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Young people taking control of their future - 2016 UN Youth Forum

By Alex Hughes and Jane Fiona Cumming

The beginning of February saw the UN Youth Forum convene with a key agenda item: “Youth Taking Action to Implement the 2030 Agenda”. While aseries of key messages and recommendations emerged for how young people (aged between 15 and 24) could forward the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, an overarching theme discussed during the forum was the unsustainable trajectory young people are currently on. As Oh Joon stated at the Forum’s closing ceremony “the challenges the youth is facing are real”. 

So what is the challenge and why the focus on youth?

  • Globally, trends demonstrate that young people are three times as likely as adults to be unemployed. In 2014, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimated 13% of global youth were unemployed, equivalent to roughly 73 million young people.
  • Further, around 40% of young men and women are either unemployed or working while remaining in poverty. This trap of working poverty affects as many as 169 million youth.
  • As stated by Guy Ryder, the Director-General of the ILO, these trends are further compounded in low-income countries “where nine in ten young workers remain in informal employment which is sporadic, poorly paid and falls outside the protection of law”

Young people and Jobs

It may be a surprise to learn that over half the World’s population are under 30, and in 2012, nearly 90% of the global population aged below 30 lived in developing and emerging economies. It is clear then that these employment trends affect a great number of youth disproportionately. Encouragingly the Youth Forum event brought in the launch of the Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth, by Guy Ryder of the ILO. The initiative will use the expertise of the participating UN entities and partners by focusing on green jobs, apprenticeships, digital skills and the building of tech hubs. It also intends to support those young people in the rural economy and facilitate the transition from informal to formal economy. In addition, it seeks to promote youth entrepreneurship which is seen as a key driver for young people’s economic empowerment, and for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Youth Empowerment

The Forum also recognised that young people are not only key actors in advancing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, but also directly affected by the challenges the SDGs seek to tackle. Increasing the voice of young people and their empowerment in such agendas will further the critical role they have in shaping their own future and the future of the planet. It was encouraging to note the UN Security Council recently adopting Resolution 2250 in December 2015, which urges member states to increase representation of youth in decision-making at all levels. As stated by Dina Kawar, Jordan’s representative, “What we seek is to draw the world’s attention to ensure that young people are given the attention they deserve at a time when the world is a theatre for an increasing number of negative issues”.

Photo credit: NorwayUN: 2016 ECOSOC Youth Forum: “Youth Taking Action to Implement the 2030 Agenda” - Flickr

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