Youth at Heart Virtual Forum, an opportunity to connect young people with policymakers

An initiative led by the Netherlands and supported by Generation Unlimited to boost youth participation and mobilize commitments to close the digital divide

Generation Unlimited
02 November 2020
Youth At Heart logo with portraits of five young people.

In line with its Youth at Heart Strategy, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands hosted a virtual Youth at Heart forum on 2 November 2020, which will contribute to  strengthen an international movement with and for young people to address the specific challenges facing youth in the fields of work, education and participation/youth-led change.

Participants included youth, private and public sector partners, decision makers and influencers from Africa, the Middle East, Europe and beyond.  At least half of participants were under the age of 35.

In collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Generation Unlimited organized the session, Intergenerational Dialogue on Reimagining Learning & Skilling, which brought together young people and public and private sector leaders to discuss the investments required to scale up digital connectivity, digital learning, skilling, and entrepreneurship for young people and ensure meaningful youth participation and youth-led solutions.

Investments in learning and training are falling short, and too many young people are not keeping pace with the evolving demands of employment. The COVID-19 global pandemic has exacerbated this situation. At least 267 million young people (aged 15-24) are not in employment, education, and training (NEET), and over 1.5 billion students have been affected globally with sudden school closures due to COVID-19.

Farayi Richard Goronga, a young leader and entrepreneur from Zimbabwe and winner of the 2018 GenU Youth Challenge, who participated in the event, said, “There’s a huge disconnect between skills the young people have to day and skills that are needed in the labour market. Many of the jobs that are available for humans today will soon be taken over through automation, hence a need to support entrepreneurs and small businesses so that they can create more employment opportunities”

Cynthia Nyongesa, a member of the global GenU Young People’s Action Team and a UNICEF volunteer in Kenya, provided insights on how young people envision reimagining learning and skilling in the time of COVID-19 and beyond.

Sigrid Kaag, Minister for Foreign Trade & Development Cooperation, the Netherlands, highlighted how governments can join forces with the private sector to scale up solutions in countries with and for young people and prepare them for the world of work.

Tariq Al Gurg, CEO of Dubai Cares, pointed to the Giga project as a concrete example of public-private partnership to connect every school and learner to the internet. Per Heggenes, CEO of IKEA Foundation, spoke about how the private sector can boost entreprenership skills and opportunities with and for young people, including through digital technology. And Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of UNICEF, highlighted UNICEF’s Reimagine Education initiative, which aims to bring public and private sectors together to connect every child and young person – some 3.5 billion by 2030 – to world-class digital solutions that prepare them for a brighter future in work and life, working hand-in-hand with Generation Unlimited.

In addition, Generation Unlimited and UNICEF co-organized a session, “Making youth engagement meaningful,” in order to share good practices and actions that advance young people’s systematic participation and civic engagement as change agents within their societies.

Young leaders from Burundi, Algeria, as well as young representatives from business and government representatives from the Netherlands, Kenya, and Jordan, participated in the session.

Henrietta Fore, Alan Jope, CEO of Unilever, and Jayathma Wickramanayake, the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy on Youth, participated in the Wrap-up session of the Forum, during which the Youth at Heart principles were launched. The principles were deleveloped through youth led research by Restless Development, with over 1200 young people from Africa and the Middle East.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and GenU also co-organized a closed session of the Forum, moderated by Cynthia Nyongesa, in which leaders of businesses and foundations discussed how to contribute to scaling up digital connectivity, digital learning and skilling, entrepreneurship and youth engagement, including in Africa and the Middle East.

Generation Unlimited will work closely with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other partners in the ‘road after’ the forum, to support this global movement with and for young people and put young people ‘at the heart’ of public and private sector investments.