Now in its 7th year, the ECOSOC Youth Forum is one of the key avenues for youth participation in UN processes – and certainly one of the few institutional mechanisms. It is a platform built to enable dialogue, allowing representatives of youth-led and youth-focused organizations and networks, youth advocates and others to engage with Member States, and to explore ways and means of promoting youth development and engagement. The outcomes of the Forum will feed into the review of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda during the ECOSOC High-level Segment, including the High-level Political Forum (HLPF) in July 2018. It is a clear commitment from the UN to take seriously youth and adolescents’ perspectives on how the SDGs are being implemented.
This year’s ECOSCOC Youth Forum included the participation of 38 Ministers and Senior officials, and over 700 youth participants from around the world. They reviewed progress on
- SDG6 Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all;
- SDG7 Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
- SDG11 Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
- SDG12 Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
- SDG15 Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainable manage forests, combat desertification and halt and reverse land degradation and biodiversity loss
- SDG17 Strengthen the means of implementation and Revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development
As GAGE we have highlighted the need to focus attention on the intersection between age and gender – looking at the SDGs and their relation to adolescent girls – one of the most invisible and disadvantaged populations. At the Forum we highlighted that a commitment to the Leave No One Behind agenda requires that we focus attention on the most marginalised – including those with disabilities, from ethnic minority groups, from displaced and refugee communities, those living in rural and urban settings, those girls who are married or child mothers, including adolescents living in informal settlements and slums. We also called attention to the importance of ensuring these often invisible populations are made quantitatively and qualitatively visible through robust research evidence, so that more effective programming can promote real and sustainable progress.
The recommendations put forward echo some of the early findings that GAGE research is uncovering at country level, including the need for holistic and multisector approaches that are able to tackle the complex interconnection between the goals; and the importance of including adolescents in the processes that affect them, including in the design of programmes, policies and national plans.
The Forum highlighted the need to keep working on putting adolescent girls at the centre of research, monitoring and evaluation efforts. This said, the gendered aspects of the SDGs were only occasionally covered – spearheaded by young women rapporteurs – but unfortunately, more often than not, the gendered aspects of these sustainable development goals were left unsaid. Indeed, the outcome Presidential Statement contains no references to young women, adolescent girls, or girls – and only one reference to gender. Going forward the GAGE Consortium, as part of our role in the ECOSOC Youth Forum, will continue to underscore the need to ensure evidence on what works for adolescent girls is made available to all those making decisions that affect them – otherwise we risk being unable to fulfil our commitment to #LeaveNoOneBehind.