Development Strategies
Beginning Jan. 30, the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Youth Forum provided a stage to engage youth in sustainable development dialogue with the Member States and to share their experiences and approaches to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

In his opening remarks at the two-day event, Peter Thomson, President of the 71st U.N. General Assembly, emphasized the role of today’s youth in global development strategies. “Our best chance of achieving the transformation to a sustainable way of life must lie in ensuring that young people are fully engaged and that they are empowered as innovators in our development processes,” he said.

He went on to say in the “Assembly Achieving the SDGs: Harnessing the Power of Youth” panel that young people should also consider their involvement in global development as an investment for their generation’s future wellbeing.

“Youth will be the adults of tomorrow when the 2030 agenda comes about,” Thomson said. “So everything we’re working on at the moment is in a way more relevant to youth than the people of my generation.”

During “The Role of Youth in Promoting Food Security and Zero Hunger” panel on Jan. 31, Alpha Sennon, founder of Trinidad and Tobago‘s youth-centric agriculture program WhyFarm, highlighted some methods to promoting sustainable food security to youth. Examples include exposing younger children to pro-sustainability art and music.

“If we could get young people to sing these positive lyrics, it would have an impact on what they do, what they want to become when they grow up, simple actions,” he said.

In regards to older youths, Sennon said the best way to get teens involved in agricultural development initiatives is to appeal to their pre-existing interests and skill sets.

“If you already have a skill… we will take that skill and make you an entrepreneur for agriculture and food security,” he said. “There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Let’s make it spin.”

Working with youth in sustainable development is especially relevant considering how unemployment, underemployment and inequality disproportionately affect youth. According to the International Labor Organization, 37.7% of working youth are in extreme or moderate poverty, compared to 26% of working adults.

An ECOSOC Youth Forum side event entitled “Education and Poverty Eradication: NGO Youth Leaders at the Forefront” also convened on Jan. 31. The session included an interactive trivia panel regarding SDG Goals 1 and 4, which pertain to global poverty and education.

During the panel, Radja Benmansour, an intern at the Department of Public Information and NGO Relations, stressed the importance of treating young people as equals when addressing youth in sustainable development.

“To get youth involved, you first need conversations, and you need to be persistent,” she said. “Another way is to ask what they want to see changed in their communities. Not only have them be actors but have them be the main solution makers.”

Casie Wilson

Photo: Flickr

post-2015 agenda
From June 2-3, the United Nation’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) organized a forum for youth organizations and young delegates to voice their opinions about ways to complete the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) before 2015 as well as visions for the U.N.’s post-2015 agenda.

The MDGs were set by the U.N. in 2000 and include eight goals based around eliminating poverty, such as reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, attaining a worldwide standard of primary education and halving extreme poverty levels, all by the target date of 2015.

With the target year fast approaching, the U.N. has already started formulating its next development strategy, and the discussions that emerged in the Youth Forum held earlier this week are valuable contributions to the debates.

Employment opportunities for youth were the center of one of the Forum’s discussions. Jobs in rising sectors like information technology were highlighted as areas with the potential to create many jobs for youth, with an additional focus in creating jobs that use sustainable development practices to help end global poverty.

Why focus on youth to help develop the post-2015 agenda?

Young people have just as much, if not more, potential to help realize development goals as innovative and inspired citizens.

Even though youth are always impacted by policy decisions, the demographics of the world we live in today call for a heavier emphasis on the next generation of leaders.

A U.N. report stated, “With half the world’s population under the age of 25, the current generation of youth is the largest ever, and specific targets focused on youth should be integrated into any future development framework.”

More than any other time in history, youth should have a say in future policy discussions. It is today’s generation of youth that will be carrying out the post-2015 U.N. development agenda and living in a post-2015 world; listening to their concerns should be a priority.

Martin Sajdik, the president of ECOSOC, said, “Youth are not only the future of tomorrow – youth are leaders, entrepreneurs, students, workers, care-givers and problem solvers of today.”

Hopefully the U.N. will continue to involve youth in discussions about its future development agenda, as young people have fresh ideas and the enthusiasm needed to end poverty in their lifetimes.

— Emily Jablonski

Sources: Friendship Ambassadors, UN 1, UN 2
Photo: Forbes

On January 23, 1946, the first session of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) was held.  Almost 68 years later, ECOSOC is still grappling with the world’s economic, social and environmental challenges.  The broad categorization is daunting, especially since the Council and its subsidiary bodies are responsible for about 70 percent of the entire U.N. human and financial resources.  The span of ECOSOC encompasses economic, social, cultural, educational and health concerns, according to the U.N. Charter.  The Council’s subsidiary bodies demonstrate the diversity under ECOSOC’s umbrella of responsibility: U.N. Forum on Forests, Commission on Narcotic Drugs, Commission for Social Development, and the various regional commissions.

The U.N. General Assembly elects the 54 member-governments, with each region allocated a certain number of seats.  The U.S.’ three year term began in 2012 and will end in 2015.  The Colombian representative is currently President, with four Vice-Presidents from Albania, Austria, Pakistan and Sudan.  The year 2013 has seen major reform efforts from the Council, aiming to make ECOSOC more effective, more issues-oriented, and more responsive.  For example, the Commission on Sustainable Development held its final session in September after it was slated to be dismantled due to lack of progress in its sector.  The chairperson acknowledged that though the Commission greatly influenced the 21st century environmental goals, it did not create the change sought out by the larger Council.

As a result of its extensive areas of focus, ECOSOC is one of the most important humanitarian bodies in the United Nations.  One of the early acts by ECOSOC was to adopt the Commission on Human Rights’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, an early stepping-stone in the path to equality.  The current reforms mark an important return to an issue-centered approach that many hope will lead to greater progress in the subsidiary bodies’ foci.

Katey Baker-Smith

Sources: UN News Centre, UNISDR

The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) kicked off its annual forum at the start of this month, focusing on the importance of science and innovation to achieve development goals. The top UN officials, who were in attendance at the forum, stressed that technology and science are crucial for tackling todays global challenges, from reducing poverty to ensuring sustainable development. Some of the key speakers on the first day of this forum were ECOSOC president, Ambassador Nestor Osorio of Columbia, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and President of the UN General Assembly, Vuk Jeremic.

“The steadily increasing pace of technological innovation makes ours an era of a long profound change…So many fields of human endeavor – medicine, energy, agriculture – have made significant, even drastic, improvements in just a few generations. Yet in the field of development, despite our progress, there are still over one billion people living in extreme poverty. And tonight many, if not most, will go to bed hungry,” said Osorio.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressed the importance of science and innovation as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) come to a close in 2015. While some of the MDGs have already been met, there are several that need extra attention if the international community wishes to achieve them by 2015. “We must intensify out efforts, particularly to tackle the disparities across regions and between social groups…the future we want is within reach. Let us innovate together to achieve it,” stated Ki-moon.

Finally, Vuk Jeremic, President of the UN General Assembly, spoke about the need for a renewed commitment from Member States to face these development challenges together. He urged for a revitalized General Assembly and a renewed ECOSOC to lead the UN in setting the world on a more equitable, prosperous and environmentally sound path.

The ECOSOC forum will last for 26 days, but this assembly on innovation and science will last for four, including several more speeches from world leaders as well as collaboration meetings between several international institutions.

– Catherine Ulrich

Source: UN News, UNOG
Photo: Ventures