A day before the opening of the 73rd UN General Assembly’s (UNGA) high-level General Debate, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres unveiled Youth 2030, a strategy reflecting the UN’s new commitment to working with and for young people. Officials also launched Generation Unlimited, a global multi-stakeholder partnership initiated by the UN Children’s Fund’s (UNICEF) to “ensure that every young person is in education, learning, training or employment by 2030.”
The strategy ‘Youth 2030: Working With and For Young People’ originates from a decision of Secretary-General Guterres, who made it a priority to reset the UN system’s focus on youth and reorient and mainstream the organization’s activities towards youth. He tasked his Envoy on Youth, in conjunction with the UN system and youth themselves, to lead the development of the strategy.
Youth 2030 will act as an umbrella framework to guide the UN across its three pillars (peace and security, human rights and sustainable development) in all contexts. It seeks to “significantly strengthen” the UN’s capacity to engage young people and benefit from their views, insights and ideas, and to ensure that UN’s work on youth issues is pursued in a “coordinated, coherent and holistic manner.” It comprises five priorities: i) amplify youth voices for the promotion of a peaceful, just and sustainable world (engagement, participation and advocacy); ii) support young people’s greater access to quality education and health services; iii) support young people’s greater access to decent work and productive employment; iv) protect and promote the rights of young people and support their civic and political engagement; and v) support young people as catalysts for peace and security and humanitarian action.
Per the strategy, its governance arrangements will be rooted in existing global, regional and national mechanisms, and guided by a High-Level Steering Committee chaired by the Envoy on Youth. The Committee will also be composed of: the UN Inter-Agency Network on Youth Development (IANYD) co-chairs; a select number of biennially rotating UN entities; and two biennially rotating representatives of a global youth-led platform or organization. The Steering Committee will seek to ensure alignment with other UN processes and reforms, will identify a suitable arrangement for its interactions with the UN Sustainable Development Group (UNSDG), and will discuss annual reports on the strategy’s implementation, which will be prepared by the Secretary- General’s Envoy on Youth with input from the IANYD. These reports will be submitted to the UNSDG and the UN Secretary-General’s Executive Committee.
Generation Unlimited (or “Gen-U”) seeks to contribute to the delivery of Youth 2030 by creating synergies between partners to mobilize support and maximize results. It will complement and build on existing programmes that support adolescents and young people. The partnership explores co-creating innovative solutions, brokering support, mentoring and funding. It focuses on three key challenges, namely: access to secondary age education; acquisition of employability skills; and empowerment, especially of girls. It brings together the private sector, governments, international and local organizations, and young people, and is co-chaired by Secretary-General Guterres and Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda.
Youth 2030 and Generation Unlimited were launched during an event co-hosted by the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, Jayathma Wickramanayake, and UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore on 24 September 2018, at UN Headquarters in New York, US. Guterres told participants that: the world is home to 1.8 billion young people, the largest generation in history; more than one fifth of young people are not in employment, education or training; one in four is affected by violence or armed conflict in some way; and millions of girls become mothers while they are still children. He said the Youth 2030 strategy should help the UN become a leader in working with young people, and should spur new partnerships, but “bold new approaches” will be required to deliver on it.
María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, President of the 73rd UNGA, said through the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the UNGA recognized youth as agents of change for the first time. She added that youth are “amongst our best educated, most innovative, and most creative resources” when it comes to addressing health care solutions or education or economic opportunities.
Fore called on governments, businesses, foundations, academia, non-profits, communities and innovators to help get every young person in school, training or age-appropriate employment by 2030 – the aim of Generation Unlimited – and to develop concrete plans to expand the funding base needed to reach more young people, in more communities and countries.
Jim Yong Kim, World Bank President, remarked that the nature of work is changing very quickly, and many countries are not prepared for a future of work, which is more digitally demanding. Paul Kagame remarked that the youth strategy is a practical framework and is also aligned with the African Union’s (AU) Agenda 2063. Nana Akufo-Addo, President of Ghana, said access to education is helping the “growth of democracy,” and that Ghana has adopted a Free Senior High School (HSH) policy. Uhuru Kenyatta, President of Kenya, said progress for youth is progress for all humanity, and his country offers free primary and secondary education. He also noted that education without work opportunity is not a solution.
The Bangtan Boys (BTS), a South Korean music group, noted that together with UNICEF, they launched the Love Myself Campaign to address violence toward children and teens around the world. Brad Smith, President of Microsoft, outlined various partnerships between Microsoft and UN entities, including the creation of a new learning platform with UNICEF, a project with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to provide literacy to refugees, and an initiative with the International Labour Organization (ILO) on the future of work.
Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and board member of Generation Unlimited, said investing in the younger generation is an investment for the future, but also for today. She announced a new Africa-Europe Alliance that will increase support for scholarships and exchange programmes with the goal of over 100,000 students benefitting from its support (ERASMUS+ programme) in the next ten years. [UN Youth Strategy: Youth 2030 – Working With and For Young People] [Youth 2030 webpage] [UN blog on Youth 2030] [Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth website] [Generation Unlimited platform] [UNICEF announcement of Generation Unlimited partnership] [Launch event details] [Event concept Note] [UN Secretary-General’s statement] [UNGA President’s statement] [UNICEF Executive Director’s statement][Love Myself Campaign website] [SDG Knowledge Hub sources]