Reflections from the UN ECOSOC Youth Forum

By James Chabin

As part of my internship with SDG Academy, I was able to participate in the 2024 ECOSOC Youth Forum at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. The experience spanned one day of training with the Major Group for Children and Youth (MGCY) and three days at and around the United Nations Headquarters for official conference activities and side events. 

The ECOSOC Youth Forum is part of wider efforts by the United Nations to incorporate youth voices into global conversations regarding international agreements and development. As a youth delegate, I would like to share some of the highlights from this year’s conference.

Youth Networking

Without a doubt, the most valuable outcome of the ECOSOC Youth Forum was a new set of personal and professional connections between young people working towards sustainable development across the globe. 
When I arrived for the forum, I expected a majority of the participants to be from the New York area, given the barrier that visas and international travel pose to those living overseas. To my surprise, I found the participants to represent a wide range of countries, creating a truly international culture worthy of the United Nations. 

These youths also represented a diverse set of professional backgrounds, with many of them leading or representing NGOs from their home countries working on youth empowerment, climate change, animal rights, and many other pressing sustainability issues. Different official and unofficial events grouped participants by region, professional focus, or randomly, allowing like-minded individuals to create connections that will help propel their work in their home countries. 

Engaging Side Events

While the Youth Forum itself hosted conversations with impressive speakers, including United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres and Former President of Chile and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet Jeria, I found that the side events were particular highlights. 

Side events are hosted by national missions to the UN, NGOs, UN entities and other groups to complement the ECOSOC Youth Forum and allow participants to network and engage with experts. 

From COP28 to COP29: Youth Leading the Charge Against Climate Change, hosted by the Mission of Azerbaijan, the Mission of the UAE, and the UN Youth Office, youth involved in climate change activism were able to speak directly to COP29 organizers. Many of the youth activists had attended previous iterations of COP, which made for a nuanced and detailed discussion about how to best incorporate youth voices at COP29.

At Youth for Sustainability: Cultivating leaders through education, innovations, and partnerships, hosted by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network’s Global Schools Program and the Ban Ki-moon Centre for Global Citizens, leaders in sustainability education and high school students rotated through facilitated and unfacilitated activities, allowing for natural relationships to grow amongst youth with similar interests. 

Side events add a new dimension to the ECOSOC Youth Forum by giving participants access to professionals who shape the global sustainability agenda. 

The United Nations

My final highlight from the 2024 ECOSOC Youth Forum is an obvious one: being at the United Nations itself!

While my expectations were high, the United Nations Headquarters was more impressive than I had imagined. As they walk the grounds, visitors find powerful sculptures depicting our shared hope for a peaceful future and cultural artifacts gifted to the United Nations from every corner of the world. I was lucky to be there for the spring cherry blossom bloom, which completed the picturesque image of the UN against the Manhattan skyline. 


The ECOSOC Youth Forum is a great opportunity for young professionals to network with like-minded sustainability-focused peers, learn about international efforts to integrate youth voices, and participate in international diplomacy themselves. 

I would recommend attending the 2025 ECOSOC Youth Forum if you are a youth with membership in an organization focused on one or more of the sustainable development goals that would benefit from building a network with other young people and youth-led organizations. While the experience would be enjoyable for any youth interested in international politics, a robust and international network is the return that participants get for their investment of time and money. 
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James Chabin

James Chabin is a M.A. Candidate at Nagoya University’s Graduate School of International Development in Nagoya, Japan and an intern with the SDG Academy of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network. He has written on sustainability, development, and military restraint for several publications, including the Diplomat, Inkstick, and Global Americans. You can follow him on X at @JamesChabin.