Within the framework of its interest in advancing the wheel of sustainable development and on the sidelines of the 2023 ECOSOC Youth Forum, Maat for Peace, Development and Human Rights organized an e-symposium on April 25th 2023, entitled, "Enhancing the participation of Northern and Southern Mediterranean youth to achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals post-Covid 19”, which was consistent with the 2023 HLPF theme of, "Accelerating the recovery from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at all levels”.
The side event was able to shed light on the role of youth and youth partnerships in accelerating sustainable development. It discussed the importance of creating a free and consistent space for youth organizations to cooperate and exchange experiences and best practices to achieve maximum benefit in the field of sustainable development. This was followed by a discussion on the different possible ways to ensure that participation is representative and that youth organizations receive appropriate capacity building opportunities to advance the way in which they contribute to the achievement of SDGs. Moreover, the persistent challenges that face youth organizations in proactively contributing to the achievement of the 5 SDGs under review by the HLPF this year, which are SDGs 6, 7, 9, 11 and 17, were thoroughly analyzed. And lastly, an assessment of the role of social media in facilitating youth participation in achieving the SDGs was conducted.
Our speakers were from 3 different countries, Bulgaria, Italy and Greece, and they have either led or participated in youth-led initiatives and activities. They were able to successfully highlight the importance of youth participation in achieving the SDGs and help us explore how we can better support and empower young people to take ownership of the SDGs.
Nevena Dobreva, chair of FECE, a Bulgarian youth organization, stressed on the need for non-formal learning and training to provide youth with soft and professional skills that can contribute to their role in achieving the SDGs. She also called for intensified international cooperation in order to build capacities and learn about the different realities and practices that exist in different countries.
Next speaker was Evelyn de Luca from the Italian organization EUROSUD who highlighted the importance of adopting a participatory approach which involves conducting training-need assessments to understand the problems and needs of the targeted group, engaging stakeholders on capacity development to identify the driving and restraining forces and following a diversity and inclusion strategy.
Eleni Vrentzou, a Greek researcher, identified the common challenges that face youth organizations which include limited financial and human resources, lack of support from governments and the private sector, and lack of awareness and education on their role in achieving the SDGs. She believes that such challenges make it difficult to implement effective programs which decreases the number of meaningful impacts that youth can generate towards accomplishing these goals.
Last but not least was EUphoria Youth Lab’s communication officer Stavroula Panagiotopoulou from Greece, who acknowledged social media as a crucial tool for awareness-raising and educational platforms as well as data collection and analysis of the progress made thus far in achieving the SDGs. She also stressed on the need to educate youth on responsible social media use so they are able to constructively engage in safe online spaces.