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The ECOSOC Youth Forum

Every year for the past six years, the ECOSOC Youth Forum held at the UN Headquarters has provided a platform for youth to have their voices heard, discuss the issues that they face, and come up with solutions. This year, on January 30th and 31st, the Forum addressed “The Role of Youth in Poverty Eradication and Promoting Prosperity in a Changing World”. The event discussed a wide range of issues relating to poverty and youth and also allowed for the Member States to highlight some of the work they have done towards eliminating poverty and support prosperity for the youth.

Working with youth towards achieving this particular sustainable development goal is especially important as the negative effects of globalization, such as unemployment, underemployment, and inequality disproportionately affect youth. The International Labor Organization’s report on youth lays out the numbers clearly: 71 million youth are unemployed, while 156 million live in poverty despite being employed [1]. Further, women continue to face higher unemployment rates than men [2].

There are many ways that can help eliminate poverty amongst young people. Two particular solutions that were discussed during this Forum were apprenticeships and entrepreneurship. Apprenticeships offer a unique way for young people to gain the transferable skills necessary for the jobs they want in the future. For example, in Tanzania, there is a two-year apprenticeship program created by a partnership between the hotels association, the ILO, and colleges. 60% of the program is practical training in hotels, while 40% takes place in the classroom [3]. But, as youth leaders pointed out, apprenticeships fail in their outreach to youth, employers are hesitant to sponsor apprenticeships due to misguided information about costs, and also need to be more inclusive, flexible, and mindful of gender and ability.

Entrepreneurship is a complementary way to create opportunities for youth, there are not enough formal jobs to go around. Many countries have come up with plans to encourage entrepreneurship amongst young people, like South Africa’s Youth Enterprise Development Strategy [4]. in order for youth to take advantage of these opportunities, education curriculums need to be updated to give the knowledge they need to start their own businesses. They also need better access to financing, lower interest rates on loans, and the reduction of administrative barriers to truly utilize these entrepreneurial opportunities.

While these are some great ideas for solving the problems that face youth, none of them will be successful without the consultation and inclusion of youth in the process. opinion often dismissed due to age and inexperience, but that understand their own problems the best. In order for member states to succeed in implementing the Sustainable Development Agenda for 2030, education and opportunities are not enough. Youth must be dynamic actors of change, involved in every step of the process for the sustainable development goals to be achieved.


[1] International Labor Organization, Global Youth Unemployment Is On The Rise Again, 2016,

[2] Id.

[3] UN WebTV, Thematic Breakout Sessions - ECOSOC Youth Forum 2017, video, 2017,

[4] UN WebTV, Thematic Breakout Sessions - ECOSOC Youth Forum 2017, video, 2017,

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