ECOSOC Youth Forum 2018

It is crucial that youth be informed of the fundamental issues of sustainability and that they participate in the development of long-term solutions – Without young people, Global Goals will not be achieved

ECOSOC youth forum opening

Participants at opening of the 2018 Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Youth Forum. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

By Kaitlin Drape – Every year the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) brings together youth leaders from around the world to engage with member states at the United Nations and discuss initiatives to advance the youth development agenda at global, regional and national levels. The 2018 ECOSOC Youth Forum, took place on the 30th and 31st of January in New York under the theme: “The role of youth in building sustainable and resilient urban and rural communities”.

With a great focus on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), one of the breakout sessions of this year’s Forum discussed SDG 17 (Partnerships) in regards to the use of Science, Technology and Innovation (ST&I) in facilitating youth engagement, development and resilience. The group addressed the following questions: How can young people better engage in policy processes related to the crucial area of science, technology and innovation? What are the barriers to youth involvement and how can science, technology and innovation help to leverage youth engagement in sustainable development?

Ecosoc Youth Forum logoThis session focused on the importance of leveraging ST&I within the youth sector both because they will require those skills to engage in the workforce, policy making and social inclusion, but also because youth can bring to the table a crucial perspective within their communities, states and the UN.  Youth can actually “drive development of tools because youth have a keen understanding of their communities.”

Youth engagement is of great importance in areas of fragility: Some 43% of nations are either crisis-affected, have fragile economies or have a humanitarian plan in place. In these areas, youth are especially vulnerable.  Worldwide, 71 million youth are unemployed and 160.6 are employed but live in poverty and most don’t possess the skills to work in the digital economy.

Enabling youth entrepreneurship

There is a lack of mentoring, a lack of access to tools and resources, as well as gender and diversity issues which must be addressed. Government and the private sector must provide access to digital training, quality apprenticeships within the business sector, financial aid, and opportunities for entrepreneurship. It is crucial that digital skills strategies be included in national, international and global goals through school curricula, outside opportunities like coding camps, training incentives, financial assistance, and access to free online training opportunities.   Indeed, the International Labour Organization’s “Global Initiative for Decent Jobs for Youth” has as its goal to equip 5 million youth with skills for the workplace by 2030 and promote “an enabling environment for youth entrepreneurship.” This program will create opportunities for supporting youth development to ensure their participation in the economies.


In addition to this discussion, ECOSOC Youth Forum 2018 Breakout Session on SDG 12, “Ensure Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns”, honed on more basic lack of necessities, with an attendee from Nepal mentioning that 30% of all food was “wasted from the plate,” and that even in developing countries, there is enormous waste of food.  It creates greenhouse gases to create the food, and greenhouse gases to dispose of it. Both developing and developed countries need similar new frameworks for new production patterns. Therefore, the matters of allocation and preservation are critical for future policy making.

In fact, promoting sustainable production can mean providing opportunities for youth, as youth can be an influence as consumers and as entrepreneurs. Today, globally there is the largest youth population in history. It is crucial that youth be informed of the fundamental issues of sustainability and that they participate in the development of long-term solutions. Youth need to have a consultative relationship with state bodies to add to the debate and be encouraged to launch locally-based projects which foster sustainability and provide examples for others. As it was stated during the event, entrepreneurial efforts by youth are critical to the promotion of sustainable production and must therefore be systematically encouraged.