February 1, 2017  |  

Kick-starting ECOSOC Youth Forum at West Side YMCA

On the eve of the United Nations’ 2017 ECOSOC Global Youth Forum, representatives from YMCAs from 10 countries, as well as Springfield College and the Commission on Voluntary Service & Action, gathered at the West Side YMCA in New York City to discuss how to best advocate for our shared mission — youth empowerment.

The World YMCA, which is based in Geneva, Switzerland, and represents the Y as a global movement, is aiming to triple the number of young people served by the Y worldwide within the next decade and to elevate the conversation around youth issues globally, explained Romulo Dantas, executive secretary for youth empowerment. He encouraged the Y’s 25 delegates to call for the creation of a formal platform for youth within the United Nations, similar to UN Forum on Indigenous people.

“We want to give young people the space and tools they need to succeed,” said Dantas. Aligned with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, the World YMCA is centered around four key areas of focus: employment, health, civic engagement, and the environment.

“Young people can be valuable partners in working toward the SDGs,” said Dantas. “And through the work we do, the YMCA is already contributing.”

From homelessness among youth in Romania, to gender-based violence in Albania, to under-employment in Serbia, YMCA participants shared their own countries’ priorities. Springfield College students, several of whom have become involved with the YMCA for the first time through the Youth Forum, discussed their studies, which include leadership building, substance abuse counseling, journalism, and medicine. 

In addition to hosting Sunday’s dinner, New York City’s YMCA is sending six delegates, representing the Association Office, the West Side Y and the Flushing Y, to the ECOSOC Youth Forum.

To many of the representatives in the room Sunday evening, President Donald Trump’s recent immigration ban on the citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries weighed heavily. So, with quick, creative assistance from Parvoneh Shirgir, of New York City’s Y Roads in Brooklyn, the group agreed to walk into the UN on Monday wearing matching buttons: Youth United – Inclusion for All.

Meghan Berry, YMCA of Greater New York

SDGs and Tags