— UN Youth Envoy (@UNYouthEnvoy) April 20, 2022
‘Rescue’ the planet
The Youth Envoy thanked the thousands of young people around the world who “were leading our conversations every step of the way” throughout the Youth Forum – despite facing countless challenges and disproportionate impacts amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There is no need to sugar coat it – we live in a world abundant with crises and emergencies,” said Ms. Wickramanayake.
In addition, the world remains off-track in achieving the SDGs by 2030, she stressed, calling for efforts to “rescue” both the Goals and the planet.
“We have heard time and time again…the constant demands of young people to change the oppressive systems and structures that weigh us down, that increase inequalities and trap us in a cycle of violence,” she said.
Stressing that many ideas, visions and solutions were put forward over the last two days, the Youth Envoy urged participants not to simply “pat ourselves on the back and move on” but instead to harness the moment, act and hold leaders accountable.
Sharifah Shakirah, Founder and Director of the Rohingya Women Development Network, said that the 2030 Agenda was launched to end poverty and set the path to peace, prosperity and equality for all on a healthy planet.
However, “today, we live in two different worlds”, she said, noting that in one, privileged people are protected by their countries, and in the other – exemplified by where she was born – children are forced to flee violence and persecution.
Describing young people as the bridge between both worlds, she pointed out that, even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, one in five youth globally suffered from limited access to education, and one in four faced conflict.
Now, in the context of the pandemic, “young people are maintaining open communication with their communities”, including by creating grassroots organizations and providing assistance to others on the ground.
Those sentiments were echoed by a range of UN officials, who praised the countless young people that contributed to both the Forum and COVID-19 recovery efforts at every level.
Liu Zhenmin, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), welcomed the active contributions of young people, which personify the UN’s goal of “leaving no one behind.”
Meaningful engagement with youth is at the core of DESA’s work, including in climate change action and financing for development, he said, adding that his department it is always exploring new ways to engage with young people such as through its UN Youth Delegates programme.