9 June 2023, Nairobi. – In a powerful address to the second session of the UN-Habitat Assembly, two members of the UN-Habitat Youth Advisory Board, Gwendolyn Myers and Leah Namugerwa, representing the voices of youth organizations from around the world, expressed their determination to work towards a sustainable urban future that includes the meaningful inclusion of young people. Their statement, delivered to Madam Executive Director Maimunah Mohd Sharif, outlined key areas where youth can contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and called upon UN-Habitat and member states to take action.
One of the primary focuses of their statement was on digital literacy among young people. Recognizing the transformative power of technology, Gwendolyn and Leah urged UN-Habitat to prioritize actions that promote digital literacy and develop partnerships between youth, local governments, and other UN agencies. They emphasized the importance of young people’s participation in policy development, city planning, and program implementation.
Housing, land, and property rights were also highlighted as critical issues. Gwendolyn and Leah urged governments to enforce legal frameworks that protect these rights, particularly for young people and women. They called for the development of specific policies, such as tax abatement, to ensure low-income and unemployed youth have access to adequate housing. Additionally, they stressed the importance of including young people with technical skills in the practical aspects of housing provision.
The impact of climate change was another area of concern addressed by the youth advisors. They called upon UN member states to recognize and support the contributions of young people and youth-led organizations engaged in climate change adaptation and mitigation initiatives. They emphasized the need for increased investments in early warning systems and the adoption of youth-led ICT innovations for data collection and management, ensuring privacy rights and ethical practices.
Highlighting the importance of youth participation in peace-building efforts, Gwendolyn and Leah called for the meaningful inclusion of young people in platforms and mechanisms for peace in metropolitan areas, particularly in localizing the SDGs. They stressed the need for UN-Habitat to engage youth more actively in projects and initiatives related to urban planning and development.
In their address, the youth advisors also emphasized the significance of smart cities for the future. They called upon governments to construct Information Resource Centers and ICT hubs to facilitate skill development and innovation among young people.
In conclusion, Gwendolyn Myers and Leah Namugerwa affirmed the commitment of the UN-Habitat Youth Advisory Board and the youth at the UN-Habitat Assembly to mainstream their voices in major stakeholder forums and structures within the UN-Habitat system. They expressed their determination to influence decision-making processes and work collaboratively towards a sustainable urban future.
The address of the UN-Habitat Youth Advisory Board members at the UN-Habitat Assembly resonated with the audience, recognizing the crucial role of young people in achieving sustainable urban development. Their passionate plea for youth inclusion and empowerment serves as a reminder of the importance of listening to and involving young voices in shaping our cities and communities. It is a call to action for governments, organizations, and individuals to embrace youth participation and work together towards a more sustainable and inclusive future for all.