarters to continue the forum and attend the closing ceremony.