Transforming Our World: Inclusive Social Development for All
25 September 2019, Wednesday


PANEL 2: Advancing Youth through Social and Economic Empowerment

This session focused on current policies and practices in the advancement of young people through social and economic empowerment, and how multiple stakeholders can work collaboratively to support youth-led initiatives and organizations. As a fundamental right recognized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, young people can play a crucial role in achieving sustainable development through active and inclusive participation.

Youth empowerment means helping young people to attain 21st century knowledge, develop competency skills, become responsible global citizens of people and the planet through communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking. It is the responsibility of state and non-state actors to create opportunities for young people to obtain the information, skills and tools necessary to become independent, responsible and productive citizens. Specific issues that will be addressed in this sub-theme include: youth empowerment, youth participation, volunteering, education and girls and young women. It was pointed out that key priorities and challenges in accessing quality education should be addressed. Young people must be prepared to develop, improve life and acquire business skills to face the rapidly evolving labor market.


Emmanuel N.B. Flomo

Founder & Executive Director, Inspire Liberia Project, LIBERIA

Young people are a significant segment of the global population index and critical to the social and economic development of any country. Today, there are over 1.2 billion young people aged 15 to 24 years; indicating that Young people are key. We can play a significant role in enhancing global social and economic development and change if we are given the opportunity. Some progress has been made in many Countries in advancing Youth Development, but the challenges in the process are still overwhelming in many parts of our globe.
Many of the progress so far in youth development is overwhelmingly credited to developed nations, while developing nations are far from near giving serious attention to these issues. For example, the European Commission considers that “Europe’s future prosperity depends on its young people and thus deserve particular support and consideration as well as seeks to strengthen people’s current and future capacities and improve their opportunities to participate in society” (EC European Policy brief, 2014). Such a policy like this is vital for Youth Social Advancement and Empowerment, but the step taken by the EU is yet acknowledged or cheer in the entire continent of Africa.

Johnnie Lee Fielder

Director of Operations, International Youth Leadership Institute

Youth as stakeholders in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals: Advocacy, awareness-raising, and capacity building

The mission of the International Youth Leadership is to nurture a new generation of visionary leaders from the African diaspora who, inspired by their rich African heritage, are committed to leaving a legacy in the world. It is important for youth to be given the opportunity to express and flex their leadership capabilities and the International Youth Leadership Institute does this cultivation of leadership by introducing the concept of being a global citizen to youth who are rising ninth graders to 12th grade. The vision of the International Youth Leadership Institute is Every day, youth of African descent are assuming leadership roles in making the world a better place, wherever they are.
 Leaders of the IYLI will be in multiple places simultaneously creating and generating innovative ideas and solutions to some of today’s most nuanced issues. International Youth Leadership Institute was founded in 1989 by two African American men by the name of Keith Brown, who worked in Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer, and Dr. Micheal Webb, who worked on education development in Africa. When the two men returned to their home city of New York, they asked themselves how can more brown and black youth experience travel as an educational and leadership tool. By encouraging young Brown and Black youth to actively engage with their communities, both local and global they are furthering the mission of some of the SDGS. Through CSDPs, or Community Service Development Projects, youth are able to identify issues in their communities and then tackle them throughout the school year. Some past projects have been focused on eliminating violence, mental health awareness, urban farming, fundraising initiatives, and gender equity. 


Sasha E. Butler

Executive Director, Changing Destinations: Journey to Excellence, Inc., USA

Key priorities and challenges in access to quality education

Support for youth-led initiatives is an essential component to achieve learning objectives and prepare young people for success inside and outside the classroom. School districts, higher education institutions, local, state and federal governments, small businesses and large corporations must share the responsibility of equipping young people with the skills and knowledge necessary to become global citizens and leaders through the creation of grassroots and multi-stakeholder platforms where young people have opportunities to lead. Shared power is an important core value that motivates young people and teaches them to think critically about the world around them. They bring new perspectives to address challenges and generate innovative ideas. Young people are key to achieving the SDGs when they are trained to lead and develop the confidence to act and mobilize others towards a more equitable and sustainable future.


Alyson Neel

Policy and Advocacy Strategist, UN Foundation, USA

UNA-USA Youth member participation in human rights mechanisms and UN Summits

Empowerment may be the first piece, and we are seeing more of this, but those in power actually release some of their power to allow young people at the table to be another. In the implementation and reporting of the Sustainable Development Goals, we know that multi-stakeholder participation remains a challenge. The good practices of VNR, VLR and 2019 opportunities will also be useful for implementing change. The United Nations Fund works specifically to empower young people through the Girl Up campaign and the UNA-USA grassroots network.



