Distinguished minister, Under Secretary-General, Permanent representatives, Excellencies, dear guests, 

Thank you for the honor and this opportunity to speak to you tonight. I hope you have had an amazing forum and time here in Finland. At least ,our beloved country has seen fit to grace you, with a bit of sunshine during this, usually, dark winter.

I come from a group of young experts, called the Youth Agenda2030. Our group was set up in the spring 2017, under the Finnish National Commission on Sustainable Development led by the Prime Minister, when the Commission saw the need to increase youth participation in the national planning and implementation of the Agenda 2030. 

Our Group has two aims: to serve as an advocate for the youth and to participate in the national planning and implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. In addition to these, our goal is to increase the knowledge of sustainability issues amongst youth. 

Today, I want to share with you some ideas as a young activist and thevision that the youth have for the future of our planet. So, nothing too big. But only those who can imagine a sustainable future can build it. Or at least that is what I want to believe in. There should be no limits to one’s imagination, at least not the limitation of what they dare to dream.

When I was young, I read about violence against women. I think I was a bit too young, maybe under ten years old, when I came across the first stories. However, I was not as young as the youngest victims of gender based violence. Not even close. I remember feeling this huge sense of injustice, why could not everyone be safe? This feeling of injustice has led me to take action also later in my life. 

I first became socially active during my studies when a peer teacher student shared with me the hopelessness they felt witnessing their siblings’ climate anxiety. I noticed a need for climate education for teacher students and felt responsible to take action. So, we created a climate education and sustainable development course together with our department of education at the university. 

Dear all, 

At present, there are 1.8 billion people between the ages of 10-24. This is the largest generation of youth in history. Close to 90 percent of them live in developing countries, and these numbers are expected to grow.

Our common future is made of today’s actions and decisions. What I find interesting in that fact is, that it will not be made only for us – we need to take into account the rights of future generations as well. Do we dare to create space for changes? 

The future is not what I want it to be. It is not what me and my peers want it to be. It is something that I, my peers and people with fully different opinions want. The future is something in between, something we create together. For this reason, we need to be open to listen, communicate and find mutual understanding. That is the real shared viewpoint, common ground, to build cooperation on. 

We have to be ready, to be brave enough, to look into ourselves and explore our values. Reflect on our own worldviews. Sometimes it is the most difficult thing to do. But to transform the world to be more sustainable, there might also be the need to change ourselves. And are we brave enough for that? 

One key element to a sustainable world and future, in my opinion, is empathy. The ability to set ourselves into other people’s position and to understand them better. This requires that we understand others and their backgrounds. 

By sharing these stories behind our actions, we can learn from each other. This way we can find common grounds, find shared experiences, shared values. These are core elements for a working global, multilateral order. 

Dear all, 

I want to assure you that young people are really powerful agents of change. We can drive social and political progress, propose innovative solutions and improve the lives of people and the health of the planet.

Therefore, it is vital that the global community, the United Nations and other institutions ensure the engagement and continuous participation of young people and amplify their voices. We are the ones who will live with the consequences of your decisions, whatever they are. And we need to be listened to and heard, when making those decisions. We need to be involved. 

Provided with the necessary skills and opportunities needed to reach our potential, us, young people, we can be significant actors in sustainable development and builders of peace and security for the future generations.

But this requires that youth-led movements are encouraged and the space to participate is created. With political commitment and adequate resources, we have the potential to make the most effective transformation of the world into a better place for all.

I encourage you to be brave enough to create the space, to create the opportunities for youth. I promise you, we will not let you down. For that I propose that in all next LDC Future Forums you would have a specific session dedicated to youth to invest in the future leaders.

I shared with you only one story of how I became active, but there are thousands and hundreds of thousands more, and we need to make sure these young people thrive. 

Dear all,

What has Youth Agenda2030 Group meant to me? I was just this morning thinking what will I do after this group. For me, the Youth Agenda2030 Group has given so many remarkable opportunitiest hat I could not even have dreamed of.

Let me conclude my speech by encouraging everyone to listen to people around you, especially young people, even with the craziest ideas. If we can imagine these ideas, they are definitely possible to achieve. 

We only need to work together. To make sure no one gets left behind. 

Thank you for your time, attention and this opportunity to share the vision of youth with you. I wish you a wonderful evening. Thank you! 

Speech at the LDC Future Forum’s closing dinner on 6th of March 2024 by Saana Ylikruuvi, co-chair of Youth Agenda2030 2022-2024.

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