Meaningful Inclusion of Youth in the Voluntary National Review Process: Lessons from the High-Level Political Forum
Today marks the last day of David Giles and Jessica Gill’s term as our 2022-2023 UN Youth Delegates. Part of their work as delegates included travelling to New York to attend the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development. Below, they have reflected on their experience and shared some key takeaways.
At the halfway mark of the 2030 Agenda, the world is severely off track in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). International cooperation has never been more important. In July, we attended the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) at the United Nations Headquarters in New York as Ireland’s UN Youth Delegates. There, we were not only exposed to the gravity of the situation but also inspired by the collective determination to address these challenges head-on. The HLPF serves as the United Nations’ central platform for reviewing the progress and challenges of the 2030 Agenda. This annual congregation of global leaders, policymakers, civil society organisations, and experts, underscores the urgency of recalibrating our efforts and forging robust partnerships to ensure a more equitable and sustainable future for all.
Being a member of the Irish delegation held exceptional importance this year, given Ireland’s presentation of its second Voluntary National Review (VNR). The report highlighted progress in achieving the SDGs nationally. Its main focus was on Building Back Better from the COVID-19 Pandemic while Leaving No One Behind. We had the honour of writing a youth chapter in Ireland’s VNR. Through a critical youth assessment of Ireland’s progress towards the implementation of the SDGs, housing, mental health services, the cost of living crisis and climate action were highlighted as priority areas for action. Alongside Iceland, this was the joint first standalone youth chapter. Our involvement marked a significant advancement in the empowerment of young people to participate in UN accountability processes.
While one of the main events at HLPF included Minister Eamon Ryan’s presentation of the VNR, another key highlight for us was organising Ireland’s official HLPF side event. Entitled ‘Meaningful Inclusion of Youth in the VNR Process: Lessons from the First VNR Youth Chapters’, the event provided practical advice to Member States on facilitating a youth chapter in future VNRs. We were delighted to be joined by Rebekka Karlsdóttir, Iceland’s UN Youth Delegate for Sustainable Development and a panel of international youth inclusion experts who provided important insights. To further the impact of this event, we have compiled recommendations and best practices for Governments, UN Youth Delegates and National Youth Councils, which were highlighted by the speakers. We sincerely hope that other Member States will include a youth chapter in future VNRs and that these recommendations will aid in the process.
As per Agenda 2030, ‘The future of humanity and of our planet lies in our hands. It lies also in the hands of today’s younger generation who will pass the torch to future generations.’ In order to achieve any and all of the SDGs, ongoing and meaningful engagement with younger generations is essential to ensure that momentum is maintained to 2030 and beyond.