Youth declaration urges action to green industries, reduce technical divides and reimagine education

05 December 2023

UNCTAD's Youth Network will advocate the declaration's recommendations at various forums, including this year’s UN climate conference (COP28).

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Hundreds of young leaders from around the globe took part in the 4th UNCTAD Youth Forum in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE) in October to set a transformative agenda for global change.

Their declaration, published on 5 December, calls for urgent action to green the world’s industries, bridge technological divides and reimagine education systems.

It advocates for green industrialization using clean energy to break the historical link between economic growth and pollution.

The declaration also calls on governments to revamp education, leveraging new technologies to give young people everywhere the skills they need. Bridging digital divides within and between countries, particularly in AI, would also unlock the innovation potential of young people in poorer communities.

Held from 16 to 20 October as part of UNCTAD’s World Investment Forum (WIF) 2023, the gathering provided a platform for youth to not only learn and collaborate but also connect with policymakers, entrepreneurs and investors.

"The wealth of knowledge at WIF, coupled with diverse perspectives from all participants, is simply unmatched,” said Nancy Amunga, a Youth Forum participant from Kenya.

UNCTAD's Youth Network will advocate the declaration's points at various forums, including this year’s UN climate conference (COP28).

‘Think global, act local’

Participants also agreed to strengthen the “think global, act local” initiative launched in 2018 at UNCTAD’s 2nd Youth Forum under the name Youth Action Hubs.

“This initiative brings the involvement of youth as game changers for the sustainable development goals to community level where they can run projects and organize events”, says UNCTAD Youth Coordinator Arlette Verploegh.

She highlighted that few youth gatherings facilitate such follow-up activities at the local level in a coordinated way.

‘Nothing about us, without us’

Throughout the week, young leaders actively led discussions on various topics, with sessions on entrepreneurship, climate action and new technologies drawing particular interest.

At the opening, UNCTAD Deputy Secretary-General Pedro Moreno and UAE Undersecretary of the Ministry of Culture and Youth Mubarak al Nakhi stressed the importance of youth participation in global forums.

UNCTAD Secretary-General Rebeca Grynspan reiterated this view during her discussion with Youth Forum participants.

UNCTAD Secretary-General Rebeca Grynspan meets participants at the 4th UNCTAD Youth Network
© UNCTAD | Secretary-General Rebeca Grynspan meets with participants of UNCTAD's 4th Youth Forum.

“Nothing about us, without us,” Ms. Grynspan said, emphasizing the importance of including young people in decisions that shape their futures.

During the forum, UNCTAD and the Commonwealth secretariat announced they would work together in 2024 to upgrade the Policy Guide on Youth Entrepreneurship.

From hopes and dreams to projects and jobs

Since its first edition, held in 2016 in Nairobi, Kenya, UNCTAD's Youth Forum has grown to include over 4,000 members. It offers young people around the globe opportunities to participate in key UN events like the annual ECOSOC Youth Forum and contribute to important initiatives, such as the UN Youth 2030 progress report.

Reflecting on the forum's growth, active member Nadia Paleari from Italy observed the remarkable transformation of participants from students to professionals.

“I feel so grateful to be part of such a diverse, innovative and cooperative group of youth worldwide,” she said. "It's inspiring to see our hopes and dreams evolve into tangible projects and jobs."