ECOSOC Youth Forum 2024 Highlights

 ECOSOC Youth Forum 2024 Highlights



16-18 April 2024 | United Nations Headquarter | New York

ECOSOC Youth Forum is the most prominent platform at the United Nations convening youth advocates and young professionals working towards human rights advocacy under the motto of “Leaving No One Behind” and mobilizing experts for inclusive, action-oriented policy making through the lens of young decision-makers and pioneers. As youth empowerment is a priority working area for the Journalists and Writers Foundation (JWF), Cemre Ulker, UN Representative of the JWF participated at the annual ECOSOC Youth Forum. On the sidelines of this critical intergovernmental gathering, Ms. Ulker also spoke as Keynote and Guest Lecturer at a variety of universities, addressing a global audience across borders generating knowledge on the latest implementation status of the Global Goals 2030, informing the participants on the reasons behind the stagnation stage of the Sustainable Development Goals and shared resources available at United Nations for meaningful youth participation.

The main working theme at the ECOSOC Youth Forum 2024 was “Youth Shaping Sustainable and Innovative Solutions: Reinforcing the 2030 Agenda and Eradicating Poverty in Times of Crises”. Over two days of plenary sessions, side events, regional discussions, and networking opportunities, young individuals participated at the UN premises voicing regional priorities and generating global resolutions. Multidisciplinary discussions fostering a dialogue between UN Member States, diplomats, youth representatives, academic institutions and civil society partners focused on the intersectionality between SDG 1: Ending Poverty, SDG 2: No Hunger, SDG 13: Climate Action, SDG 16: Peaceful, Just and Strong Institutions and SDG 17: Revitalizing Global Partnerships for Sustainable Development.

The world is home to the largest number of youth population with over 1.8 billion people and Sub-Saharan Africa is the world`s youngest region with %40 of the population under the age of 15. At this critical crossroads, where Sustainable Development Goals are at imminent risk of being a promise in peril, meaningful youth participation and leadership have a transformative potential to shift the gears towards timely, effective, and gender-sensitive implementation of the Global Goals. Despite their high potential, across the ECOSOC Youth Forum meetings, loss of trust in global governance and multilateral diplomacy has been identified as the first stagnation fact of SDGs falling behind its trajectory of 2030. The year 2024 is a historical corner as %50 of the global population will be heading to polls for democratic elections to choose the national and local leaders. Bridging the gap of youth inclusion in decision-making processes in the year of elections was therefore at the center of the ECOSOC discussions. Youth speakers underlined the deficit of democracies and electoral processes. The majority of the regional representatives highlighted the fact that young voters do not feel represented as government authorities make decisions without prioritizing the needs and projections of youth. Young delegates raised a red flag that economic empowerment is the most prominent challenge in front of their way to prosperity which is frustrating for the mental well-being of young people and the lack of economic opportunities continues to reduce the trust between society and governments.

Young delegates emphasized that the fundamental part of achieving peace and security crosses pathways with youth`s political empowerment. Social and legal barriers are signaled as urgent working areas to be improved for the implementation of the Security Council Resolution 2250: Youth, Peace, and Security. Improving political participation, and inclusive gender-sensitive participation during elections in countries with the increasing presence of undemocratic states are highlighted by young participants calling for UN agencies to work with State Parties and create inclusive conditions for younger generations` political presence. Various experts taking the floor from the civil society sector shared several best practices and programs to increase awareness among young individuals, empowering them to meaningfully participate in decision-making bodies, and enabling spaces of peaceful and inclusive dialogue.

Polarization in online and offline spaces in the age of increasing artificial intelligence and digitalization was also highlighted as an alarming working area. Young speakers shared their personal experiences of youth civic spaces being threatened and urged their state authorities to increase timely strategies in rebuilding support of violent prevention efforts. Reprisals towards youth in participating in generational and political transition periods, cause youth to take a step back dissolving youth initiatives and resulting in youth political engagements being suspended. Youth representatives from Global South shared their opinion on the resentment that a high number of youth populations in developing countries are being identified as a problem rather than highlighting their high potential working towards sustainable peace and prosperity. Shrinking spaces of civil and political participation force youth generations into exile to rebuild a new vision and a safer future.

Young experts also underlined the requirement of increasing the financial capacity of youth-led peace initiatives. The global audience that participated at the ECOSOC Youth Forum agreed on a consensus that Secretary-General Antonio Guterres` New Agenda for Peace projection must be grounded in multilateral trust, universality, and action. Breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty shall be prioritized addressing the needs of young generations to be economically, socially, and politically productive citizens of their respective countries.

On the sidelines of the ECOSOC Youth Forum week, JWF`s Representative to the UN Department of Global Communications and human rights expert Cemre Ulker engaged with high school and college students briefing them about the latest stages of SDGs progress. Ms. Ulker brought young participants` attention to the alarming 2 decades of undemocratic presence in the global governance levels and underlined the 13th year of consecutive decline in internet and press freedom on a universal scale. Despite this concerning status quo, throughout the sessions that she was invited to at Ivy Tech Community College, Hofstra University, Stony Brook University, and UNESCO Center for Peace, Ms. Ulker highlighted the role of young human rights advocates in reversing this negative trendline into establishing peaceful and cohesive societies. Ms. Ulker presented opportunities at the United Nations available for youth participation as also noted in the priority areas of the Summit of the Future, the young generation`s valuable contributions to sustainable peace and development is a must to realize the commitment of the SDGs “Leaving No One Behind”.