The UAE has called on the international community to take into consideration the concerns of young people in implementing the urban agenda and to enhance their effective participation in creating sustainable cities and human settlements suitable for all.

In a statement delivered by the UAE youth representatives to the United Nations, Sarah Al Suwaidi and Omar Almutawa, during the UN General Assembly’s Second Committee deliberations on the UN Conference on Human Settlements, Habitat, they highlighted the important role played by the youth in development as agents of change, and that they have great potential to advocate their own issues as well as the issues of their communities.

Reflecting on the UAE experience as a country whose population increased 300 percent over the last 15 years, they affirmed that national policies placed youth at the centre of the nation’s development, including persons with disabilities.

They highlighted 4 lessons drawn from the UAE national experience as key elements in implementing the New Urban Agenda.

Firstly, they highlighted that the UAE adopted tolerance and peaceful coexistence as essential values for sustainable development in an urban context.

Secondly, the adoption of laws and initiatives, including educational initiatives aiming at promoting women’s empowerment and gender equality in all sectors of society, board quotas, participation in decision-making processes and equal pay for equal work.

Thirdly, the establishment of sustainable cities for future generations by relying on the use of clean and renewable energy and applying mandatory laws regarding the specifications of green buildings, stressing that clean and renewable energy not only contribute to achieving sustainable environment, but also provide important opportunities for youth to work and prepare for the post-oil economy.

Fourth, the commitment to create sustainable opportunities for young people, a reminder to member states of the commitment they made at the UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, in Quito, Ecuador, last year to promote young people access to education, skills development and employment to increase productivity and promote prosperity among cities.

The statement stressed the importance of taking into consideration the issues of urban development in promoting participation of young people at the heart of the new urban agenda and preparing them to meet the requirements of the labour market in the future so that they can continue to lead the process of innovation and development for tomorrow. “Young people will not only inherit the cities as the next generation, they already make up a major proportion of the urban population,” they said.

They noted that as part of the UAE efforts to empower young people and engage them in decision-making processes, the UAE government appointed a 22-year old female Minister of Youth, and established innovative channels such as local and international youth councils, to promote youth voices and listen to their views.

They pointed out that the UAE in 2020 will host the Abu Dhabi World Urban Forum, aimed at strengthening the common message of the international community on the implementation of the outcomes of the UN Conference in Quito.

The statement concluded with the young Emiratis emphasising the importance of United Nations support for youth and the promotion of their participation as the main driver of the implementation plans of the new urban agenda.