My First Virtual Youth Forum @ UN ECOSOC
by Sophie Cervera
On April 7-8, 2021, I attended the UN ECOSOC Youth Forum. The event commemorated its 10th anniversary. It was also the first time the event was held virtually and joined by more than 10,000 participants of diverse backgrounds from all over the world.
Aside from the main event, there were also side events that can be attended. It was difficult to join the breakout sessions due to limited capacity, which makes it harder for participants to get in. However, you can still watch it live through UN Web TV. You can also listen to the live stream in six official languages of the UN through real-time translation, which was cool to experience. Social media participation was also possible with the hashtag: #Youth2030.
Here are the following SDGs that were addressed in the forum:
At first, I was amazed by the enthusiasm and passion given by the youth who presented at the forum. Each participant talked about the SDG that spoke to them the most and related it to their personal experiences, which made their voices powerful and meaningful.
For example, one youth delegate from Bangladesh shared unequal treatment of the LGBTQ2S+ community who were left out during COVID pass registration. This only shows the stigma against the LGBTQ2S+ community, limiting their access to services even during the pandemic.
In another roundtable discussion, another point was raised. How can youth participate in these youth discussions if they cannot meet their basic needs first? Nutrition and food security are also essential, more so in other countries where poverty is rampant. This boils down to SDG 2 and 3 of “no hunger” and “good health & well-being.” The discussion led to the realization of the interconnectedness of the SDGs since if we cannot address one issue, i.e., hunger, we won’t be able to move forward with the advocacy.
In some areas, technology is still a problem and so, their social mobility and access to resources might be hindered, especially now that everything is moving virtual. There are isolated areas without internet connection, making it hard to reach those communities. So, how do we make these communities described as “hard to reach” become “reachable”?
The same question of “hard to reach” à “reachable” can be asked of institutions and governments.
In one of the regional sessions of the side events I attended, I came across an interesting discussion on how youth participation is still shunned upon in institution and government levels. In response to this, a delegate said along the lines of, “we, as youth, have already earned our seats in the table.”
Near the closing remarks event, a youth delegate representing as a person with disability from Syria made a response to stakeholders: “we are not asking for charity, but we are asking because it is our right.”
This statement spoke to me and made me think back to a point delivered by another delegate in the previous roundtable discussions, that “we should put pressure to the government to act on giving youth a voice and have them as stakeholders, taking part in decision making of our policies.”
Below is a list of important details I recorded during the sessions:
The institutions should give free consultation in support of grassroots initiative and active participation of youth.
When facilitating youth-led initiatives, the following were shared:
Create a robust framework, where everyone sees themselves in it.
Offer translations of documents and resources used.
Build concepts which reflect real life experience of the community.
Provide funding and support.
Ancestral and Indigenous knowledge are included in intergenerational dialogues.
Inclusion of discussion on mental health.
Linkages from the institution level to community, and individual engagement
Foster synergy among rural and urban communities.
Similarly, another youth delegate emphasised that, “the youth occupy majority of the population in some countries.” With this statement, it is essential to empower the youth through global participation. This includes creating sustainability through service projects addressing issues on climate change, clean water, fight against hunger, literacy, technology, and inclusion.
Finally, the event ended with a reflection of what has been done and what the future looks like. This was further reinforced through a video series illustrating the active participation of youth around the world. Most especially, I was in awe upon seeing the initiative that was started by the youth from Indonesia, with their start-up project which eventually captured the international audience. It was indeed an inspiration hearing and witnessing the various contributions of young people around the world.
The ECOSOC Forum ended with networking opportunities through social media and other online platform connections. This was truly an experience worth remembering and partaking.
My food for thought:
Sustaining the youth of tomorrow,
begins with commitment to grow.
Building resilience through time,
helps empower the YOUTH to shine!