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In China, the UN Youth Envoy calls for youth participation in achieving the global agenda

BEIJING, China, 7 August 2018 – The UN Youth Envoy, Jayathma Wickramanayake has wrapped up her official visit to China last week. During her visit, UNFPA China Office organized a lunch meeting between the Envoy and Chinese young leaders.

The lunch meeting is to build a dialogue between the Envoy and Chinese young leaders, and exchange ideas and experiences on youth development and their participation in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Appointed as the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth in June 2017 at the age of 26, Jayathma has been worked to expand the UN’s youth engagement and advocacy efforts across the four pillars of the UN’s work - sustainable development, human rights, peace and security and humanitarian action – and serves as a representative of and advisor to the Secretary-General.

“Wake up at 5:30 in the morning, I start my daily work as the Youth Envoy. Every day, I can see how different young people from a variety of communities coming up with diverse ideas and their interests in the UN during visits to the UN headquarters. I learn about the young people’s needs and ideas for future development, and participate in different meetings and conferences and speak out on behalf of young people,” said Jayathma.

In addition to typical daily work, Jayathma said her role requires her to visit different countries and meet government officials, civil society leaders, UN agency representatives and other key partners to discuss the challenges and opportunities faced by local young people.

In China, there are 278 million young people aged between 10-24, the second largest youth population in the world. Young people have witnessed and benefited from the largest social and economic development in human history. For example, more than 800 million people are lift out of poverty in the past 40 years after China’s reform and opening up, and 9 years’ education are made compulsory and accessible to every child. 

Talking about youth participation in poverty alleviation and achieving SDGs, Jayathma said every young people has a role to play. 

“We are the first generation to eradicate poverty. It is time that we can really make a change and young people will have a crucial role to play. They should be empowered to play a part in the implementation of SDGs.” 

In China, many platforms have been initiated to allow young people to work together and solve social challenges. China’s first ever Middle and Long-term Youth Development Strategy regarded young people as active agents that contribute to China’s development. More than ever, young people in China are raising their voices to advocate for a more equal and prosperous world. The SDGs has played a critical role in empowering young people and guiding their directions.

UNFPA has worked on youth issues for three decades in the country. Partnering with the government, academia, and youth groups, UNFPA has established youth participatory platforms, supported the provision of youth friendly services and advocated for quality comprehensive sexuality education both in China and other developing countries. 

More than ten youth representatives from China Youth Network, China Youthink Center, Beifang International Education Group, China Soon Ching Ling Foundation, media, high school and university, and interns from UNFPA China participated in the lunch meeting with the Youth Envoy.