Pulse Lab Diary: A Youthful Winter Visit to the United Nations’ HQ

Youth delegates listen to their peers during the 2018 ECOSOC Youth Forum

The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Youth Forum is an annual gathering which enables youth dialogue with the United Nations Member States, in particular to exchange views on policy frameworks as well as promote innovative, institutionalized approaches for advancing the youth development agenda. This year, Zakiya Aryana Pramestri (one of our data science research assistants) took part in the discussions in New York City as a youth representative from Indonesia. Zakiya has taken the time to reflect and share her impressions based on the event’s theme: “The Role of Youth in Building Sustainable and Resilient Urban and Rural communities”. Here she writes…

In the midst of a typically frosty New York winter, over 500 youth delegates and 200 Member State officials were welcomed last month to NY Headquarters by the organisers of the 2018 ECOSOC Youth Forum. Kicking things off with a few intriguing ice breakers from the President of the Council, high-level representatives and delegates from youth organisations, it was clear to me that this was going to be exciting. Uniting us under the hashtag #Youth2030, the forum brought to the fore the need for young people’s active involvement in achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, while emphasizing the key message that ‘no youth should be left behind’.

This year’s forum had a different flair compared to past ones; it featured a series of unique thematic breakout sessions for the six SDGs that were on the forum’s agenda. These sessions opened the floor for participants to listen, share and debate constructively about various youth-themed initiatives related to SDG 6 — clean water and sanitation; SDG 7 — affordable and clean energy; SDG 11 — sustainable cities and communities; SDG 12 — responsible consumption and production; SDG 15 — life on land; and SDG 17 — partnerships for the goals. Traversing the many stimulating interactions during each session were a bunch of key themes, including education, empowerment, opportunity, partnership, and financial support.

Aligned with my work in big data analytics at the Lab, one of the challenges mentioned during the discussions was the unavailability of timely and reliable data to provide evidence-based information about youth, for youth, especially in developing countries.

Zakiya at the 2018 ECOSOC Youth Forum

Take the issue of youth migration for example: 15 per cent of all international migrants are under the age of 20. While useful to know, there remains a scarcity of more specific information, such as their points of origin and destination, their lived experiences, as well as how and why youth migration is occurring at such rates. Additionally, many existing datasets do not cover youth who are involved in rural to urban migration, which is an interesting area to explore as it is believed to be one of the drivers of social structure transformation and socio-economic changes in many regions of the world.

What stood out for me though were the delegates from Austria and Mexico who shared ongoing initiatives in their respective countries. In Austria, a national youth report is published every five years, which provides information/results from research done on its youth population, ranging from topics on employment and education to migration and quality of life. Mexico has also introduced efforts to include youth in its national performance metrics, for instance by using statistical analysis to measure youth diversity, complemented with geographical data analysis.

But the forum itself was not all about analysis and measuring X, Y and Z. Engaging with peers from around the globe was an incredible opportunity to exchange ideas and learn from each other on measuring progress against the SDGs linked to youth.

This year’s ECOSOC Youth Forum has provided so many interesting perspectives, insights and ideas to take back to our countries. Apart from figuring out how best to overcome jet lag (it’s a long trip!), our homework is not only about redefining strategy to improve youth development and engagement, but also to step back and think: to what extent do we understand the changing dynamics within the youth population? And for us as young nation builders: do we have what it takes to design, share and defend our big ideas? If so, what are we waiting for?

Pulse Lab Jakarta is grateful for the generous support from the Government of Australia.