Youth prioritized as sustainable development innovators

12 March 2019

A recent UNCTAD report highlights young people's voices and ideas for achieving the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Issues impacting the youth – and solutions to tackle these – are at the forefront of UNCTAD’s innovative work with young people, and includes a massive Youth Forum, hosted every two years.

A report of the 2018 Youth Forum where youth are put at the forefront was issued on 12 March 2019.

It outlines the discussions and outcomes of the second edition of the Youth Forum, which took place during the World Investment Forum, from 22 to 26 October 2018 in Geneva, Switzerland.

True to the objective of empowering young people, the forum was designed by a team of young people, who planned a diverse programme on youth entrepreneurship as a route to inclusive and sustainable growth.

“Youth are the real owners of Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development,” said UNCTAD Secretary-General Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi.

Youth Forum

“If we are to reach the ambitious goals that we have set for ourselves and for future generations, youth should have the opportunity to contribute in shaping global action and molding the mindset change that is required to embrace the values of sustainability and inclusivity.”

Today, globally there are over 1.8 billion young people, or people under 30, representing close to a third of the world’s population.

This is the largest youth population recorded to date – and their voices and perspective, especially concerning inclusive and sustainable development matters, something the forum aimed to highlight.

Change makers

The forum gathered over 150 young men and women from more than 70 countries gathered to participate in interactive panel sessions and workshops with thought leaders, futurists and experts, as well as in ‘Youth o’Clocks’ where luminaries shared experiences that will help young entrepreneurs thrive.

Youth Forum

The event was an eye-opener for the young people who attended.

“The UNCTAD Youth Forum 2018 was a week full of intellectual discourses and stories of how people are helping to achieve the ambitious SDGs,” said Christian Inkum, a participant from Ghana.

“It was a time of great networking and meeting people from all walks of life. Thanks to UNCTAD for organizing such a forum, it will always be a proud moment for me.”

Investing in digital youth, what it takes to be a youth entrepreneur and how to look at the future and the world’s rapidly changing job market landscape were key topics throughout the week.

These were complemented by debates on soft skills development on how to become successful entrepreneurs, social media influencers and negotiators.

Every session included a focus on both the SDGs and the United Nations Youth Strategy 2030.

A significant outcome was a call by participants to create Youth Action Hubs around the world. The participants pledged to UNCTAD to support the initiative underscored by the principle ‘think global, act local’.

Through the hubs, young people can share their views on trade and development issues with UNCTAD and support SDG related projects at community level.

The participants felt strongly that SDG initiatives require resiliency and a shift in perspective – a task they believe youth are particularly well-suited to undertake.

There are already 20 such hubs at city or country level globally.

A youth spotlight

In 2016 UNCTAD created a youth network platform, of which the forum is part, where young people can interact, voice their concerns, collaborate and contribute to United Nations’ events and discussions.

UNCTAD also co-hosts a smart partnership for young online entrepreneurs with Alibaba Business School called the eFounders Fellowship programme.

Through these initiatives UNCTAD is recognizing young people’s potential and the major role they can plan in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.


They are also nurturing youth who believe they can and will change the world. “UNCTAD Youth is a network of global youth leaders from various backgrounds, aspiring to create positive changes across the world regardless of who you are and where you are,” said Thomson Ch’ng from Malaysia.

Youth Forum

The next Youth Forum will take place in 2020, alongside  the next UNCTAD conference, a quadrennial conference which sets the organization’s mandate and work priorities.

Register to join the Youth Action Hubs here; watch the 2018 Youth Forum highlights video here; or access UNCTAD’s youth document library here.