Nick Hatzoglou

Head of Community Projects, Football Victoria, AUSTRALIA

The role of sports for the social and personal development of youth

Sports play a crucial role in the social and personal development of youth. I would like to explain it through my personal and professional life experiences. There are six key areas: promotion of well-being and confidence, the importance of mentoring, sports can be a level playing field, youth-led projects, promotion of a growth mindset, and more indigenous engagement and respect.

Sport helps with self-confidence, especially early on in life that helps youth integrate into new environments using sport as the common interest. Sport improves relationships and makes people happier. Everyone should have a mentor(s). In a world where people hang out in virtual communities or are less engaged in a person to person sense, it is even more vital to have that important mentor you can share ideas with, ask questions and explore life skills.

Inequality is increasing worldwide considering the disparity in the distribution of income, sport can lift the poor and humble the rich. Youth can make a stand as they are on climate change. In Melbourne, young people were leading a march to bring more attention to climate change. Let’s encourage youth-lead campaigns, invest in them and guide them in their journey. A growth mindset should be promoted where youth can embrace challenges, build resilience, have pathways to mastery, learn and apply criticism and find lessons from others that lead to their success. Finally, it’s time to connect with Indigenous communities that the collectivists’ societies hold the key to a more wholesome and resilient lifestyle. Sport can allow them to take risks and boost our cultural intelligence and meaningful engagement of Indigenous People. Youth can lead to this engagement and break the cycle of despair and welfare.


Kit Miller

Director, M.K. Gandhi Institute, USA

Importance of non-violence education and culture of peace for social empowerment of youth

The community is the native climate of the human spirit and face to face uses our whole brain to understand, empathize and learn from each other. Learning, connection, grieving, problem-solving and mourning are things we do in circles with children, youth and adults. Urgent need for training in conflict transformation to support the challenges that will arise regarding population change and resource use. Systemic thinking tools can be taught to people of all ages to understand how systems work and learn how the best people and groups can interact and impact systemic change. Understanding events through the lens of systemic thinking offers opportunities for perspective and intelligent action, rather than reactivity, fear or despair.



Maria Cruz Rodriguez Del Cerro

Former Vice President, UNESCO Center of Getafe-Madrid, SPAIN
Education as a tool to create peaceful and inclusive societies

My goal is to alert multi-stakeholders and representatives of different institutions involved in the Peace Education Programs about the ways in which pregnancy, the perinatal period and the first years of life play a crucial role in the structural development of the brain and the subsequent development of the behavior of individuals. The main message that we must convey to our young people is to appreciate the effects of internal and external environmental stimuli on the plasticity of the brain, which profoundly affects subsequent behavior. I want to emphasize that, as a priority, we need to introduce, in the UNGA agenda, the following statement: good care during pregnancy and the early postnatal period can promote the healthy development of relationships and social behavior and help reduce antisocial behavior. Through simple and economic educational programs, we can contribute to sustainable peace by demonstrating to children and young people the importance of their early period of brain development.

Oral Statement 


Vincent Tucci

Student, Changing Destinations: Journey to Excellence, Inc.

Youth Empowerment is very close to my heart. A lot of youth are addicted to their phones that when I’m at lunch in my school, people sitting across from one another—instead of talking—are texting each other. Social Action is important to tackle this problem. When I return to my community, I’m going to start a campaign called “Put Down the Phone, Pick Up a Friend.” Everyone is so attached to their phones—worried about what’s going on and who’s doing this and that—that it’s time we put it down and look for people to connect and engage with. I’d be increasing the number of social interactions within my community.

Co-op Living is one of the greatest resources at risk for my generation. Hope has been fading away since technology has become more prevalent. Everyone’s worried about updates; who’s going to Snap them next and who’s on Instagram. Social media is enjoyable but leads to social isolation that leads youth to antisocial behaviors, suicides, and separation from the community. The solution to this issue is co-op collaboration and just becoming a part of the community. Community is what sets people up for greatness!


The panelists agreed that Youth represents one third (1/3) of the world’s population and cannot talk about social and economic development without significant participation of the youth who are most affected by the results of the Global Agenda 2030. The youth has always been considered as an important human resource for sustainable development by the United Nations. Young people are agents of social change, economic growth, and social development. Consequently, the participation of young people in the decision-making and implementation processes is essential for sustainable development. Resolution 58/133 of the UN General Assembly also reiterates the “importance of the full and effective participation of youth and youth organizations at local, national, regional and international levels in the promotion and implementation of the Global Program of Action and in the evaluation of the progress achieved and the obstacles encountered in its implementation ”.

The importance of quality education in the empowerment of youth must be recognized by all stakeholders, especially the public and private sectors. However, panelists recognized a gap between policies and practices when it comes to the implementation of sustainable development goals. Public funds and investment in the education of young people are not enough to obtain successful results. Recalling Jayathma Wickramanayake, the Envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General for Youth, repeatedly stressed the importance of meaningful youth participation throughout the United Nations Development Agenda.

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