UNDP's National Dialogue empowers youth to achieve the SDGs

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The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the China Soong Ching Ling Science & Culture Centre for Young People co-hosted the National Dialogue China, which empowers Chinese youth in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and was successfully convened in Beijing on August 23 to 25.

The theme of this year's National Dialogue was Rural Revitalization, to encourage innovative ideas, designs and projects thatprovide solutions to rural sustainable development in poverty alleviation, environment, education and disaster management. The National Dialogue focused on youth from rural areas, aiming at not only creating an inclusive and sustainable environment in rural settings, but also empowering rural youth facing challenges for their own development.

Among the 116 youth-led start-ups which applied, 32 teams with 73 participants were selected to take part in this event and presented how they contribute to sustainable rural development through social innovation and entrepreneurship. Among the 73 participants, 79% were youth with rural backgrounds, and 52% were young women.

As an important element of the Youth Co:Lab, the Regional Youth Project on leadership, Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the Asia-Pacific region co-lead by UNDP and Citi Foundation, National Dialogues have impact on thousands of young people across the Asia-Pacific region. Starting in 2017, the Youth Co:Lab has embarked on a journey across 20 countries and territories in the region, attracting more than 48,000 young attendees. Each National Dialogue brings together the local youth, government, private sector and academia with the aim of promoting an enabling environment for entrepreneurship and strengthening the capabilities of youth to adapt to the 21st century and develop business models for social development.

At the opening ceremony, Mr.Devanand Ramiah, the Residence Representative a.i. of UNDP China, stressed the important role of the youth in achieving the SDGs. "Youth are central to the achievement of the SDGs and are experiencing many issues it seeks to address. They are the change agents of society, especially for a country who hosts the second largest cohort of young people in the world."

As a large agricultural country, China has a rural population of 564 million. Social issues such as poverty, lack of quality education, environment vulnerability still exist in rural areas as important factors that affect local youth's well-being and employment. Youth entrepreneurs, as the pioneers in rural revitalization, are injecting new vitality into promoting rural sustainable development closely related to multiple SDGs.

"Our future is in the hands of young people. Society will have hope when the youth has dreams and responsibility", said Mr. Guo Xinbao, the Director of the China Soong Ching Science & Culture Centre for Young People.

During the 3-day National Dialogue, youth entrepreneurs shared their successful stories and lessons learned and were joined by more than 20 key stakeholders to discuss how to build an enabling environment for youth entrepreneurship in China. The event included training on design thinking for rural sustainable development, which helped them initiate inclusive, needs-based solutions for rural development with potential business viability through a dynamic, highly participatory and interactive approach. On afternoon of the 25th, youth start-ups presented their proposals in tackling the rural social issues with their innovative ideas.

Winners of the event include TaggerX, an online platform that aims to solve unemployment for rural youth by introducing data labeling work for artificial intelligence systems which will help build rural vocational education and capacity, and Clear Plate, an artificial intelligence-based app dedicated to reduce food waste.

The winners of National Dialogue China will have the chance to attend the Youth Co:Lab Summit held in Malaysia in April, 2020. Representing Chinese youth, they will showcase their start-up projects along with youth from 20 countries and territories in the Asia-Pacific region and show how young generations contribute to the realization of SDGs through social innovation and entrepreneurship. 

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