UN Economic and Social Council forum brings together youth leadership on sustainable development

NYU Wagner students at ECOSOC Youth Forum
From left: NYU Wagner students Mariel Denise, Paula Sevilla Núñez, and Saif Awadh at the 2018 UN ECOSOC Youth Forum

Paula Sevilla Núñez (MUP Candidate 2019) reflects on her experiences at the UN ECOSOC Youth Forum last month:

The current youth generation is often dismissed as self-centered and narcissistic, but the 2018 ECOSOC Youth Forum painted a very different picture. Over 500 young people gathered at the United Nations Economic and Social Council over the course of two days in January to prove their commitment to building a more sustainable future in their communities and across borders. In the face of rising inequality, unending conflicts, and environmental challenges, forum participants demanded a seat at the decision-making table, leaving it very clear that they would no longer accept being ignored.

As a participant, I was proud to see youth develop detailed recommendations on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, and passionately discuss issues like forced migration, sexual assault, and climate change. We came from different professional and personal backgrounds, but all with the same drive to overcome challenges to sustainable development and be an active part of positive change.

I decided to participate in the ECOSOC Youth Forum partly as a suggestion from NYU Wagner’s Office of Career Services to continue exploring my interest in international development, as well as to take notes for the Progress Study on Youth, Peace and Security at the UN Peacebuilding Support Office, where I am currently an intern.

The conversations around building inclusive and sustainable cities or addressing the urban-rural divide were very much in line with the topics I am currently exploring in my classes and I hope to continue exploring in my career as a policymaker either in government or an international organization. My interactions with experts in disaster risk management and refugee resettlement also deepened my interest in international cooperation initiatives to address such global issues.

A few of my fellow NYU Wagner classmates were also inspired by the Forum. Saif Awadh (MPA Candidate 2018) said, “In a session on Middle Eastern and North African youth, we discussed how the youth living under autocratic systems can try to find ways to voice their concerns to their own governments. As someone coming from the Middle East myself, it was great to hear fellow regionalists' opinions and their amazing experiences and stories.”

Mariel Denise (MPA Candidate 2019) was impressed to see individuals from the private sector highly involved in the forum, “Corporations want to know what youth are concerned about.”

During the forum’s keynote address, Salina Abraham, President of the International Forestry Students’ Association, said, “Natural harmony is a stirring, buzzing, incessant noise of voices … but that is where we have to be.”

That, to me, is key to our mission; public service is not about the orderly and the static, but rather about the chaotic, the messy, and the ever-changing. This is what makes our work at NYU Wagner challenging, but also necessary and fascinating.

ECOSOC Youth Forum