The recently concluded 15th edition of the conference ran under the theme “From inequality and vulnerability to prosperity for all”.
Hosted virtually by Bridgetown, Barbados and Geneva, Switzerland, the event saw the adoption of the Declaration by more than 300 young participants from 80+ countries, among its many highlights.
“The youth declaration reflects the collective aspiration of young people striving to build a better world,” said Thomson Ch’ng, youth participant from Malaysia and the NSW Convenor of the Asian Australian Alliance.
“At the same time, it offers world leaders and public institutions a roadmap on how to better prepare the youth for the future that is digital, and meaningfully include them in decision-making processes.”
Young leaders participated in the UNCTAD15 Youth Forum, which was held in the lead-up to the conference. Consultations for over a month, resulted in the adoption of their common aspirations in the Declaration.
Ch’ng ,who has been a representative to UNCTAD since 2016, was instrumental in the creation of Youth Action Hubs, the initiative created by young participants at the UNCTAD Youth Forum of 2018 in Geneva.
“The Youth Action Hub initiative is one of those unique platforms that promote meaningful youth engagement at the grassroots level, where [they] can work with and hold relevant actors to account,” Ch’ng said.
“Rarely do we have an opportunity to work closely together on a document with other young game changers from across the world, gathered at one place virtually to share our common pathways,” Aishwarya Gupta from India pointed out while talking about the Declaration.
The Youth Declaration captures the participants’ recommendations and priorities on five main topics, with a view of working towards the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. These topics include: inclusive social and economic development, new economies, climate action, inclusive and equitable learning, and youth civic participation.
“The recent global pandemic has disrupted the education of more than 70% of youth worldwide,” the Declaration highlighted.
It further emphasised that “in the post-pandemic era, we can see an adaptation of hybrid learning becoming the new normal. While it offers enormous potential for reaching out to every student around the world, it has also been challenged by the lack of digital resources and infrastructure to support it.”
“There exists a significant education and workforce skill gap”
The Declaration also spoke about the need for bridging skills gaps. It pointed out that, “[the] global technological advancement is rapidly outpacing education systems in developing countries. Thus, there exists a significant education and workforce skill gap.”
It also highlighted the need for all stakeholders to work towards empowering students with “skills that are relevant for the global workforce”.
The Declaration recognised the importance of developing soft-skills in the workforce world over, calling for “UNCTAD, in collaboration with education stakeholders across the globe, to work towards the inclusion of social and emotional learning in the education curriculum.”