Linking South-South Youth Engagement with Sustainable Development

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Youth participant Moneera Yassein sharing her thoughts during the session on Matchmaking and Scaling-up of Good Practices Competition during the Youth Innovation and Sustainable Development Conference.

Twenty-eight young entrepreneurs from developing countries came together with local youth at the “Youth Innovation and Sustainable Development” Conference held in Shenzhen, China from 13-16 November 2019. The programme provided an opportunity for the young entrepreneurs to pitch their initiatives and network with entrepreneurs, potential investors, partners and others.

Hosted by the Shenzhen Municipal People’s Government and supported by UNOSSC, along with the Shenzhen Youth Federation, UNDP, UNFPA and Office of the Secretary-General’s Youth Envoy, the Conference focused on fostering substantive exchanges between youth-led initiatives, youth entrepreneurs, thought leaders, investors and UN organizations. The Conference provided a unique platform for matchmaking and scaling up good practices.

During the three-day event, youth participants were introduced to the work of the United Nations agencies on innovation, entrepreneurship and sustainable development, and had the opportunity for field visits to learn about Shenzhen industries and special economic zones.

Youth participants on 15 November 2019 with investors, experts and entrepreneurs from Shenzhen, China and UN agency focal points and organizers.

A full day training and exchange workshop organized for youth entrepreneurs, focused on key concepts of entrepreneurship and innovation, development of project proposals and marketing. The workshop provided concrete exchanges and Q&A opportunities between youth participants and local young entrepreneurs from Shenzhen to share ideas, networks and mutual learning.

All 28 youth participants pitched their innovative ideas on building a sustainable future to expert panels. Thereafter, eight selected initiatives were entered into the Matchmaking and Scaling-up of Good Practices Competition, where participants presented their ideas ‘shark tank style’ to a panel of investors from Shenzhen, China and experts from UN agencies and universities.

Winners of the competition now have access to prizes ranging from USD 10,000 seed funding provided by the Shenzhen Youth Foundation, to mentorship opportunities with Shenzhen entrepreneurs, and international trainings in 2020.

Click here to learn more about the winners

Youth participants after the training workshop on 14 November 2019 during the 2019 International Youth Innovation Conference.

Speaking at the Opening Ceremony of the conference, Xiaojun Grace Wang, UNOSSC Deputy Director, reminded the youth entrepreneurs that “cooperation is very important and a determining factor to achieve success”. She encouraged them to keep working towards building their enterprises while being conscious of alignment with the SDGs.

Xiaojun Grace Wang addresses the opening ceremony of the 2019 International Youth Innovation Conference.

Click here to listen to Xiaojun Grace Wang’s statement

Click here to download Xiaojun Grace Wang’s statement 

Xiaojun Grace Wang shared that UN agencies are building platforms that support the growth of people all around the world such as UNOSSC’s Youth4South programme as well as the South-South Galaxy, which is an Al enabled platform that provides young entrepreneurs an opportunity to showcase their initiatives and be connected to other stakeholders.

At the opening of the Matchmaking and Scaling-up of Good Practices Competition, a keynote speech was made by one of the young entrepreneurs from Sudan, Moneera Yassein, who shared her inspiring journey and reasons why young people are motivated to invest their time and energy to make the world a better place.

Click here to download Moneera Yassein’s statement

These activities during the conference were organized by UNOSSC’s Youth for South (Y4S): Advanced Youth Leadership Programme, a multi-stakeholder initiative that was launched in 2017, to support capacity development of young leaders from the Global South, to enable them to learn and share knowledge to scale-up good practices for sustainable development. Under the Youth4South programme, during the Youth Climate Action Summit, UNOSSC launched Youth Entrepreneurship for the South (YES) which commits to provide one-stop-shop services to 10,000 entrepreneurs. The activities during the 2019 IYIC directly contribute to YES.

To learn more about the Youth for South (Y4S) initiative and YES, click here. (link to webpage

To learn more about the 28 selected youth entrepreneurs, click here.

To download the concept note and the biographies of the session experts and presenters, click here.

To view photos from the event, click here. (Link to Flickr album):