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Fighting for Youth Rights at the HLPF for Sustainable Development


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Jan Mayrhofer

After more than a year of living in a global pandemic, world leaders and decision makers gathered together for the United Nation’s High-level Political Forum (HLPF), the UN platform in charge of the follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The HLPF has a central role to assess if we are on track to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development goals. This year’s edition, held from 6-15 July, focused on how the recovery from COVID-19 and the process of ‘building back better’ can promote the economic, social, and environmental dimensions of sustainable development.

Young people have been disproportionately impacted by the Covid-19 crisis in a context of persisting inequalities and climate crisis: youth paid a heavy price from the pandemic through learning losses, precarious jobs, and high youth unemployment. It is likely that these issues will persist, therefore, recovery plans should address long-term impacts of the pandemic including on the most marginalised groups.

Young people must be included in the decision making process while job quality creation and mental health are priorities and should be addressed.

What did the European Youth Forum do at the HLPF?

The HLPF is an opportunity to hold national governments to account for their commitments to the Sustainable Development Goals. This year, 42 Member States presented their progress through their Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs). The European Youth Forum works to represent and support our Member Organisations to engage with the VNRs to ensure that young people also have their voices heard in this process. This time around we worked together with the National Youth Councils of Azerbaijan, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Norway, Spain, and Sweden whose governments were among those being reviewed.

The European Youth Forum also participated in a side event organised by the UN’s Major Group for Children and Youth (MGCY) on meaningful participation of young people in the UN. At this side event we called for meaningful participation based on transparent, sustainable structures, and democratic representation.

What was at stake?

HLPF is a chance to identify challenges and commit to ambitious measures to tackle them. The 2021 HLPF concluded with the adoption of the Ministerial Declaration. Unfortunately, this document fails to address the root causes of the current broken system, including an economic model based on unlimited growth and extraction of natural resources.

In the context of the pandemic, we witnessed a crackdown against civil society. The lack of commitment in the Ministerial Declaration for meaningful participation of young people in the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is a step back from previous commitments.

Young people have been at the forefront of pushing for sustainable development and governments must commit to establishing permanent platforms for participation of youth and civil society to monitor and implement the SDGs.

The 2030 Agenda cannot be achieved without substantial political and financial support. The current pandemic has also proven that adopting a holistic approach on the recovery measures, addressing economic, social and climate crisis while also mitigating the long-term impacts of the pandemic, is needed. Governments should focus on the most marginalised groups while investing in job quality creation and increasing the access to mental health and well being support.

Member States must do more to build back better and address the climate crisis that is central to the 2030 agenda.

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