BANGKOK, 8 April 2021 – Today, ASEAN, China, and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) held the 5th ASEAN-China-UNDP Symposium: Enhancing the Roles of Youth in Achieving the SDGs, attended by youth, government officials and other stakeholders from across the Asia-Pacific region, as part of a long-term partnership to work together to support the acceleration of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
How to harness the potential of young people to contribute to the realization of the SDGs, including through engagement with governments, was one of the central discussion topics at the symposium, which was the fifth in a row, but first to take place online.
The meeting also looked at key trends and challenges faced by young people, such as unemployment, education and social and political exclusion, especially within the context of the struggle to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We need to put more efforts to provide youth with the most up-to-date skills, reliable digital infrastructure, and enabling ecosystems for youth to reach their potentials. At the same time, it is crucial to meaningfully involve youth in the Decade of Action to deliver the SDGs by 2030 and building back better under the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework (ACRF),” said Mr. Kung Phoak, Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN for ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community.
The symposium focused on amplifying the involvement of young people with the SDGs, providing a platform for policy makers and stakeholders to share experiences, and exchanging views and lessons learnt on how to enhance the roles of youth in SDGs implementation.
Participants engaged in policy discussions on the Sustainable Development Agenda, to share and validate their perspectives. They formulated recommendations on how to empower young people to claim their stake in the acceleration of the SDGs in creative and innovative ways.
“The young people are the driving force of social development and the future of the world. SDGs are closely related to their life and we count on their participation and contribution,” said DENG Xijun, the Chinese Ambassador to ASEAN, “I believe these kind of intensive exchanges among the youth at this seminar will inject new impetus into China-ASEAN sustainable development cooperation and regional efforts in realizing the 2030 Agenda.”
Further, participants discussed how changes and trends in the ASEAN region are affecting the realisation of SDGs, and the significant role that young people play in ensuring an inclusive and sustainable ASEAN Community. Experts also discussed what is needed to create an enabling environment for young people to achieve their full potential, such as youth-friendly policies, investments in youth programming, and 21st century skills training.
The ASEAN and Chinese youth themselves presented their views on sustainable development and spoke directly about their hopes, needs and the support they seek to foster entrepreneurship and to take on leadership roles.
"In order to advance and deliver SDG 2030 meaningfully and effectively across ASEAN, it is vital to create an enabling and supportive ecosystem which offers more opportunities for young people to be involved in shaping and developing the policy and development of services and programmes in this region," said Mr. Mohd. Harith Ramzi, a youth representative from the ASEAN University Student Council Union (AUSCU).
Further discussions zeroed in on some of the most pressing issues, including digital transformation and enhancing skills, youth employment opportunities, and the future of work, as well as youth entrepreneurship for sustainable development.
“Young people are among the population groups hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic. They have been hit economically, their education has suffered, they have often lost jobs or job opportunities after graduation, their personal and social life has been shattered at a crucial age,” said Christophe Bahuet, UNDP’s Deputy Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, “Yet, the youth retain a tremendous potential and skills to play a crucial role in innovation, job creation, boosting the economies and advancing social progress in the ASEAN region.”
The symposium seeks to promote the implementation of the SDGs in ASEAN in a way that complements ASEAN’s Vision 2025 and elaborates on ways forward to integrate the SDGs at regional, national, and sub-national levels.