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Young voices inspire sustainable development action at UN75 regional commemoration

The United Nations is marking its 75th anniversary at a time of great disruption for the world, compounded by an unprecedented global health crisis with severe economic and social impacts. The regional UN75 commemoration jointly hosted by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the Office of the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Thailand today drew attention to the power of innovation and partnerships, especially among younger generations, in building a better future post COVID-19.
“We face colossal challenges. With global solidarity and cooperation, we can overcome them. That’s what the United Nations is all about. On this anniversary, I ask people everywhere to join together. The United Nations not only stands with you; the United Nations belong to you and is you: we the peoples,” shared United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in a special video message.
“History teaches that we are more effective and relevant if we empower people to support the societal transformation that we aspire together. Accelerating progress towards the 2030 Agenda, the Paris Agreement, the Sendai Framework, and other internationally agreed development goals, is possible only through an enhanced multilateral cooperation and development partnership,” said United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana.

In January 2020, the United Nations also launched the UN75 initiative. Dubbed the world’s largest conversation, thousands of people shared their hopes and fears for the future, as well as their expectations of international cooperation and of the UN in particular.

When asked where we should be in 25 years, most responses focused on human rights, environmental protection, tackling inequalities and better access to education. Respondents also cited climate change and environmental issues as the most influential trends for the future.

“We know that youth engagement and leadership is absolutely essential for the future we want and the UN we need. We need to redouble our efforts in youth co-labs, find new ways to reach out to young people, and engage with them to find solutions to today’s development challenges. Most importantly, we need to listen to their voices and build partnerships to take meaningful action on the Sustainable Development Goals,” highlighted UN Resident Coordinator in Thailand Gita Sabharwal.
“Let us recommit to common ideals as well as the future promise of concrete actions. Let us assert ownership of a multilateral institution that is responsive and fit for the purpose so as to allow us to face upcoming uncertainties with confidence. Meanwhile, we the people should keep on strongly our partnership for peace and prosperity for the good of our planet,” underscored Thailand Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai in his keynote remarks.
Broadcast live on YouTube, the Asia-Pacific commemoration also featured the final part of ESCAP’s Regional Conversation Series on Building Back Better. Six young trailblazing innovators – Aeloi Technologies Co-Founder Sonika Manandhar, Ricult Thailand Co-Founder and CEO Aukrit Unahalekhaka, Women’s Entrepreneurship Development Fund Founder Asel Kubanychbekova, Fusion Hub Founder Sagufta Janif, MOTIONECO Founder and CEO Shutong Liu and Indonesian Member of Parliament Dyah Roro Esti Widya Putri – shared their journeys of innovation and how they have helped to bring about meaningful changes at the grassroot, national and international levels.
From using new technologies to empower farmers, underprivileged women and microentrepreneurs to making clean energy more available and affordable, their work has left a clear footprint in the society. The discussions also brought to light what is needed for change to take root, from embracing sustainability in individual choices to policy support for social enterprises.
Also on the day, ESCAP and Mahidol University formally announced the establishment of the SDG Solutions Lab. The Lab will bring together policymakers with SDG-related challenges and young innovators and entrepreneurs with ideas, to develop and implement innovative and technological solutions to accelerate progress on the SDGs.
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