On February 2nd and 3rd, The Hunger project along with hundreds of youth delegates, NGO representatives and other stakeholders convened to discuss the areas of accountability, youth participation, gender equality and global and regional processes at the UN’s annual ECOSOC Youth Forum held at the UN Headquarters in New York City. The meetings underscored the need to focus on youth not only development, but as part of the Post-2015 Development Agenda.
Recognizing that the youth of today (ages 15 – 24) were children when the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were declared in 2000, the 2015 Youth Forum brought to the forefront that youth need to bear ownership of the soon-to-be-declared Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Indeed, this Post-2015 Development Agenda requires comprehensive, inclusive, multi-stakeholder approaches at all levels of government with the direct participation of youth.
ECOSOC President, His Excellency Martin Sajdik, acknowledged the need for youth voice and consultation as a principle in development implementation and methodologies. In support, Ahmad Alhendawi, Secretary General’s Youth Envoy, stated “nothing for youth without youth.”
Alhendawi moderated a panel discussion about the progress of the World Programme of Action for Youth (WPAY) since its declaration twenty years ago. The initial focus of WPAY was to highlight youth as a heterogeneous population, acknowledging that youth development affects everyone and to set the grounds for accruing more data and evidence. Today, these points remain, yet there is a much more critical need to see that WPAY is implemented more widely and stringently.
The panelists discussed how this must be done:
- Policies for youth development must be comprehensive, interlinked and mutually reinforcing.
- Both policy makers and implementers must be aware of the hindrances to youth development, be they environmental, political, economical, or social. Previous interventions, incomplete initiatives or gaps in information should be assessed in light of this.
- Recognize that youth are part of a development solution and offer an opportunity for advancement. The incomparably large, global youth population of today beholds the ability to fortify peace, redefine markets and develop deteriorating sectors with the proper amount of investment and [due] attention.
In addition, a US State Department representative noted five timely trends that the development community should leverage in tackling youth development:
- More than 60% of the world population is younger than 30
- Power of social networks
- Ever-changing media landscape
- Power of technology to break down borders and barriers
- Conditions for unrest, lack of human rights preservation and foundations of freedom
In a panel session titled Gender Equality and Youth: 20 Years Since the Beijing Platform for Action and Onwards to a Post-2015 Development Framework, prominent Al Jazeera News journalist, Femi Oke, moderated a diverse and young panel. Included was Mr. Daksitha Wickremarathne, member of the Global Civil Society Advisory Group, who noted that governments should not only aim for gender equality, but true inclusivity for solidarity, dignity and shared prosperity. To this, Alhendawi challenged the development community, underscoring the need to ensure youth participation by prioritizing youth development, increasing funding for youth issues and creating more mechanisms and platforms for youth participation.
Youth are critical to the Sustainable Development Goals. Youth must be mobilized as a joint force with the development community, and at the Hunger Project our programs work to mobilize, educate and give youth a voice. They must not only have a say in how we reach development goals, but should also have significant ownership of the efforts along the way.