Co-organized by UNOSSC and Phoenix TV Odyssey of the Dragon
13 August, New York – Under the umbrella of the Youth Dialogues Series co-launched by the United Nations Resident Coordinator’s Office in China (UNRCO) and the Tencent Group, the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) concluded a virtual dialogue on youth innovation and entrepreneurship and the role of South-South cooperation, with support from United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Phoenix TV , and Shenzhen Federation of Youth Entrepreneurship Promotion. This dialogue featured real-life stories of seven young entrepreneurs from China and other developing countries. Renowned pianist and UN Messenger of Peace Mr. Lang Lang shared a special video message with young friends at the event, urging them to “make our future from today”.
Acceleration is needed to ensure that we meet the 2030 deadline in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Everyone can play a role in the SDG Decade of Action, especially young leaders who have demonstrated their capacities and commitment to make the world a more inclusive and sustainable place. According to the United Nations World Youth Report 2020, start-ups account for close to 50 per cent of all newly created jobs globally. Young people show 1.6 times higher levels of entrepreneurial initiative than adults.
Against this background, the UNOSSC, through its Cities Project office in Beijing, organized this dialogue under its Youth4South Programme and UNRCO’s Youth Dialogue series, to promote youth innovation and entrepreneurship for achieving the SDGs through South-South and triangular Cooperation (SSTC).
Mr. Jorge Chediek, Director of the UNOSSC and Envoy of the Secretary General on South-South Cooperation, addressed opening remarks following a joint video message with Ms. Jayathma Wickramanayake, Youth Envoy of the Secretary General, introducing the Youth4South Programme, highlighting the need to ensure that young people in the global South are not left behind in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.
In his remarks, Mr. Chediek commended the role of innovation and entrepreneurship in advancing sustainable development in China, since its reform and opening up, as well as in other developing countries. Further, he accentuated the key results under the Youth4South Programme achieved through capacity development programs and expected to upscale this initiative.
Ms. Diandian Liu, Deputy Head of Phoenix Chinese Channel shared a video message in which she highlighted the partnership between Phoenix and UNOSSC to promote youth innovation, and introduced the Channel’s other initiatives that have mainstreamed the youth and innovation dimensions, including the Phoenix TV Small and Medium Enterprise Alliance and the “Odyssey of the Dragon” TV program.
Phoenix TV has been supporting efforts in promoting SDGs and South-South cooperation, as well as corporate social responsibilities (CSR), of several UN agencies, including United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).
Mr. Lang Lang, a young and exceptional pianist, UN Messenger of Peace, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Alumni, shared his thoughts on youth, sustainable development, and South-South cooperation. Starting with his life journey, Lang Lang emphasized the importance of new technologies stating that, “growing up and trained as a performing pianist in my early years in China, I myself have embraced new technology and innovation.” He shared that to inspire and motivate the next generation of music lovers and performers, he had selected a number of talented young pianists, offering them mentorship, tutelage, and unique opportunities for performance, using modern technologies and online platforms. Acknowledging that “young people are drivers for innovations and good results in societies; cultivating innovation and entrepreneurship amongst youth is key for achieving the SDGs” he spotlighted the Youth4South Programme, which is guided by the spirit of mutual benefit and learning. “Let us not wait for our future to come, let us make our future from today,” concluded Lang Lang.
Mr. Huohong Yuan, Founder and CEO of Bliss Mall and Deputy Executive Director of Shenzhen Federation of Youth Entrepreneurship Promotion, shared his journey as a young entrepreneur, lessons learned from challenges, and how he was able to utilize cutting-edge technology for his enterprise. Ms. Zheng Haoran, Youth Leadership Officer of UNFPA China Country Office, shared a special message to youth on behalf of the office.
Three young entrepreneurs shared their initiatives and experiences to address problems in achieving different SDGs. Mr. Cyril Alexis Otabil, Founder of You Must Know (YMK), shared how YMK helps young people to access sexual and reproductive health information in Ghana. Ms. Chang Zhao, Founder of RemakeHub, which is under the UNDP Youth CO:LAB program, presented how this young social enterprise provides a circular solution for waste pollution in the fashion industry by transforming waste into the new generational lifestyle products through high tech innovative material and sustainable design. Mr. Bicheng Han, Founder and CEO of BrainCo, a brain-machine interface company, and BrainRobotics, a brain-controlled prosthetic company, introduced how his projects have adopted AI the brain-machine interface (BMI) technology to help persons with disabilities to recover and restore social functions.
Prior to the dialogue, UNOSSC launched a call for submission of entrepreneurship initiatives by youth in China. Submissions which highlighted SDGs elements and approaches to scale up South-South cooperation emerged as the top five among 455 applications.
Further, three young entrepreneurs who stood out in the interviews were invited to join the dialogue and bring their innovative solutions to the table.
Mr. Lvzhou Wei is a young agribusiness entrepreneur and “Next-Gen farmer”, from the Nanning city of China. His initiative focuses on developing ecological grain oil value chain and recycling peanut oil waste for agriculture fertilizer to improve food security in the local communities (SDG2). Ms. Chenyang Zhang is a young entrepreneur and journalist with four years of experience in communication for development. Her initiative is called “Bon Café Plus”, which focuses on alternative livelihoods with coffee planting in Myanmar, to promote poverty reduction (SDG1), gender equality (SDG5), and decent work and economic growth (SDG8). Mr. Yuqi Bai is a young entrepreneur as well as a former delegate of China Youth Delegation of United Nations Youth Climate Summit. His initiative is dedicated to the research and development of plant-based food products, to accelerate the achievement of zero hunger (SDG2) and to address climate change (SDG13).
After a brief Q&A session, Ms. Xiaojun Grace Wang, UNOSSC Deputy Director and moderator of the dialogue, concluded the conversation by inviting youth to engage in South-South and triangular cooperation to unleash their entrepreneurial spirit and innovative ideas. “We cannot work alone, we must work together with partners, with mentors, with other young people, and also engaging the government and the society. This generation of young people is a generation of cooperators. Only cooperation can make the world better.”
The Youth4South: Advanced Youth Leadership Programme was initiated by UNOSSC in 2017 to support young leaders, entrepreneurs, and champions from developing countries to advance sustainable development in their communities and home countries. The Shenzhen Federation of Youth Entrepreneurship Promotion and UNFPA have both been long-standing partners of the Programme and jointly organized various activities including capacity building training. For this dialogue, the Federation recommended Mr. Huohong Yun and Mr. Bicheng Han and UNFPA recommended Mr. Cyril Otabil, as speakers.
The “Youth Dialogue” series was initiated by UNRCO and Tencent Group in May 2020 to mobilize youth participation in the SDG Decade of Action through online platforms, as well as to campaign for the 75th Anniversary of the United Nations. 12 UN agencies, including the UNOSSC, participated in this initiative.
To find out more, please visit UNOSSC Youth4South Programme.