Over the past two weeks, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) has held its 73rd annual convening in New York City to discuss its agenda to solve global challenges by 2030 using the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The assembly opened with the theme: “Making the United Nations relevant to all people: Global leadership and shared responsibility for peaceful, equitable and sustainable societies”. There was an underlying theme to each of the impactful events; youth. Each world leader and speaker alike discussed the importance of empowering our youth to ensure a progressive future. With such an important trending topic across the conference – it made me want to explore the relevance and necessity of empowering our youth with the right tools to make needed changes within our globe.


What are the Facts?

There are currently 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24 in the world and about half survive on less than $2 a day, 90% of whom live in developing countries. This is the largest youth population our global community has seen to date. Political instability, unemployment, and limited space for political and civic participation can isolate youth. We also know more than 100 million adolescents do not attend school and 75 million youth account for 40% of the world’s unemployed population.


Why is it important?

Adolescence is a significant transition period and a unique window of opportunity to shape the healthy and successful development of future generations. Young people can be the architects of a better future if we do better at bringing them to the table. The participation and innovation of youth are an important piece of SDG’s in the present and future. We need to educate and inspire the next generation. Our existing global goals have been defined by older generations but will need to be driven by future generations. Being inclusive with our vison now will keep leaders accountable and ensure the goals hold high importance globally and are carried out until the end.


What’s the UN doing and what how is Philanthropy playing a role?

For the first time in its history, the UN is launching a system-wide strategy to increase its work with and for young people across three main pillars – peace and security, human rights, and sustainable development. The new strategy will provide a more coordinated, coherent, and holistic approach for the UN’s work on youth issues. The Secretary-General is advancing a series of reforms aimed at strengthening the effectiveness of the UN and reaching the proper avenues. It was unifying to see this being such a prominent focus across UNGA events. But how did Philanthropy stand out and help the UN carry on the conversation?  Bill and Melinda Gates “Goal Keepers” event focused on general development and youth leadership. Leaders from across the world were brought together to reflect on progress and focus on ways to reach the next generation. High Level Event “Youth 2030” was organized by Women Deliver and UN Youth Strategy, with the purpose of the united nations strengthened commitment to ensure that every young person is empowered to achieve their full potential. At Project Everyone, UNICEF and UNESCO lead the World’s Largest Lesson discussion to introduce children and young people across the world to the UN’s 17 sustainable goals through the power of education. This is just one of many examples of how Philanthropy is aligning with the SDG’s and playing an important role in their success. Many Foundations have utilized the comprehensive information resources available to assist them in their work on the SDG’s. From foundations as big as Bill and Melinda Gates or small as The Segal Family Foundation, Philanthropy is helping not only to achieve the goals but also spreading awareness of them.


I was grateful to attend at events including: the Concordia and Social good Summit which are the largest and most inclusive nonpartisan forum alongside the United Nations General Assembly. Reflecting on last week’s events, I believe Influencing and empowering youth is about building confidence and awareness in them, to understand how much they can impact the future. To utilize young people’s potential as agents of change, requires involving and empowering them in development, policies and supporting their participation at all levels. With the 2030 Agenda as a guiding focus, we can work to advance young people’s participation in civic and political life, their economic empowerment and their role as peace and resilience builders.