Young people across the Pan-European region are driving change for a sustainable future and will be key actors to get countries on track for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Their role is also integral to the huge potential of education to build knowledge, skills and understanding to tackle the major challenges faced by current and future generations.
To further harness this unique role, governments of the UNECE region have discussed how to strengthen the meaningful participation of young people to help address sustainability challenges. Principal agreement has been reached to establish the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Youth Task Force on Education for Sustainable Development, pending the finalization of formal documents. The Task Force builds upon the work previously conducted by the Ad-hoc group on youth linked to the ESD Steering Committee
The decision responds to the declaration made by Ministers at the 9th Environment for Europe Conference, which underscored the need for more and stronger education for sustainable development to advance environmental governance, strengthen environmental democracy and to empower learners of all ages with the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes to address interconnected global challenges. It further puts into action the strong recognition of youth participation as a key dimension of inclusive, multistakeholder engagement set forth in the Secretary-General’s Our Common Agenda report and his vision on the future of global cooperation.
The agreement to establish the Task Force was reached in Geneva today by the UNECE Steering Committee on ESD – the only regional body in the UN system on education for sustainable development. The group will support implementation of the UNECE Strategy for Education for Sustainable Development (Strategy for ESD) for 2021-2030, which aims to encourage countries to integrate ESD into all forms of their education systems and covers all levels from primary to tertiary, including vocational and adult learning.
“If we want youth to be catalysts of change on ESD, we must consider them as part of the solution. This demands that governments give youth the space, the time and the voice to articulate their vision. The establishment of the Task Force will be a concrete step in this direction” commented Aravella Zachariou, Chair of the Steering Committee. “The aim is to bring together youth from all the Member States in the UNECE region and jointly with the Steering Committee to formulate policies and accelerate actions that will strengthen countries’ integration of the SDGs through an intergenerational collaboration.”
'The creation of this Task Force is a clear indication that governments and institutions are open and willing to integrate youth within the work of the UNECE Steering Committee on ESD”, said Simon Herteleer, Task Force Coordinator. “The work undertaken until now by young people within the Committee has had a clear impact not only on its work and its policies but also for other organizations and frameworks. It also showcases how young people can meaningfully contribute to policies and implementation of activities in partnership with governments, civil society and academia.”
It is proposed that the members of the Task Force will be designated by Governments of the UNECE Member States. The Youth Task Force will include young people in the fields of environment and education, and will be open-ended. Its members will be responsible for representing young people and their constituencies in the Steering Committee.
It’s also proposed that the UNECE Youth Task Force will constitute the advisory body to the Steering Committee on ESD on issues related to young people in the UNECE region and be responsible for giving guidance and strategic directions to the implementation of the Strategy. It will also review the progress of its implementation. In particular, the Task Force is proposed to:
- Advise the Steering Committee on all issues and activities of the Steering Committee related to young people.
- Contribute to the effective mainstreaming of youth in the implementation of the UNECE Strategy for Education for Sustainable Development.
- Formulate opinions and proposals concerning the priorities and expected results for youth. Where appropriate, address these opinions and proposals to the UNECE Steering Committee on Education for Sustainable Development or other relevant stakeholders.
- Promote the UNECE’s ESD youth policies within the Organization and beyond. Hold an exchange of views and report to the relevant meeting of the UNECE Steering Committee on ESD annually in order to evaluate the activities and advise the ESD Youth Platform on future priorities including possible new activities.