As part of an ECOSOC Youth Forum side event, five youth from South and Southeast Asia convened in a youth-led and organized event hosted by Finn Church Aid and the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers. This was an opportunity for the youth to highlight best practices and lessons learned from youth-led programming striving to advance SDG 16 amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Meaningful participation and leadership of youth and their organizations within a civil society space is necessary in order to set the tone and involvement of youth in the ECOSOC forum’s objectives and outcomes, as well as, in advancing and inspiring more youth-led initiatives in responding to the realities in their own local communities.
Evidence from the OECD reveals that the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionally impacted vulnerable groups and is likely to exacerbate inequalities. This is especially true for the impact of the pandemic on youth. Prior to the pandemic, youth were 2.5 times more likely to be unemployed than people aged 25 to 64. Now, youth are more vulnerable in labor markets, as they are more likely to work in non-standard employment, including temporary or part-time work and face a higher risk of job and income loss. The closure of schools and universities have also affected more than 1.5 billion children and youth worldwide. Another study conducted by the OECD found that across 59 countries only half of students were able to access all or most of the curriculum in alternative learning opportunities. A heavy toll on mental health and a growing mistrust of governments is also on the rise, due to the spread of misinformation and online violence. The 2021 Youth ECOSOC Forum, which will commemorate its 10th anniversary, is a historic opportunity to hear from the experiences and leadership of youth in order to build back better and to create intergenerational transformative change.
One key area in focus of the Forum will be on SDG 16, “Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.” SDG 16 evaluates many elements of peace, including: levels of physical, psychological and sexual violence; the proportion of the population who believe decision-making is inclusive and responsive, by sex, age, persons with disabilities and population groups; and a proportion of the population having personally felt discriminated against or harassed.
 OCED. “Youth and COVID-19: Response, Recovery and Resilient.” 11 June 2020. Retrieved from: Youth and COVID-19: Response, recovery and resilience (oecd.org)