New UN report says youth will play key role in achieving sustainable development in Asia-Pacific

Investing in youth is not only an investment in the future but also fundamental for the successful implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, according to a new United Nations report.

The first-ever report on youth and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Asia-Pacific, Switched On: Youth at the Heart of Sustainable Development in Asia and the Pacific, was launched today by the United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) Dr. Shamshad Akhtar and Ms. Tomoko Nishimoto, ILO Assistant Director-General and Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific. The report was launched on behalf of the Asia-Pacific RCM Thematic Working Group (TWG) on Youth, which includes 12 members from the United Nations system and the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

With a population of over 700 million young people, Asia-Pacific is home to 60 per cent of the global population aged 15 to 24, years and the region stands to benefit tremendously from engaging, energizing and empowering its young people towards the realization of a prosperous, peaceful and sustainable future for all.

The report illustrates that youth face disproportionate barriers in relation to the achievement of the SDGs. For instance, adolescent pregnancy puts young women at dire risk and yet, in some countries, only about half of all 15 to 19 year-old pregnant girls can expect at least one ante-natal visit. Today, an estimated 21.6 per cent of employed young people in South Asia are earning less than USD 1.25 a day and are deemed to be in working poverty. To add to this, around 1.7 billion people, including a significant proportion of young people in the region do not have access to clean water and sanitation.

Through inclusive and participatory processes, however, the Asia-Pacific region can succeed in tackling such issues as hunger and health, education and employment, as well as poverty and increased political engagement for all young people to pursue lives of dignity and worth in the region.

Launching the report in Bangkok, Dr. Akhtar emphasized that we are at a critical juncture in the journey to realize the transformative vision of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development and the SDGs.

“The journey will necessitate commitment from leaders of Asia and the Pacific – the powerhouse of global economic growth – to provide youth with opportunities to be agents of change, to play an integral role in implementing the SDGs and contribute to productivity and prosperity of the region,” said Dr. Akhtar.

Ms. Tomoko Nishimoto highlighted that: “Young people in Asia Pacific are taking brave and determined steps to tackle the challenges they face. These include finding quality education and skills training, demographic shifts, and the effects of climate change. From policymakers they don’t want empty words or sympathy. They want the concrete and effective support that will allow them to make the most of their talents and energy, while ensuring the protection of their basic human rights."

Ms. Ploycarat Nana, a member of the Youth Advisory Group for TWG-Youth stated that: "Dismantling barriers to youth political participation and challenging prejudicial attitudes and actions must become a top priority for policymakers and relevant stakeholders, together with ending violence and discrimination against women and girls through enforced policies and efforts."

The report aims to strengthen the understanding and responses by governments, civil society, the private sector, academia and other stakeholders to boost the position and promise of youth in the region, including through preparing for future demographic implications; enhancing institutional capacity and good governance; promoting social dialogue and political commitment; and supporting the evidence base for more effective policymaking.

Switched On: Youth at the Heart of Sustainable Development in Asia and the Pacific is the result of a collaborative effort of the members of the Asia-Pacific RCM Thematic Working Group on Youth, namely:ADB, ILO, IOM, UNAIDS, UNICEF, UNDP, ESCAP, UNESCO, UNEP, UNFPA, UN-Habitat, UNV and WHO. Young people from across the region also supported and contributed to the development of this report.

Download a full copy of the report.