4 years since the UN Youth Strategy — what’s next #Youth2030 #YouthLead #ECOSOCYouthForum

From Rabat to New York, #YOUTHLEAD the way at this year’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Youth Forum last 19-20 April, where young people around the world engaged with Member States and the United Nations around the Sustainable Development Agenda.

This year comes at an important turn, as the Office of the Secretary Genera’s Envoy on Youth presents a second report on the UN Youth Strategy, the first-ever system-wide youth strategy of the UN. Otherwise known as Youth2030, it was launched in 2018 by the UN Secretary-General, with an intention to scale-up global, regional, and national actions — with and for youth.

At the high-level plenary “Youth2030: Achieving the SDGs With and For Youth,” the UN Youth Envoy was joined by youth moderators Nidal Benali, Moroccan youth representative and Chief Organizer of Global Congress for Youth Councils, and Daniella Solano from Costa Rica, with 5 Ministers of youth. On its fourth year of implementation, Youth2030 is said to have reached 49 UN entities and all of the 130 UN Country Teams.

This of course is a top-bottom, bottom-up synergy, which includes building capacities of the UN system — from Resident Coordinators, Country Chiefs, to every other UN staff — about who, what, where, how young people work and why, as opposed to more traditional modes of engagement that has sometimes led to verbal abuse, and in the past, even harassment cases.

According to the recent UNCT Snapshot, most country teams have begun its work with policy alignment, in the spirit of meaningful youth engagement: defined by youth constituencies as Self Organised, Legally Mandated, Rights Based, Designated, Well Resourced and Accountable.

But what does a United Nations, with and for youth, really mean, as a daily practice?

To begin with, the ECOSOC Youth Forum will be held again in a virtual format. In a world populated with the largest number of Gen Z’s and millennials, the UN system remains relevant and connected. 2 years into the pandemic, formal institutions of governance have had to catch-up with next generation content-creators, influencers, vloggers, gamers, block-chain users, digital nomads, just citizen-turned-journalists who oftentimes have the no-holds-barred mindsets. The field of development communications included, in this evolving world of decentralised media / Web3.0, where people old and young are able to express themselves, in more candid, creative ways, from posting photos and videos of their daily experiences, to co-creating digital art.

One of the objectives of Africa TV, alongside Asia TV, is to connect the SDGs across Web1.0 — Web 4.0, ensuring that nobody is left behind, even in the way we communicate to each other, launched at last year’s ECOSOC Youth Forum, and again present here at thematic and regional sessions.

Every year, high-level speakers such as the UN Secretary General, Ministers, among others, address young people, who in turn exchange best practices to advance the SDGs in response to COVID-19. Ideally, this has become a highlight for youth leaders, and partners, to forge long-lasting partnerships, alongside a highly competitive selection process. In rare occasions, it could be a source of competition between youth groups or even UN agencies. The question would be if young people are treated as co-organizers in the whole process, or mere champions of agency agenda/ volunteers in demand for technical tasks. The UN is also called to be constantly on the look-out for new young partners, rather than keeping status-quo with old allegiances that may have outgrown the youth bracket already.

And what’s next?

  1. Media products are tools to launch movements, and open spaces of engagement. Save them, share them, and follow-up. Just like with “Voices of Youth,” the formal Major Group on Children and Youth Sectoral Position Paper, formal intergovernmental negotiations will take place at the High Level Political Forum in July. Speeches, concept notes, press releases are just as important lobbying points to be introduced, and to continue conversations.
  2. Furthermore, as side-events have brought together more youth organizations with stakeholders, publications and post-event trainings may sustain interest in the topic, or possibly even as a gateway for fundraising. It is the time of the year where young people are more easily able to engage with UN agencies of their choice, and vice versa. The world is an oyster, with a nexus of topics that have shaped trends across SDGs, at the local, regional, and global levels.
  3. Yet the challenge remains — to break the bubbles of youth idealism against seemingly massive realities of #ClimateChangeIsReal and active wars from the Global South, all the way up North. What does the ECOSOC Youth Forum means to #Youth4Peace in Russia, or Ukraine? If so, what can we really do about it?

The Youth2030 Second Progress Report intends to remind all stakeholders about the UN’s commitment in putting young people at the center of its work. To quote Benali, the first Moroccan Global Focal Point for SDG 16 of the Major Group for Children and Youth:

“Cooperation is key, not competition. we want to see progress, we need to believe in the agency of youth that they can and will make a change.

As host to this year’s Global Congress for Youth Councils, youth-to-youth cooperation is emphasized with an emphasis on participation in decision-making levels, so as to break away from tokenism.

Today, there are over 1.8 billion youth — the largest generation of young people ever. Whoever or wherever they are, the succeeding generations of youth have nothing to hide. They are unstoppable, and fearless. By evidence, they are already markers of progress in a senior UN system 76 years of age. If synergies are sustained among different stakeholders, led by OSGEY, MGCY, ICMYO, and all others, this year’s Youth Forum is only the beginning of the best to come.

Watch this space for live updates on the program and side events: @globalyouthcouncils @unyouthenvoy #youthlead

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