As more than 800 young leaders gather in New York for the annual United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Youth Forum, UN officials today launched a new initiative to tackle youth unemployment, making it clear that success in fighting poverty and inequality will largely depend on them being a driving force.
“The challenges we face may seem overwhelming and out of reach for us to solve. But that is not true. Each and every one of us can be an agent of change, no matter our age or means,” said Oh Joon, the President of ECOSOC, at the opening of the two-day event at UN Headquarters.
It is the fifth time the Council hosts the Forum, which this year is focusing on the role of young people in implementing, communicating and realizing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which aims for global changes through 17 goals (SDGs) within the next 15 years.
“Many of the biggest challenges we are facing are especially daunting for young people,” Mr. Oh added. “Youth unemployment continues to be on the rise. Young people all over the world face a world where inequalities are high, where destinies too often depend on gender, race, social status or religion,” he said.
To energize the global job market, a plan to “unleash the dynamism of youth,” considered the first-ever UN system-wide response to the global youth employment crisis, was launched.
Addressing the Forum, Guy Ryder, the Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO), said the Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth will generate decent jobs for them and assist in their transition from school-to-work.
He described the initiative as a unique partnership with governments, the UN system, businesses, academic institutions, youth organizations and other groups to scale-up action to create new opportunities and avenues for quality employment in the global economy.
“Today, two out of every five young persons of working age are either unemployed or working jobs that don't pay enough to escape poverty,” he stressed to the hundreds of young people in attendance, noting that the trap of “working poverty” affects as many as 169 million of them.
According to ILO, in low-income countries the situation is even worse where nine in ten young workers remain in informal employment which is sporadic, poorly paid and falls outside the protection of law.
“Your voices reflect the aspirations of young people everywhere. Your voices must be heard and acted upon if we are to shape inclusive and sustainable societies, challenging injustices and inequalities and opening pathways to peace, progress and prosperity for all,” declared Mr. Rider.
Meanwhile, the UN Secretary-General's Envoy on Youth, Ahmad Alhendawi, said “the launching of this timely initiative reflects the UN commitment to tackle youth unemployment and promote decent jobs for youth.”
He noted that it reflects that youth employment should be a priority at all levels to unlock the potential of 1.8 billion young people, “a recipe that is imperative for development, as well as peace and security.”
Also speaking at today's event, UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said the situation must change. “Now comes the real test: making it happen, making it a reality. Our work begins with you now, with us together at the start of the first year of implementation.”
“This is a historic step forward to recognizing the role and potential of young people in the world today for peace and security. It may play the same role for young people and the world as the legendary Security Council resolution 1325 has played for women over the years,” he underlined.
The two-day event is expected to feature brainstorming sessions, interactive panels and discussions with Member States.