ECOSOC Youth Forum

Youth urge inclusive socio-economic recovery from pandemic

News | 07 April 2021
The ECOSOC Youth Forum Thematic Session on “Prospering and Thriving” was convened on 7 April, by the ILO, UNCTAD and the UN Major Group for Children and Youth. The session, focused on financing for development, in the context of SDG 1 and SDG 8, was held during the 10th anniversary of the ECOSOC Youth Forum. This year’s Forum was critical in addressing the pressing concerns of young people whose education and employment have been disrupted during the COVID-19 pandemic and in shaping the path for inclusive and sustainable socio-economic recovery.

The Thematic Session brought together youth representatives to discuss how the COVID-19 recovery should be financed and in which sectors investments were needed. The dialogue aimed to provide inputs for Cluster 3, focused on socio-economic COVID-19 recovery, of the Financing for Development in the Era of COVID-19 and Beyond Initiative (FFDI), led by the UN Secretary-General, the Prime Minister of Canada and the Prime Minister of Jamaica.

Prior to the pandemic, the global community was not on track to achieve the SDGs by 2030, including target 8.6 to substantially reduce the proportion of youth not in employment, education or training by 2020. The pandemic unveiled and exacerbated the pre-existing inequalities and weaknesses and structural gaps in national and international health, economic and social systems, especially in developing countries. Consequently, countries across the globe have been facing rising youth unemployment and increasing financing challenges, disproportionately affecting developing countries and countries in special situations that are already facing deep-rooted vulnerabilities and inequalities. Ms. Anna Fendley, Chair of ITUC Youth Committee, underscored that countries had an uneven ability to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, and some were still even bearing the economic burdens from the financial crisis in 2009. Many countries were facing a decline in remittances and investments, including foreign direct investments, growing sovereign debt burdens and severely reduced fiscal space.

Since the start of the pandemic governments have spent close to $15 trillion to cope with its impact with developed countries spending around 80% and developing countries, especially least developed countries and small island developing states unable to spend. Further, social protection measures, which are designed as safety nets to help people in moments of crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic, rarely sufficiently address the specific needs of young people. Young people’s socio-economic vulnerability could be addressed through universal social protection, as pointed out by Ms. Fendley, but its financing would have to be sustainable.

Solutions for socio-economic recovery need to be efficient and effective to lead the global community to rebuild better. Mr. Roberto Hinestrosa Mejía, Advisor to the Presidential Counsellor for Youth, Colombia, highlighted the value of investing in both soft and technical skills, and emphasized Colombia’s commitment to enhance human development through education, employment and entrepreneurship. Investments in creative, cultural, green, innovation and tourism industries could yield benefits for young people’s recovery from the pandemic. Given the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on young people, Mr. Ronald Ramlogan, Team Leader for Public Relations and Research, Employers Consultative Association of Trinidad and Tobago, underscored the need for more innovative policy approaches, as well as upskilling, reskilling and tripartite cooperation.

Ms. Sanya Rajpal, Development & Policy Expert, Entrepreneur and Lawyer, UK, stated that, despite the availability of funding, there had been limited investments in sustainable development. The circular, the green and the blue economies had the most job-growth, innovation and entrepreneurship potential and could fuel the best long-term growth through a multiplier effect. Mr. Ndumiso Mngomezulu, Youth Action hub Coordinator, South Africa, also urged governments to invest in the green and digital economy, as this would be critical to both recover from the pandemic and achieve the SDGs by 2030. Ms. Rajpal further noted that while technology was not a solution for recovery, it could be a catalyst for an equitable future. Ms. Beatrice, Y-ACT, Amref Health Africa, also encouraged building innovative economic systems to stabilize prosperity and ensure the inclusion of young people. Ms. Amélie J. Mariage, UN Foundation Next Generation Fellow, added that the solutions for a socio-economic recovery had to be based on global solidarity.

The next few months will be critical in shaping the financing of the global COVID-19 recovery and beyond. Young people can – and should – contribute to policy decisions aimed to respond and recover from the pandemic. Governments and the international community must create enabling environments that allow an inclusive and sustainable socioeconomic recovery, through intergenerational dialogue, while keeping a gender, youth-sensitive and inclusive approach to financial investments that build prosperous and just societies for everyone.