Last month, a delegation of 15 Millennium Fellows attended the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Youth Forum at the United Nations in New York. The Forum was co-organized by the ECOSOC president, the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, and the UN Youth Envoy to provide a platform for young people to dialogue with United Nations member states and share their views on how to make the world a fairer, more sustainable place for this generation and the next. Millennium Fellows at the forum engaged policymakers, government representatives, youth leaders, and more global players in the public and private sectors.
MCN and UNAI also co-hosted a virtual side event at the ECOSOC Youth Forum 2023. The event, titled "Partnerships for the Goals (SDG 17) between undergraduates working on Social Impact and Universities," was co-moderated by the UN's Gabrielle Vardeleon and MCN's Dr Abigail Canales Ibarra.
Young leaders attending the side event resolved that supporting student leaders who are committed to creating social impact with the SDGs can benefit universities and society as a whole. By fostering a culture of social responsibility, attracting and retaining students, building partnerships and collaborations like the Millennium Fellowship, and addressing societal challenges, universities can play a key role in creating a more just and sustainable world.
Partnerships between undergraduates working on social impact and their universities (SDG 17) can be incredibly valuable for achieving the SDGs. By leveraging the resources, expertise, and support of universities, students can more effectively implement their projects and make a greater impact on communities worldwide.
We extend our gratitude to all Millennium Fellowship alumni present in New York for the Youth Forum, including Ariel Zhao, Lulu Okeke, Claudia Cabral, Ian McPherson, Sean Schrader, Aissatou Gningue, Charlie Zong, Suzanna (Siyu) Chen, Sanjay Sudarsan, Sarosh Nagar. Three of them have shared their reflections and learnings from the Forum below:
Ariel Zhao: New York University '23 || Harvard '27
"I had the privilege of attending the ECOSOC Youth Forum at the UN Headquarters from 25-27 April 2023 as a delegate of the Millennium Campus Network.
The forum addressed intergenerational equity's vital role in social equity and sustainable decision-making. It stressed the need for governments to enhance youth participation and establish consultation mechanisms and global standards. Secretary-General Guterres emphasized youth engagement in UN decision-making and advocated a standing UN youth town hall process for diverse and representative participation. One of my key takeaways from the forum is the importance of incorporating perspectives from different generations in the process of achieving social equity. Examining the roles of social and intergenerational equity is critical in influencing human well-being and achieving more sustainable decision-making. It is essential to involve youth in decision-making processes to ensure their voices and perspectives are heard, as they will be the ones to inherit and shape the future.
As a Millennium Fellowship Alumnus, I had the opportunity to discuss my project aimed at strengthening SDG 3 "Good Health and Well-being." I aim to serve Chinese-American youth ages 15-18 in NY through evidence-based psychoeducational workshops designed for early mental health education intervention. With a culturally informed and community-based approach, we equip clients with strategies to thrive in this vulnerable developmental stage.
The forum allowed me to share my project with fellow youth leaders, member states, and global leaders and gain valuable feedback and insights.
I am immensely grateful to MCN for their steadfast support and guidance throughout my journey. In addition to providing invaluable platforms for broadening our global perspectives and acquiring comprehensive knowledge, I am particularly grateful for MCN’s concern for us as individuals and their efforts to connect us with multiple invaluable networks and partners. I am truly grateful for the resources and opportunities that MCN has facilitated for us, which have been instrumental in our personal and professional growth."
Sarosh Nagar: Harvard University '24
"On April 25th, I had the distinct pleasure of attending the 2023 United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Youth Forum at the invitation of ECOSOC President Her Excellency Lachezara Stoeva. Alongside a delegation of 14 other brilliant Millennium Fellows and Sam and Abby from the Millennium Campus Network (MC), I had the opportunity to attend the summit, speak on key policy topics, and meet brilliant young leaders from across the world who are running organizations, building devices, and more to help the world achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
At the Summit, I focused on SDG 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure. My fellowship project is a nonprofit I founded called the Emerging Technology Group (ETG) (formerly Emerging Technology Initiative, featured in a previous Millennium Fellow feature here.) We work across 5 continents with more than 10 partners to leverage technology for social good, using technological tools to conduct original research, develop policy recommendations, build inventions, and more to leverage technology for good, with our work presented to the White House and more.
At the ECOSOC Youth Forum, I had two key privileges. First, I had the opportunity to discuss ETG’s work with a global audience, especially through United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI) and MCN’s side event where we discussed how to use technology in non-traditional ways for the social good. However, even more importantly, I had the opportunity to listen and learn. Many of my fellow Millennium Fellows had wonderful projects focused on science and technology."
Abigail Canales: Partnerships Manager, MCN
"The SDGs are intended to be achieved by 2030 and beyond, and young people will be the ones living with the consequences of today's political decisions for many years to come. Therefore, it is important to involve young people in the policy-making process to ensure that their perspectives and concerns are taken into account and that policies are designed to have a lasting impact.
Let's speak up even if our voices tremble!
I lack the words to express the admiration I have for the Millennium Fellowship alumni who were part of this incredible experience. Despite the difficulties around the world, they are the ones who not only create hopes for a more just and equitable future for all but also take action to achieve it.
Every day, the destinies of nations and the fate of our planet are shaped by the decisions made by politicians and leaders. These choices carry profound implications for the present and future generations, particularly impacting the lives of young people who will inherit the world we leave behind. Sadly, in many instances, the voices of these young individuals are disregarded, their perspectives overlooked, and their concerns neglected.
The need to include and engage young people in decision-making processes cannot be overstated. They are the ones who will bear the long-term consequences of political actions, environmental policies, and social reforms. Their perspectives, innovative ideas, and passion for a better future hold immense value and should be recognized as invaluable resources for building sustainable and inclusive societies.
It is disheartening when decisions are made without adequate input from those who are most affected by them. The exclusion of young people from the decision-making table not only undermines the principles of democracy and inclusivity but also denies them the opportunity to contribute their unique insights, experiences, and aspirations.
By actively involving the youth in political decision-making, we create a platform for their voices to be heard and their concerns to be addressed. This inclusive approach fosters a sense of ownership and empowerment, encouraging them to actively participate in shaping their own future.
When young people are given the opportunity to engage in meaningful dialogue and collaborate with decision-makers, the outcomes reflect a broader range of perspectives and priorities that better represent the diverse needs of society as a whole.
Inclusion is not just a matter of justice and fairness; it is a strategic imperative for a more sustainable, equitable, and prosperous world. By embracing the perspectives and insights of young people, we can pave the way for a future that better represents the needs and aspirations of all generations, fostering a society where every voice truly matters. The ECOSOC Youth Forum was a positive step in this direction."