Urgent Call to Action: UN Secretary-General’s Charge to Youth at ECOSOC Forum

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16 April 2024, New York. – In his opening address at the 2024 ECOSOC Youth Forum, the UN Secretary-General urgently called attention to the face that the Sustainable Development Goals SDGs were way off track. He outlined the critical consequences of this delay, including growing hunger, increased poverty, growing conflicts around the world, and climate change disasters that millions of young people, their families and their communities at risk.

Emphasizing the decisive role of the youth in overcoming these challenges, the Secretary-General called for immediate action. He stressed the necessity of involving young individuals directly in political and decision-making processes to address these urgent issues, underscoring the power of youthful energy and innovation in driving significant and necessary glob


Dear Friends,
Welcome to this ECOSOC Youth Forum – and thank you for your engagement.

The energy and conviction of young people are infectious, and more vital than ever.

Our world is bristling with challenges, tragedies and injustices – many of them linked: The Sustainable Development Goals are way off track. That means children hungry, families trapped in poverty, and young people out of school.

The climate crisis is spiraling downward – as emissions continue to rise and the fossil fuel industry, in its immense greed, tries to block change at every turn.

Great rifts within and between countries are fueling mistrust and eroding solidarity: Inequality and poverty are rife. Polarization and hate are spreading – stoked by digital disinformation and division.

Human rights are under attack.

And conflicts are raging around the world.

Israel’s military operations in Gaza, following the devastating terror attacks by Hamas on 7
October, are having an appalling impact on civilians – including young people.

Thousands of children have been killed. Thousands more have lost one or both parents.

And one hundred per cent of young people in Gaza – every single child – is out of school. It is high time for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, the unconditional release of all hostages, the protection of civilians, and the unimpeded delivery of humanitarian aid.

Dear Friends,
In the face of all these crises, public trust is plummeting. Alienation is growing. And the international system is creaking. The future of multilateralism is at stake. We need action and we need justice.

I salute young people around the world for standing up, speaking out and working for real change.

We need you.

And I am fully committed to bringing young people into political decision-making; not just listening to your views, but acting on them. I established a new Youth Office in the United Nations to advance advocacy, coordination, participation, and accountability for and with young people.

We will renew the United Nations Youth Strategy – to take this work to the next level. And I am committed to making sure young people have a strong role as we gear up for the Summit of the Future in September. That includes this Forum’s discussions, virtual consultations on the Pact for the Future – which will include a chapter on youth and future generations – and your work mobilizing in your communities.

We’re also holding a youth-led action day as the Summit begins, so that your voices are heard from the start.

Dear Friends,
The Summit of the Future is a pivotal moment to turbocharge the SDGs, and reinvigorate multilateralism. We have already put forward a number of concrete ideas on strengthening youth engagement for Member States to consider.

These include: establishing national youth consultative bodies, a global standard for meaningful youth engagement in decision-making, and creating a UN Youth Townhall. We are also working to advance a Global Digital Compact to help build a world where digital technologies support sustainable development – including education and jobs for young people: A world where children and young people are protected online, benefit from digital technologies, and have a say in the decisions shaping digital life.

We have created a High-Level Advisory Body on Artificial Intelligence to make recommendations on international governance of AI. This group of experts is gender-balanced. It includes young leaders and people from the Global South. And it is feeding into the Global Digital Compact. We have also proposed a New Agenda for Peace, to renew and strengthen multilateral security frameworks, and to embed young people’s participation in peace and security institutions that are funded in full.

And we are pushing for reform of the United Nations Security Council and a fundamental overhaul of the international financial architecture.

Many of today’s developing countries had no voice when those institutions were established eight decades ago. These systems were designed by the rich and remain controlled by the rich. And are failing in some of their most basic functions.

We must shake off the relics of the past, and create institutions that reflect the world today. And serve its needs.

This is a matter of justice.

Dear Friends,
I urge all Member States to get behind our proposals. And I ask young people to join forces with allies and partners across civil society – to demand that governments make the Summit count.

You can start by supporting the Summit of the Future digital campaigns we are launching today: Take on the ActNow challenge – and share it with your networks – to show leaders how many of us demand a sustainable future for all; And sign the open letter to world leaders on reviving multilateralism, launched today by the United Nations Youth Office.

Beyond the Summit of the Future, I salute young people for being on the frontlines for bold climate action. Our climate is in meltdown. And the poorest are paying the price. This is breathtaking injustice. And a terrible betrayal of your generation.

Governments need to adopt strong policies to accelerate the global phase-out of fossil fuels and a just transition to clean energy. They need to create new national climate plans by 2025 that align with the 1.5 degree Celsius limit; And they need to bring young people into this work – meaningfully.

The transition to renewables must be just, and it must be sustainable. I will soon launch our Panel on Critical Energy Transition Minerals – to help to ensure developing countries benefit fully from this transition. My Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change will have a seat on this panel – and will help to engage young people in its work. Developed countries must also keep their promises on climate finance. And governments must make generous contributions to the new Loss and Damage Fund as a step towards climate justice.

And we must all push to get finance flowing to sustainable development more broadly – to turbocharge the SDGs. That includes countries backing and implementing our plans for an SDG Stimulus and supporting deep reforms to the Multilateral Development Banks.

Dear Friends,
Every generation serves as caretaker of this world. Let’s be honest: mine has been careless with that responsibility.

But yours gives me hope. The United Nations stands with you.

Together, let’s deliver justice. Let’s deliver solutions. And let’s create a world of peace and prosperity for all.

Thank you.


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