[Intervention] The 5th ASEAN-China-UNDP Symposium: Enhancing the Roles of Youth in Achieving the SDGs, 8 April 2021

Published by AYF Secretariat on

ASEAN Youth Forum was given an opportunity to deliver an intervention and sharing in the 5th ASEAN-China-UNDP Symposium: Enhancing the Roles of Youth in Achieving the SDGs on Thursday, 8 April 2021.

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Intervention delivered by Rastra Yasland, Programme Manager of ASEAN Youth Forum Secretariat:

Before jumping into my presentation, I would like to express gratitude for the space of sharing in this youth-integrated symposium. 

On behalf of ASEAN Youth Forum and Youth in Southeast Asia, I would like to express our solidarity in the face of crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic, and our solidarity in the face of disasters. Recently where I am living right now in East Nusa Tenggara and in Timor Leste, we experienced the tropical storm of the devastating cyclone Seroja, and over the past 12 months, we have witnessed disasters in Mekong areas and also typhoon in the Philippines.

Last, we would like to express our solidarity in the face of violence across region, especially the coup and violent situation in Myanmar. Youth is an integral part in the middle of any crises, and we should support youth and promote more safe spaces for youth in the region.

On SDGs and Agenda 2030, AYF sees them important in their relevance to the blueprints of all three pillars of ASEAN, especially the ASEAN Socio-Cultural community blueprint. While it is important to note that the SDGs and youth development efforts are mutually reinforcing. It is more significant to note for the importance of accelerating sustainable development with human rights. As we know, in the preamble, SDGs aim to “realize the human rights of all” and emphasizes “the responsibilities of all States... to respect, protect and promote human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction of any kind 

That being said, in this “Decade of Actions” we would love to see more rights-based initiatives and actions in the region.

Reflecting to what ASEAN Youth Forum has experienced, we would like to promote the values of Partnership (SDG 17), collaboration, and connections across the borders. In a simple but truthful cliche, together we achieve more. AYF believes in Agenda 2030 and ASEAN community vision 2025, and we believe in the significance of achieving them together. 

As we participate in SDG-related reviews and processed from the APFSD youth forum & people’s forum, the APFSD intergovernmental fora, and currently to High Level Political forum happening in July, we understand that engaging youth becomes significant and more youth should involved in the process. 

The 2030 Agenda commits governments to establishing a “robust, voluntary, effective, participatory, transparent and integrated follow-up and review framework” and sets out important principles to guide the review process at all levels, including gender sensitivity and respect for human rights (ref). It is the call for the governments to provide a mechanism in the Voluntary National Reviews that is participatory and allow youth to be able to monitor or participate in the process.

We encourage youth to engage, to meaningfully participate, and to shape the spaces in the region. We really would love to see youth organizing in all level, local, national, and regional. To echo what H.E. Kung Phoak, Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN for ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community said on his remarks this morning: "when youth are empowered, youth can create genuine SDGs impacts in the community and countries" and it is important to raise engagement of youth in policy making discourses.

We appreciate ASEAN in engaging youth experts and representation of youth on the development of the workplan on youth and how ASEAN has engaged youth meaningfully in its plan related to disaster resilience including the works towards digital literacy for youth and youth workforce in the industry 4.0. with initiatives like incubations, pitching programs, and any others that accelerate the spirit of entrepreneurship and economic development.

On that note, we would like to recall on the Economic Justice.

Rather than economy-centered programs and outcomes, we would love to encourage more people-centered initiatives. We need to think of a way and maybe mainstreaming the idea where the economy works for the people, not the people work for the economy. The ASEAN's spirit of "leaving no one behind" should be translated into more people-centered program.

Next, the challenges that youth face varies. I would like to highlight that youth need the support in terms of funding and resources. More Fund mobilization should be taken to support youth-led and youth-centered initiatives in the region. 

And, while youth would love to participate and engaged in the community and the processes, youth are often being criminalized over their fundamental freedom when actively advocating for SDGs, namely those related to freedom of expression, assembly, and even during the pandemic there are criminalization that relates to the right to information.

Furthermore, it’s important to note the aspects of digital literacy because not all youth are digital native and has access to digital technology. Also, on digital security, we witness more cyber attacks towards youth community.

Last, the access for marginalized youth, like youth in rural areas, in conflicted settings, and disability. We hope as a community we can support youth better and tackle these challenges.

Here to fore, recalling the Southeast Asia Youth Collective Statement (2020) and the Asia Pacific Youth Call to Action 2021, we would like to recommend policy makers and governements to

  1. Encourage more actions and youth initiatives. we recommend such mechanisms that rewards / awards youth in the communities and their initiatives that impact the region positively towards Agenda 2030.
  2. Address unemployment issues through youth-centered initiatives and opportunities and ensuring a safe work environment from discrimination, abuse, and harassment on the ground of SOGIE, gender, disability and migratory status. 
  3. Address educational infrastructure gaps (especially in rural and digitally-disconnected areas) and invest in an inclusive education system for all youth.
  4. Next, relating to what Mr. Berniam Gebrezghi from UNDP said in the first panel, youth in migration and young refugees are in crisis, it is important for ASEAN to establish an independent ASEAN  body to uphold and protect the rights of people in migration and handle migration issues, including Refugee and Trafficking, with the right-based approach.
  5. Encourage safe space for youth to engage, monitor, and assemble, organize, and participate in the efforts and actions towards ASEAN Community Vision 2025 and SDGs AGENDA 2030 by repealing regulations in ASEAN Member States that criminalize and violate the right to freedom of expression, opinion, and the right to information; and to create a safe and enabling environment for people to exercise their rights without fear of reprisal.
  6. Recalling that: everyone is entitled, on an equal footing with others, to enjoy the highest attainable standard of health. We hope policy makers to re-visit current health policies and re-draft them with shifting contexts taking into account the intersectional identities of young people. Encourage youth-friendly health services, including for mental health counselling and sexual and reproductive health, that are confidential, non-judgmental, non-discriminatory, and most importantly affordable. 
  7. Ensure meaningful engagement of marginalised youth (young women, rural and indigenous youth, LGBTIQ+ youth, and youth with disabilities) in policy, decision-making and monitoring related to climate change. 
  8. Ensure that the national stimulus and response strategies to the COVID-19 pandemic take the environmental dimension into account. 
  9. Prioritise Recovery measures that work on accelerating a green transition in the future 

Recalling the remarks of H.E. Deng Xijun, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to ASEAN this morning that "agenda 2030 must be intergrated in the recovery efforts".

How? we believe that the COVID-19 socio-economic recovery efforts and the initiatives in this “Decade of Actions” must be carried out to stimulate equity, resilience, sustainability, and progress towards the SDGs by emphasising the need for research to advance gender equity, engagement with marginalised populations, ensuring decent work, preventing a digital divide, tackling intersectoral challenges around healthcare, and informing global governance reforms. 

An intersectional, human rights and gender responsive analysis is crucial for sustainable COVID19 resilience on a global scale. This is the only way in which recovery efforts can address the impact of the pandemic on all diverse and marginalized populations.

Last, the inclusion of young people in the recovery efforts is crucial for creating a more resilient and sustainable future. And to echo, remark from Mr. Christophe Bahuet, UNDP, "let’s translate our discussions and insights today into actions."

Thank you.