On 7 and 8 April, UNDP co-organized the 10th Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Youth Forum under the theme ‘A Decade of Action: Building a Resilient Recovery’. The ECOSOC Youth Forum is an annual initiative and a critical platform where young people can amplify their voices, contribute to policy discussions and make concrete recommendations to the United Nations through their stories, solutions and innovations at a global level. The forum is an opportunity for representatives of youth-led organizations and networks to interact with Member States, and to explore ways and means of promoting youth empowerment.
On the occasion of the Africa breakout session, the forum addressed challenges and opportunities related to the culture of innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship among African youth to build forward better for sustainable development. The multiple effects of COVID-19 have demonstrated the key role of young people in the continent, and also highlighted their contributions to innovative solutions that impact positively on the socio-economic transitions at the national level.
During the session, eight young speakers shared their stories and recommendations, pointing out the need for policies and legal infrastructures that are inclusive of young and vulnerable people. Interventions also touched on the need to craft an enabling environment for young people to grow their innovative and creative ideas as well as demonstrate their potential for entrepreneurship.
“To ensure that all young people have the opportunity to achieve the SDGs, we need to localize the SDGs and make sure the needs of the communities are heard and addressed,” said Angela Muruli, a UN Volunteer working with UN Women in Nigeria.
African youth representatives agreed that gender equity should be seen as a human rights issue and emphasized the importance of ensuring and encouraging participation of women and girls. Furthermore, they stressed the importance of engaging Africa’s young people meaningfully in decision-making processes and inter-generational dialogues.
Youth speakers also recommended that youth engagement for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) must be localized and operationalized at the community level. To that effect, it is important to leverage existing services such as the UN Volunteer (UNV) national, youth and community volunteer modalities for SDG implementation.
In its Renewed Strategic Offer for Africa, UNDP has renewed its commitment to supporting young people’s leadership and meaningful participation through mentorship and investing in entrepreneurial initiatives. UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Africa is also committed to elevating the role of young people as both first responders and active agents of change in the continent and will continue to support governments and youth-led organizations in empowering young people towards Agenda 2030.