Countries from Asia-Pacific, Africa, and Western Asia gathered this week at a United Nations forum in Bangkok to explore opportunities for scaling up youth participation in sustainable development and decision-making processes. Participants, which included policymakers, representatives of youth-led organizations and academics recognized the need for governments to encourage youth empowerment, as well as ensure development policies are youth-friendly and inclusive.
The current generation of youth – 1.2 billion worldwide – is the largest in history, with a significant majority residing in developing countries. While they tend to be healthier and more educated than previous generations, youth today face numerous challenges in transitioning from school to work environments. In Asia and the Pacific, almost 80 million young people are unemployed and are up to 10 times more likely to be unemployed compared to adults in some countries.
At the opening of the three-day Interregional Youth Policy Forum, hosted by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), Deputy Executive Secretary of ESCAP Mr. Kaveh Zahedi highlighted that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), ICT and demographics provide major opportunities for increasing youth involvement and engagement, but that greater investment is needed in skills to turn these opportunities into reality.
“We must overcome the inequality of access to decent education,” stressed Mr. Zahedi. “Within countries, the wealthiest 20 per cent have attendance ratios in secondary education, which are over five times greater than the poorest 20 per cent. The poor are thus largely barred from opportunities at an early age.
“This heightens the importance of investing in educating youth to be aware of the benefits of greater equity and sustainability, things which, in effect, go hand in hand,” he added. “This is a must, as is getting young people involved in decision-making so that more innovative ideas can be brought on board.”
Amongst the policy recommendations emphasised at the forum where promoting high-quality technical vocational education training, providing national internship programmes, and creating employment centres for young people. Participants further underscored the role of innovation and ICT in encouraging youth participation in sustainable development and decision-making processes.
ESCAP, together with the UN regional commissions for Western Asia and Africa jointly launched the Youth Policy Toolbox this week - an online repository that provides governments and civil society easy access to a variety of good practices and e-learning opportunities on youth empowerment.
The forum, held from 21-23 November, served to facilitate dialogue and an exchange of experiences between policymakers and civil society, as part of ESCAP’s ongoing work in strengthening the capacities of governments to develop youth inclusive policies.
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