The poster advertising the special thematic session on the Sustainable Development Goal 11 at 2023 ECOSOC Youth Forum, April 2023. Credits: UN DESA

Amplifying Youth Voices for Sustainable Urban Future at 2023 ECOSOC Youth Forum

Share This Post

We need to increase youth representation and meaningful inclusion in local governments and urban governance processes in order to build sustainable cities and communities (SDG 11). To achieve this, it is critical to combat ageism and other barriers to participation, to make governance systems understandable and accessible to youth, and to build capacities and knowledge of youth to engage with and contribute to all levels of governance.

7 May 2023, New York. – The Thematic Breakout Session on Sustainable Development Goal 11 brought together a diverse group of young people to discuss the challenges they face in urban settings. Many of these challenges included vulnerability to crime and violence, lack of inclusion in local communities, unemployment, limited space for participation in urban governance and planning, the consequences of COVID-19, conflicts, and climate change.

Cities provide a safe haven for those whose rights have been threatened or have experienced persecution. Cities have the power to lead the charge and the wheel. The earth is not flat, the earth is urban. If we do not recognize that the settlements down the road are related to where we live, we shall all suffer.
Brighton Kaoma
SDSN Youth
By 2050 68% of people will be living in urban areas worldwide. We must create an enabling environment for the youth to actively participate in the decision-making process which will ultimately benefit their communities and societies and urban communities at large. It is time to act and provide the opportunity to make a positive difference in our society.”-
Ali Mustafa

Migrant and refugee youth, young people on the move, informal settlement residents, and persons with disabilities were identified as particularly vulnerable groups who are disproportionately affected. To address these challenges, the localization of SDGs led by youth was seen as critical in promoting sustainable urban development and reducing inequalities.

The effects of mental health are even worse for people that live in communities that have lost their houses due to mudslides, however, we have solutions, it is unacceptable that while rich communities enjoy the effects of parks and trees, marginalized communities live near factories polluting the environment, we need to decolonize our urban settings and redistribute wealth. It is important we challenge a system that perpetuates inequalities.
Alicia Maldonado
Peru Youth Delegate

The session produced a set of recommendations to ensure access to basic services and social systems for all youth, including mental health care and adequate housing. It was also recommended to cultivate trust and connection between youth and governments and law enforcement, co-create effective crime prevention strategies with youth, and address corruption at all levels that perpetuate crime and violence.

A whole-of-community approach will enable the community to contribute at early stages, employing big data and empowering youth does accelerate the growth and attracts global markets and investments and builds resilient community by integrating youth at early stages.
Juhina Said Khalfan Al Shamsi
Oman Youth Delegate

The session also called for meaningful youth inclusion in urban governance processes and the creation of safe and accessible spaces with local authorities. It was suggested that governance systems should be made understandable and accessible to youth, and their capacities and knowledge should be built to engage with and contribute to the improvement of current systems on all levels of governance.

We have the right to dignify life and dignify space.
Rahildaris Marchena, Global Refugee Youth Network
Rahildaris Marchena
Global Refugee Youth Network

Furthermore, the session recommended creating platforms for young people to nurture civic engagement practices, providing sufficient funding for youth-led initiatives, and promoting up-to- date, lifelong educational opportunities tailored to the needs of youth.

There is no more time to lose, we cannot continue to make decisions without the people who are not living with the impacts of the future but us who are suffering the consequences of the lack of action.
Catalina Santelices Brunel
Latinas for Climate

Finally, the potential of digital technologies was identified as a means to transform the lived experience of youth in their cities and communities. It was suggested that this potential could be harnessed while ensuring the rights and privacy of youth in digital space.

With more power comes great responsibility, neither children are too naïve, neither adolescents too mature nor we young people lack experience.
Carolina Cuesta Crosa, Fridays For Future, Uruguay
Carolina Cuesta Crosa
Fridays For Future, Uruguay

Overall, the Thematic Breakout Session on Sustainable Development Goal 11 provided valuable insights into the challenges faced by young people in urban settings and produced a set of actionable recommendations to address these challenges. It emphasized the importance of amplifying youth voices for sustainable urban development and leading the way to recovery.

More to explore —