Mount students traveled to the Headquarters of the United Nations in New York City to participate in the United Nations 2015 Global Youth Forum on February 2-3, 2015. The focus of the forum was to maximize the engagement of young people in the transition from Millennium Development Goals (2000-2015) to Sustainable Development Goals (post-2015). More than 600 young people from around the world gathered to engage in the conversation.
The energy at the forum was high with ideas flowing between youth delegates, the President and Vice Presidents of the UN Economic and Social Council who hosted the event, plus Ministers of Youth and youth program directors from Member States, and Ambassadors and Permanent Representatives to the UN from Ecuador, Jordon, Austria, Ireland, Kenya, Netherlands, USA, Croatia, Gambia, Portugal, Albania, Spain, United Arab Emirates, Romania, Burkino Faso, Mexico, Tunisia, Norway, Guyana, South Korea, Congo, Russia, Argentina, Germany, Sri Lanka, Colombia, China, Sierra Leone, Burundi, Bolivia, and more. Participants benefited from simultaneous translation in Spanish, French, Russian, Chinese, and Arabic!
The United Nations estimates that there are 1.8 billion young people aged 10-24 in the world today, close to one-quarter of the world’s population. Thus, youth engagement is not a luxury, but rather a necessity to provide a platform for young people to engage in action and policy making. Youth input in critical to address issues such as education, employment, poverty, health, environment, juvenile justice, leisure, globalization, technology, HIV/AIDS, and armed conflict.
The Mount delegation consisted of Emily Davis (International Studies), Brigid Flay (Economics), Regina Fleck (International Studies), John-Paul Heil (History, Philosophy, Italian), Phil Noto (Accounting), Brian Quigley (Political Science), and Kevin Rein (Political Science, Business). The trip was led by Dr. Patrice Flynn, the Morrison Professor of International Studies in the Bolte School of Business, as part of the Morrison global engagement program at the Mount.
The United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened the Youth Forum with a call for young people to “Challenge your leaders. You have the prerogative as young people. The Future is yours.” He focused our attention on a “new agenda with poverty and sustainable development at its core, where gender equality is a practical reality.” If we are to end poverty and hunger and bring about gender equality in our lifetimes, the delegates were encouraged by Dr. Ban Ki-moon to be bold, courageous and visionary, to bring creative ideas to the table, and to enter into partnerships with the United Nations and civil society to advance the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals so that “no one is left behind.”
Dr. Flynn believes that input from young people is essential in the development process if we are to devise innovative ways to effectively address poverty, sustainability, and gender equality. “I was thrilled to see our Mount students fully engaged in the conversation with such a prestigious group of diplomats, students, and world leaders. Having a youth lens is imperative to ensure that the Sustainable Development Goals are viable and relevant to young people as they move into adulthood.”
The 2015 Global Youth Forum also marked the 20th anniversary of the World Programme of Action for Youth, the 20-year review of the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action for the benefit of young women and girls, and a new focus on the needs of African youth. The forum allowed young people an avenue for participation and input into intergovernmental discussions at the highest levels.
By the end of the forum, a set of recommendations were agreed upon and will be transmitted by youth delegates to the Members States in July of 2015. Some of the recommendations focused concretely on increasing the representation of young people in parliaments, securing line item funding for youth programs and transitions from school to work in national budgets, and inclusion of youth in the finalization and implementation of the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals.