• The high-level political forum on sustainable development (HLPF 2021) has just started (entirely virtual)! It is the core United Nations platform for follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals. It will be held from Tuesday, 6 July, to Thursday, 15 July 2021, under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council. It includes a three-day ministerial meeting of the forum from Tuesday, 13 July, to Thursday, 15 July 2021. It will discuss ways to ensure a sustainable and resilient recovery from COVID-19 that puts us on track to realize the 2030 Agenda. The theme is "Sustainable and resilient recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic that promotes the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development: building an inclusive and effective path for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda in the context of the decade of action and delivery for sustainable development". It aims, more specifically, to discuss Sustainable Development Goals 1 on no poverty, 2 on zero hunger, 3 on good health and well-being, 8 on decent work and economic growth, 10 on reduced inequalities, 12 on responsible consumption and production, 13 on climate action, 16 on peace, justice and strong institutions, and 17 on partnerships, in-depth. As usual, it will also consider the integrated, indivisible and interlinked nature of the SDGs. Ministers and other participants, including youth delegates and youth representing civil society, will focus on various aspects of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts. 43 countries will also carry out voluntary national reviews (VNRs) of their implementation of the 2030 Agenda. For more details, please click here. The HLPF will adopt a Ministerial Declaration as the outcome of its session. The President of ECOSOC will also prepare a summary to capture the key messages of the discussions. For more details, please click here. 

  • United Nations Secretary-General's Report E/2021/58 highlights how the COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated inequalities and how it has affected young people’s wellbeing and role in development. Here are a few key highlights related to youth in the report:  

  • - In 2020, the equivalent of 255 million full-time jobs were lost, and an additional 101 million children and young people fell below the minimum reading proficiency level, wiping out the education gains achieved over the previous two decades. It is also estimated that up to 10 million additional girls will be at risk of child marriage in the next decade as a result of the pandemic.

  • - The pandemic has severely affected the informal economy, in which the vast majority of the working poor are employed. The crisis has had a disproportionate impact on the livelihoods of young and female workers, who are already much more likely to be living in poverty. As a reminder, in 2019, young people were already twice as likely as adults to be among the working poor. 

  • - The global rate of mortality from road traffic injuries fell by 8.3 per cent, from 18.1 deaths per 100,000 population in 2010 to 16.7 deaths per 100,000 in 2019. Nevertheless, 1.3 million people worldwide died in road traffic accidents in 2019, 75per cent of whom were boys and men. Low-income countries and territories had lower rates of vehicle ownership than in high-income countries and territories, yet a death rate more than 3.5 times higher. Road traffic injuries were the leading cause of death among young people 15 to 29 years of age worldwide. 

  • - Globally, 149.2 million children under the age of 5, some 22 per cent of all children, suffer from stunting (low height for age) according to the latest estimates available for 2020, a decrease from 24.4 per cent in 2015. However, these figures may rise as a result of continued constraints on access to nutritious food and essential nutrition services during the pandemic, the full impact of which may take years to manifest.

  • - In 2020, wasting (low weight for height) and overweight affected 6.7 per cent (45.4 million) and 5.7 per cent (38.9 million) of children under the age of 5, respectively. Wasting will be one of the conditions most affected by the pandemic in the short term: around 15 per cent more children than estimated may have suffered from wasting as a result of a decline in household wealth and disruptions in the availability and affordability of nutritious food and essential nutrition services. Childhood overweight (high weight for height) may also rise in some countries and territories where unhealthy foods replaced fresh, nutritious foodstuffs and restrictions on movement constrained opportunities for physical activity for long periods.

  • - Before the COVID-19 pandemic, progress had been made in many health areas, including improving the health of mothers and children, increasing immunization coverage and reducing the incidence of communicable diseases, albeit not fast enough to meet the Goal 3 targets by 2030. The disruption caused by the pandemic has now halted progress and even reversed some gains made. According to a recent survey, substantial disruptions persist more than a year into the pandemic, with about 90 per cent of countries and territories still reporting one or more disruptions to essential health services. Among the health services most extensively affected are those for mental, neurological and substance use disorders; neglected tropical diseases; tuberculosis; HIV and hepatitis B and C; cancer screening; services for other non-communicable diseases, including hypertension and diabetes; family planning and contraception; urgent dental care; malnutrition; immunization; and malaria. In 2019, an estimated 10 million people fell ill with tuberculosis, of whom 56per cent were adult men, 32 per cent adult women, 12 per cent children and 8.2percent people living with HIV, making it the leading cause of death from a single infectious agent.

  • - The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on schooling is a “generational catastrophe”. Before the pandemic, progress was already slow and insufficient to achieve the education targets in the Goals. School closures caused by the pandemic have had devastating consequences for children’s learning and well-being. Hundreds of millions of children and young people are falling behind in their learning, which will have long-term impacts. One year into the COVID-19 crisis, two thirds of students worldwide are still affected by full or partial school closures. The most vulnerable children and those unable to access remote learning are at increased risk of never returning to school and of being forced into child marriage or child labour.

  • - It is estimated that 101 million additional children and young people (from grades 1 to 8) fell below the minimum reading proficiency level in 2020 owing to the consequences of the pandemic, which wiped out the education gains achieved over the past 20 years. Reading proficiency levels could recover by 2024, but only if exceptional efforts are devoted to the task through remedial and catch-up strategies.

  • - Just before the pandemic, 53 per cent of young people were completing secondary school globally, although the figure for sub-Saharan Africa was only 29 percent. The rise in school completion rates may slow or even reverse depending on the duration of school closures, which are resulting in learning losses and affecting the motivation to attend school, and on the extent to which poverty might increase, adding to the obstacles faced by disadvantaged children.

  • - Data from before the pandemic for 76 mostly low-and middle-income countries and territories covering the period 2012–2020 indicate that 7 in 10 children who are 3 and 4 years of age are on track developmentally, with no significant differences between the sexes. However, many young children are unable to attend early education because of the pandemic and so are now entirely reliant on their caregivers for nurturing care. Unsafe conditions, negative interactions with caregivers and a lack of educational opportunities during the early years can lead to irreversible outcomes, affecting children’s potential for the remainder of their live.

  • - The rate of participation in organized learning one year before the official age of entry into primary education rose steadily in the years before the pandemic, from 65 per cent in 2010 to 73 per cent in 2019, but with variation among countries and territories ranging from 12 per cent to nearly 100 per cent. Gender parity has been achieved in every region. The progress made over past years has been at risk since 2020 because early education facilities and primary schools closed in most countries and territories, preventing or limiting access to education, especially for children from low-and middle-income countries and territories.

  • - Disparities in access to education and learning outcomes persist across a range of education indicators. For example, there were still only 92 literate women and girls 15 years of age or older for every 100 literate boys and men of the same age range in 2019. Almost half of countries and territories with recent data did not achieve gender parity in primary completion, and only a handful of countries and territories demonstrate parity in tertiary enrolment ratios. Disparities by urban/rural geographical location and household wealth are typically more extreme, with one third and one sixth of countries and territories achieving parity in primary completion, respectively, and no countries or territories with recent data achieving parity in tertiary attendance. The pandemic is expected to lead to a reversal in recent progress towards equity. With the shift towards remote learning, those from the poorest households and other vulnerable groups are less equipped to participate and more likely to drop out permanently or for extended periods.

  • - New estimates based on surveys from the period 2000–2018 confirm that nearly 736 million women, or one in three, have been subjected to physical violence, sexual violence or both by a husband or intimate partner, or sexual violence by a non-partner, at least once in their lifetime from 15 years of age –a figure that has remained largely unchanged over the past decade. Intimate partner violence starts early, with nearly 24per cent of adolescent girls 15 to 19 years of age and 26 per cent of young women 20 to 24 years of age who have ever had a partner or been married having experienced such violence already.

  • - Over the past decade, the practice of child marriage has declined significantly, with the global proportion of young women who were married as children decreasing by 15 per cent, from nearly one in four in 2010 to one in five in 2020. As a result of this progress, the child marriages of some 25 million girls have been averted. However, the profound effects of the pandemic are threatening this progress, with up to 10 million additional girls at risk of child marriage in the next decade as a result of the pandemic. 

  • - According to data from 31 countries and territories in which the practice is concentrated, at least 200 million women and girls have been subjected to female genital mutilation. Despite some progress, there are still countries and territories in which at least 9 in 10 girls and women ranging from 15 to 49 years of age have been subjected to such mutilation, making the harmful practice almost universal. 

  • - In 2019, more than one in five of the world’s young people were not in employment, education or training, a proportion almost unchanged since 2005. Quarterly figures indicate that the rate increased from the fourth quarter of 2019 to the second quarter of 2020 in 42 out of 49 countries and territories with data. As young women were already twice as likely as young men not to be in employment, education or training, and as women have been forced into inactivity disproportionately during the pandemic, the COVID-19 crisis is likely to worsen the gender gap among young people not in employment, education or training.

  • - Global unemployment increased by 33 million in 2020, with the unemployment rate increasing by 1.1 percentage points to 6.5 per cent. However, unemployment figures reflect only a small proportion of the jobs lost as a result of the pandemic. A further 81 million people were not actively seeking employment or were simply unable to find employment owing to the COVID-19-related restrictions. Young people and women were particularly hard hit by the crisis, with employment losses in 2020 of 8.7 and 5 per cent, respectively, compared to 3.7 per cent for all adults and 3.9 per cent for men.

  • - In 2020, almost one third of the 107 countries and territories with data had formulated and operationalized a youth employment strategy, while 44 (41.1 per cent) had such strategies but did not provide conclusive evidence of their implementation, and just under one quarter (24.3 per cent) were in the process of developing a strategy/

  • - The United Nations recorded 69,276 civilian deaths in 12 of the world’s deadliest armed conflicts between 2018 and 2020. In 2020, there were five civilians killed per 100,000 population, one in seven of which was a woman or child.

  • - Even before the pandemic, violence against children was widespread, affecting victims regardless of wealth or social status. In 77 mostly low-and middle-income countries and territories with available data from 2012 to 2020, 8 in 10 children, ranging from 1 to 14 years of age, had been subjected to some form of psychological aggression or physical punishment at home in the previous month. 

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