On June 2nd, the United Nations hosted the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). This forum discusses global economic and social progress, while looking to future issues and needs to be met. More specifically, this assembly discussed the post-2015 actions regarding the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) in regards to youth empowerment.
As stated Secretary-General by Ban Ki-Moon, “Youth are leaders of tomorrow, but I know that the youth are also leaders today.” He urged today’s youth to “raise your voices, loud and clear. Show your leadership. Raise your voices, challenge your ministers, your politicians…this is your world. You need to be part of decision making. You are the future. Get involved.”
Globally, one in five people are considered to be youth. In African countries, 50% of the population is under the age of 19, having significant implications. However, they are often oversimplified, marginalized, excluded and silenced. On the contrary, as discussed at the ECOSOC, this demographic should be considered as an opportunity to contribute to economic growth, development and stability.
As stated by a UN representative, “development should not be happening for youth, but rather byyouth; they are the development.”
This platform led to many different but linked discussion topics, including health, education, women, and the economic development vs. sustainability debate. How can we think about sustainability, when one million jobs a month need to be created? How do we think about scale and sustainability, while not forgetting that these are the lives of individuals? How do we think global & local? However, environmental degradation is an amplifier of social, economic, and environmental problems, whereby a mismanagement of resources creates a positive feedback loop.
Watching these questions evolve, I started to wonder if we can resolve these global issues through discussion. Although they can easily be criticized, fostering conversations are a first step to action. Many of the solutions the assembly came to involved education as the most powerful tool to change the world. Young people need to actively participate, engage in a meaningful way to disrupt the current paradigm.
Written by Claire Bouillon, Environmental Services Intern.