A call to ensure the participation of children and youth from Latin America and the Caribbean in all stages of the 2030 Agenda’s implementation and to value their contributions in order to achieve sustainable development in the region, leaving no one behind, was made this Monday, April 24, by representatives of the numerous United Nations (UN) agencies that participated in the Fifth Forum of Children and Youth of Latin America and the Caribbean 2030 held in Santiago, Chile.
The UN recognizes young people’s leadership in the process to fulfill the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and is committed to continue supporting their participation at all levels in a systematic and inclusive way, the representatives indicated.
This event took place in the framework of the Sixth Meeting of the Forum of the Countries of Latin America and the Caribbean on Sustainable Development – which begins this Tuesday, April 25 at the headquarters of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in Chile – and of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Youth Forum, which will be held on April 25-27 using a hybrid format (in-person and virtual).
It was inaugurated by Maria Sujkowska, Global Focal Point for the Children and Youth (C&Y) Group of Latin America and the Caribbean and representative of the Corporación de Estudios y Desarrollo Norte Grande; and Mario Lubetkin, Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Latin America and the Caribbean of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
Subsequently, an intergenerational panel was held with the participation of José Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs, Executive Secretary of ECLAC; María José Torres, Resident Coordinator of the United Nations System in Chile; Michelle Muschett, Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); and Susana Sottoli, Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
“Despite extreme difficulties, we have managed to stay united, resilient and committed to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and, above all, to its mission: that no one be left behind,” Maria Sujkowska of the C&Y Group stated.
Since December, more than 500 children and youth, between 7 and 35 years of age, from more than 20 countries in the region and belonging to diverse groups, have been involved in the process that gave rise to the Forum, the conclusions of which will be shared with ECLAC’s Member States and presented at the Sixth Meeting of the Forum of the Countries of Latin America and the Caribbean on Sustainable Development, at the ECOSOC Youth Forum and at the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (which is held each year in July in New York), she explained.
“For me, there is no better way to start the Sixth Meeting of the Forum of the Countries of Latin America and the Caribbean on Sustainable Development 2023 than with an event like this, with the youth of our region, listening and interacting with their voices and perspectives, which are essential for calling our attention to what really matters both for the present and for the future of the region,” said José Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs, ECLAC’s Executive Secretary.
“Intergenerational dialogue and the participation of young people in the 2030 Agenda’s implementation is truly an imperative. All stakeholders must be involved in order to successfully manage societies and democracy,” ECLAC’s highest authority emphasized, noting with appreciation that young people are worried about how to pick up the pace to achieve the SDGs in a complex context filled with uncertainty. “At the United Nations, we are convinced that the way forward entails involving you and creating more spaces for participation at all levels because this work is based on collective action,” he added.
Mario Lubetkin indicated that “at FAO we are working to strengthen capacities to improve production systems so they can be more resilient, efficient and sustainable, but above all, more inclusive. And the role of rural youth is critical in developing the livelihoods of their communities, particularly those that sustain the agri-food system, and where there are greater levels of exclusion and social vulnerability, with limitations on decent work and access to technology and digital tools.”
Michelle Muschett, meanwhile, said that “at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), we value the importance of intergenerational exchanges and the key role of youth to strengthen sustainable development in the region and address our current societal challenges. For this reason, we have prioritized youth institutional strengthening and the promotion of their participation in decision-making processes to foster a more equitable and prosperous future for everyone.”
Susana Sottoli, Regional Director of UNFPA, stated that “when we talk about sustainably investing in youth, we are talking about the priority of investing in adolescence, in childhood and in youth, within a country’s distribution of wealth.” Today in the region there are more than 160 million adolescents and young people between 10 and 24 years of age: one out of every four people in this region is either an adolescent or young person, she recalled. “This means that a significant proportion of countries is still experiencing what is called the ‘demographic dividend,’ which is a window of opportunity that will close soon, since the dynamic of population ageing is approaching,” she noted.
María José Torres, the United Nations System’s Resident Coordinator in Chile, cited the words of UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed: “The UN belongs to youth, so they themselves must make it their own and reshape it.” Torres further urged the participants: “Keep working for your rights, defending democracy, fighting to participate and make this world a better place. And for that, count on the UN, which belongs to you.”
The Forum took place at FAO’s headquarters in Chile, with support from ECLAC (as a counterpart to the youth mechanisms that convene the Forum) in coordination with the Regional Inter-Agency Working Group on Youth – led by UNDP and UNFPA – of the Regional Collaborative Platform for Latin America and the Caribbean, in which 24 UN System entities in the region participate.
During the meeting, work groups convened to discuss SDG 6 (Clean water and sanitation), SDG 7 (Affordable and clean energy), SDG 9 (Industry, innovation and infrastructure), SDG 11 (Sustainable cities and communities) and SDG 17 (Partnerships for the Goals), which have been prioritized for the High-level Political Forum 2023.