‘We need youth leadership’

In a joint statement issued prior to the annual UN Economic and Social Council (Ecosoc) Youth Forum, Minister of International Development Dag-Inge Ulstein and youth delegates of the Norwegian Children and Youth Council (LNU) stressed that the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic have been particularly severe for young people.

‘Young people all over the world have been hit very hard by the Covid-19 pandemic. They have had to adapt to new challenges in relation to health, education, work, isolation and the emergence of conflict. At the same time, they are greatly underrepresented in the political decision-making processes that affect them. The pandemic has highlighted that we need youth leadership more than ever,’ said Mr Ulstein.

This week, the Minister of International Development is attending the virtual Ecosoc Youth Forum 2021. The theme for this year’s forum is the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the implementation of several of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Mr Ulstein will be giving a presentation on Norway’s efforts to implement SDG 16 on peace, justice and strong institutions in the context of young people.

The delegation also includes Sandra Skiaker, Ane Serreli and Merete Lan Olsen, youth representatives from the LNU on human rights, climate change and global health, respectively.

Ms Skiaker will speak on behalf of the youth delegates during the same thematic session as Mr Ulstein.

‘Many young people have lost valuable educational and career opportunities as a result of the pandemic. Moreover, their social lives have been put on hold. Not being able to meet friends also means losing an important arena for forming opinions, having discussions and exercising critical thinking. We have to take the consequences of this seriously. I am looking forward to speaking at this year’s forum about the importance of including young people,’ said Ms Skiaker.

Youth delegate for global health Merete Lan Olsen agrees that it is essential to ensure inclusion of young people.

‘Considering that half of the world’s population is under 30 years of age, it is more important than ever to include us in meaningful discussions and political decision-making. Another thing we need to discuss at this year’s forum is vaccine nationalism, which will only prolong the pandemic and make things worse. The equitable global distribution of vaccines will be crucial to preventing even greater suffering among those who have been hit the hardest by the pandemic. No one is safe until everyone is safe,’ she said.

Youth delegate for climate change Ane Serreli emphasises that climate considerations must be given a central role in recovery efforts after the pandemic.

‘A just basis for rebuilding society, one that is focused on people, nature and the environment, will be critical. That is why the Youth Forum will urge world leaders to increase their Nationally Determined Contributions and, at the same time, to target a greater portion of climate finance towards climate change adaptation. Time is no longer on our side – we must take steps to translate words into action,’ she said.