Nairobi, Kenya recently played host to the fourteenth edition of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. What made the event particularly special, was that for the first time ever, a Youth Forum was also held as part of the event and 250 young people from across the world were invited to attend, participate, network, and share their opinions and views on what actions world leaders must take to enable global but fair trade and development and ultimately meet the Sustainable Development Agenda 2030. As a result, the theme of the UNCTAD 14 was “From Decisions to Actions.” Ken Fullerton, the author of this article, was selected to attend and was honoured to participate in it.*

The UNCTAD Youth Forum was introduced to “serve as a discussion platform to hear the views and ideas of youth on education, more and better jobs, and government accountability; topics that are of great concern for the Millennials’ generation.” Vlada Gromova, a current international relations master student at Colombia University in New York City and who was selected to present the views of the youth at the “building economic resilience for the most vulnerable” high level panel event commented on this. She believes that “these three themes are of the utmost importance because communities across the world will benefit significantly when the youth are provided with the necessary mentorship to pave their own future and help attain the SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals]. Including us at the table is investing in education and the future.”

Exif_JPEG_420Ultimately the youth of today, represented by those of us participating at the Youth Forum and by those who were unable to attend but still contributed to all the online discussions prior to and during the event, want to be a big part of the formal and informal decision making processes. It was also pleasing to see this firm belief endorsed by the UNCTAD Secretary General, Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi, who addressed us and accepted the ministerial declaration put forward to him and his organisation by the youth. While acknowledging the fundamental role the youth can, and should, play as we aim to achieve sustainable development, Dr. Kituyi pointed out that there will be many significant challenges to overcome. As said by Gromova, in her speech to other distinguished panellists and audience members, “Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi in his opening comments to our youth forum mentioned both concern about the debt we will inherit, and the rise of global nativism as important reasons for the youth forum. We echo his comments.”

What is clear is that without the increased involvement of the youth in international decision making bodies and processes, any decisions taken will likely not be a true reflection of society’s view. This is particularly the case across Africa, the continent on which the Youth Forum was held, as the youth there represent the majority of the population. As Gromova said in her speech, “this is our world. A world of inequality and conflict is not one that we want to inherit. We hope for prosperity for all!”

To view the video of the Ministerial Segment of the UNCTAD Youth Forum click here. To see Vlada’s Youth Forum representative speech forward to 51:03.


*Ken Fullerton’s flights to and from Nairobi were sponsored by the University of Potsdam (UP) Transfer GmbH in Germany. UP Transfer was established in 1998 as a non-profit organisation. It exists to organise a modern and competitive transfer of knowledge and technology through the University of Potsdam. For further information visit the UP Transfer website. To contact the author, Ken Fullerton, email or contact him on Twitter using @KenFullerton.