The Role of Youth in Implementing Sustainable Development Goals and Promoting Prosperity in a Changing World

The United Nations has been aware of the role of youth for decades and since 1965 when the General Assembly proclaimed the ‘Declaration on the Promotion Among Youth of the Ideals of Peace, Mutual Respect and Understanding Between Peoples’, the education of young people according to the United Nations’ ideals and encouraging the work of youth associations have represented a great interest. Thus, the UN has created many other institutions in order to increase awareness such as the Focal Point on Youth, which falls within the Division for Inclusive Social Development and aims at promoting youth participation in the United Nations system as well as their aspirations. The United Nations youth agenda has been guided by the World Programme of Action for Youth since 1995. Their mandate is based on the 15 priority areas in which the United Nations and its members want to take action where young people are concerned, such as the life of society and decision making.

A number of the UN agencies or programmes have developed youth-centred approaches to include young people in decision-making and in implementing policies. For example, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) now run youth advisory councils within their respective systems. These provide young people with opportunities for expressing their views, proposing policies or establishing links between the United Nations programme and young people all over the world.

The success of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development greatly depends on empowering young people as rights-holders. Since the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are designed to be implemented in a decentralised way and follow a multi-stakeholder approach, young people need to be involved at all possible levels. One of the main obstacles to youth participation is the shortage of information and resources. Many young people do not have the chance to participate in their community’s life due to the insufficient resources or opportunities and a lack of general or political education. Moreover, this issue is clearly linked to other problems such as the limited opportunities available to women and indigenous peoples. Including young people and marginalised groups in decision-making is therefore mandatory for implementing the Agenda.

The importance and the necessity of youth and youth-led organisations must be reformed in order to have them participate in the transformation of the 2030 agenda in local, regional and national policies and their evolution and impact during the implementation.

Therefore, the ECOSOC committee will largely debate on how youth should be made a priority in the implementation of the Agenda, in order to accomplish the Sustainable Development Goals.

Questions to keep in mind:

  • Are there any measures for parliaments, political parties, governments or even the civil society to take to increase youth representation in politics? Do you have examples of good practices?
  • What strategies and approaches have been successful in recruiting young men and women in decision-making and in implementing policies?
  • How can the impact of youth contribution and their influence be measured?

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The Issues of Agricultural Subsidies Around the World

The definition of an agricultural subsidy regards the financial assistance provided by the government to farmers, agricultural businesses or organizations to surcharge their income, deal with the supply and influence the cost of agricultural products. The aim of the subsidies is to protect farmers against changes in prices, incomes, and yields. Subsidized areas include conservation endeavours, research, insurance coverage or export sales.

Direct payments are a common type of subsidy. Farmers that produce a designated crop are paid with the direct payments, these payments being decoupled from production, meaning that farmers can produce an important or a less significant quantity and still receive this subsidy. Direct payments and crop insurance are being criticized to advantage rich farmers instead of the poor ones, as this is their stated purpose.

Another category of subsidies is price supports. Their purpose is to keep domestic crop prices at a level that encourage farmers to grow crops, regardless of possible unfavourable outcomes that may arise, such as overproduction, when prices would tend to fall due to oversupply.

Back in the year of 2001, at the World Trade Organisation’s Doha Round, many developing countries, such as Brazil, China and India prevented agricultural descend in the US and EU. They contended the high descend has artificially driven down global crop prices and continuing poverty in many developing countries. At present, developing countries have increasingly grown their own agricultural subsidies. For example, China subsidies agriculture more than the US and the EU combined, while Brazil’s figures have doubled in just three years. Europe also contributes a great deal to agricultural subsidies due in large part to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) of the European Union (EU).

Properly done, the agricultural subsidies could stimulate innovation and help build a stronger middle class, produce surpluses for export and heavily tackle poverty. However, critics say that the financial support tends to motivate producers to be focused on farming subsidies, rather than on enhancing efficiency and crops.

Not only do agricultural subsidies include social problems such as the fact that they are unfair to the taxpayers who pay the bills, but also economic ones as they harm the wider economy. If subsidies interfere with market mechanisms, overproduction or inflated land prices are likely to happen.

Thus, what the ECOSOC committee will be trying to do during the debate is to decide on what kind of agricultural subsidy should be implemented in order to stop the current issues and encourage effective expenditure.

Questions to keep in mind:

  • Should the national bodies support agriculture by subsidizing to protect farmers and their lands or farmers should be better motivated to be efficient and have large crops?
  • Who really benefits from the agricultural subsidies?
  • Who is hurt by agricultural subsidies and what can be done for their protection?

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Progressive Taxation: Implementing Measures to Assure Social Balance and Financial Security within the UN Framework

Many countries around the world have increasingly widened their gap between the richest people in society and everyone else during the last three decades. For instance, just eight individuals own the same wealth as the poorest 3.5 billion people. Failure to tackle this growing crisis has harmful effects on the social and economic progress and, therefore, on the fight against poverty. Oxfam has shown that the poorest half of the world’s population has received just 1% of the total increase in global wealth, while the top 1% received 50% of the increase. Also, income inequality has been linked with a decrease in the economic growth.

Progressive taxation, briefly defined as a tax policy where companies and the wealthiest individuals are taxed more in order to redistribute financial resources in society and ensure the funding of public services, is a key tool for governments to reduce income inequality. The potential impact of taxation in tackling the issue has been clearly registered in OECD countries and in developing countries.

Today, much of the recent debate about inequality has focused on the main important earners, especially the “top 1%”. A key mechanism between inequality and growth is the human capital investment. As long as there is a gap in educational opportunities and outcomes across people from different socioeconomic backgrounds, the gap widens in countries with high inequality as poor people struggle to access education.

The Gini coefficient is a method to measure the level of income inequality. In every country, when everybody has identical incomes, a score of 0 is recorded, but when all the income goes to only one person, a score of 1 is recorded. For example, the index stands at an average of 0.315 in OECD member countries, exceeding 0.4 in the United States and Turkey and approaching 0.5 in Mexico. In the main emerging economies, the level of income inequality is higher than in the OECD areas. This overall rise in income inequality has been appearing with growing public debates and concern over the impact of the high and often rising gap between well-off and poverty-stricken on the societies.

Furthermore, there have been certain proposals to tackle the income inequality around the world and to reduce the possible effects of an economic crisis, but which have not met the estimated levels of effectiveness. The Tobin Tax was primarily defined as an all spot conversions of one currency into another. Its implementation was firstly tried in Sweden in 1984, but the results were disappointing.

Policymakers have many tools at hand to tackle rising income inequality and promote equal opportunities while also promoting economic growth. Nevertheless, there is no best model to adopt and countries will have to design their own package, depending on the factors at the origins of inequality in the national contexts. Finally, how countries choose to address the issue also depends on the social factors and the extent to which their societies agree on the importance of values.

Questions to keep in mind:

  • What exactly are the problems caused by income inequality?
  • What will be the long-term effect of this?
  • Should rich people be required to pay higher taxes if they have a superior educational background and financial status than other people?

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