Anne-Sophie Dubrux and Herlinde Baeyens, the Belgian UN Youth Delegates for Sustainable Development share how young people across the world can engage with the SDGs especially ahead of the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development happening now at the UN Headquarters in New York.
“The creativity, energy and passion of young people are indispensable for tackling global challenges.” Ban Ki-moon
As you all know, calling upon young people as key actors of change is ‘bon ton’ and that’s a good thing! As decisions are now made over our future, it is normal that we are included. It is necessary that youth is around the table, and that we make sure the choices made are future-oriented. One of the ways youth can be present, and might make a difference is through the UN Youth Delegate Programme.
As Belgian UN Youth Delegates for Sustainable Development we feel honoured to follow up political processes on sustainable development and attend the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development from 9 to 19 July in New York, but we feel very privileged and a bit lonely too.
We know that all over the world young people are getting involved to build a better and more sustainable future but at an international level youth’s voices are insufficiently heard. What’s more: We fear this lack of representation at the international level is a symptom of a lack of inclusion of youth at the national level. Since decisions are taken mostly at that level, that is the real problem.
The UN Youth Delegate programme can help for both. It ensures presence of youth at high level meetings as part of national delegations, and if it’s implemented in a proper way, the Youth Delegates are representative of their national youth and are able to impact national decisions. In this way, the UN Youth Delegate programme can ensure youth’s involvement in decision-making in a structural way: “including young people in national delegations [...] strengthens existing channels of communication and cooperation between governments and young people. Listening to youth and making them full partners in the decision-making process can help governments enact more effective and legitimate policies and programmes, especially with regard to youth issues”.
We specifically want to encourage countries to include youth in policy-making processes on sustainable development. Indeed, the UN Youth Delegate programme is rather well known and broadly implemented when it comes to the General Assembly, especially the Third Committee where many youth-related topics are on the agenda. Youth delegates also attend the CSocD Forum as well as at the Conference of Parties (COP) on climate. However, currently less than 10 countries bring UN Youth Delegates to the HLPF on Sustainable development. We believe that this is not the optimum we are striving for. Sustainable development is critical for our generation so young people from around the globe need to be able to actively participate in shaping the policies and processes around it.
The HLPF’s main purpose is to follow up the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Every year, countries are expected to come and present their Voluntary National Review (their efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda). Other countries can ask questions and comment it, with exchanges of good practices on the SDGs. As UN Youth Delegates we will use our presence to advocate for more youth inclusion and participation, both at the national and international level. We will do that through bilateral contacts with as many countries as possible, but also through our side event on how youth inclusion in sustainable development processes (e.g. in Voluntary National Reviews), with a focus on tools such as the UN Youth Delegate Programme, can contribute to a better HLPF. The format will matter as much as the content: we will livestream the event and use modern technologies such as virtual reality to highlight that more inclusive, innovative and dynamic alternatives are possible!
So this is our call to you: Get in contact with your delegation, ask them to think about youth inclusion in sustainability processes and about the UN Youth Delegate Programme. Tell them about our side event and ask them to come so that we can encourage them to adopt good practices. Or ask them to organise a meeting with us. Use any opportunity you have to advocate for more youth participation. We are convinced that this way we can mutually strengthen our common message: “Youth inclusion is the key to sustainable development”!