You people can make a change

June 30, 2019

I am a 4th year university student, studying International Program of Bachelors of Business and Administration, in Chulalongkorn University. Ever since I was in high school, I am passionate about driving change to our society and changing my community in the ways that I can. I believe all youths and individuals have the ability to change their world for the better. Although our actions may not be big, but starting small is the first step towards making the world a better place. All the small steps we take combined makes the world a big step closer to achieving the SDGs. With this in mind, I wanted to empower youths and make a change for my community. I initiated Youths for SDGs, an event where 150 high school students from international schools inside and outside of Bangkok joined to learn and discuss the SDGs and what they can do to achieve it. The event took place at Wells International School, the high school I graduated from, on 3-4 November 2018. The event formed a network of youths, united by our passion for the SDGs. The event had inspired the students to continue working on their solutions at their schools as well. Youths are the driver of change. Empowering youths and including them in working towards the SDGs is important in achieving the goals. This was the theme of the 8th ECOSOC Youth Forum. I am extremely grateful to receive the opportunity to attend the ECOSOC Youth Forum at UNHQ, New York, as the youth delegate of Thailand.

The 8th ECOSOC Youth Forum discusses the theme “Empowered, Included, and Equal”, which corresponds to the theme for ECOSOC and High-level Political Forum in 2019. Over 1,000 youth delegates of different countries and youth representatives from various organisations attended the event. The event reviews youth involvement in areas of quality education (SDG 4), decent work and economic growth (SDG 8), reduced inequalities (SDG 10), climate action (SDG 13), peace, justice and strong institutions (SDG 16), and partnerships for the goals (SDG 17). The event included panel discussions with ministers and youth organisation representatives as well as smaller breakout sessions for youth representatives to discuss and voice their opinions on current issues. Youth engagement is a crucial factor towards fulfilling the 2030 Agenda. The event enabled each country to share their best practices and challenges faced. The Forum’s outcome and recommendations from Youth Delegates would be presented at the High-level Political Forum and other subsequent ECOSOC events in 2019.

I am extremely honored to join the ECOSOC Youth Forum as the Youth Delegate of Thailand, along with Panuwat Dechanupanon and Chutipart Areekul. We shared Thailand’s implementations to empower youth to work towards the SDGs. We connected with other delegates and learnt about their country’s implementations as well. I felt inspired to be in a room with like-minded youths from all over the world, sharing the same passion for the SDGs and for changing our communities. Each representative has made a remarkable change for their communities. Learning about their projects inspires me to empower others in my community so that we can all work towards the SDGs together, leaving no one behind.

Along with the plenary sessions, The Forum has regional breakout sessions and parallel thematic sessions, where participants can join the discussions in their topic of interest. I joined the regional breakout session of Asia and the Pacific, where we discussed gender equality, education, and employment opportunities in Asia. The participants focused on the actions that need to be taken to provide women with equal access to education, to increase the quality and inclusiveness of education for marginalized youths, and to have access to greater employment opportunities. Countries in the Asian region faces similar challenges in terms of progress in these areas. The participants expressed their dedication to contribute to these areas in their countries. In the parallel thematic sessions, I joined the room for SDG 4, which is to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. Education is what I’m passionate in driving change for. I believe that change starts with a sustainable mindset, change starts when you’re young, and change starts with educating our youths, who will grow up to be future leaders. Including sustainability into education as well as ensuring that our education system teaches relevant skills for the workplace and for living in the 21st Century are of paramount importance. I enjoyed discussing the future of education with other youth representatives. We emphasized that young people are powerful agents of change when given access to quality education. Inclusive education that teaches soft skills, raises awareness to rights and instills a global and sustainable mindset in students should be available to all. The education system needs to cater to the needs of young people today. In the discussions, we separated into smaller groups to discuss problems and solutions on how to make education more relevant and empowering. The discussions really gave the participants the space to share their opinions and recommendations. We also voted on the recommendations to present to the plenary session and to include in the High-Level Political Forum afterwards. The discussions in the room really showed each participant’s drive for creating change for education in their countries and gave everyone the time to share their country’s best practices as well.

In this year’s ECOSOC Youth Forum, the Permanent Mission of Thailand to the UN hosted a side event, in partnership with the Permanent Mission of Japan to the UN, the Permanent Mission of Germany to the UN, and the Permanent Mission of UAE to the UN, called “Institutional Youth Engagement in achieving the SDGs - Youth Actions and Voices”. Side events are small discussion panels occurring during the event, usually at free times. I had the honorable opportunity of being Thailand’s youth representative to give a speech about Thailand’s institutional mechanism for youth engagement, which is the National Youth Council. The National Youth Council is a platform for youths, including marginalized youths, to voice their opinions, submit recommendations to Ministers, and take action on the issues affecting them. Mr. Vitavas Srivihok, Permanent Representative of the Permanent Mission of Thailand to the UN, also presented about the importance of youth engagement. The 2-day event was filled with valuable discussions and activities. I am so grateful for the opportunity to join this event. The event brought together individuals from different nations, of different backgrounds, having different challenges in their countries, but with the same passion, the passion that connects us, the passion to make the world a more sustainable and better place. Working together makes our world a lot closer to achieving its goals. Looking back, there has been great progress made towards the different aspects, such as equality, education, and climate change. Looking forward, there is still much more to do to realise the goals by 2030. A lot has been done but a lot more can be done as well. Youths play a key role in transforming our world. The event emphasized on making youths included, empowered, and equal. Importance is placed on empowering the disempowered, including the marginalized, and recognizing the universal rights to equality. To summarize the event, in the words of Ms. Yolanda Joab, Founder and Executive Director Island Promoting Resilience through Involvement, Development and Education (PRIDE), the keynote speaker, “Keep believing, keep rising, uplift others with you, so that together we can all be empowered, included, and equal.”

Prima Pupornchai is a UN Youth Delegate from Thailand. She believes that young people are agents of change in the World.