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How can we create a youth-led recovery? 10 Global Shapers explain

  • Young people are leading the way to creating a better future.
  • Drawing from the insights and ideas of more than 2 million young people around the world, here are 10 urgent priorities.
  • Read the report "Davos Labs: Youth Recovery Plan" here.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted every aspect of our lives. Yet, even before the onset of the crisis, the social and economic integration of young people was an ongoing challenge. Now, unless urgent action is taken, young people – the most affected stakeholders when taking about our global future – are likely to suffer severe and long-lasting impacts from the pandemic.

However, despite these extreme circumstances – including school shutdowns, social distancing, home lockdowns, worsening unemployment, rising debt, a silent mental health crisis, pending ecological catastrophe and growing anger at the inaction and inertia of past generations – young people are fighting these crises and reimagining a better future.

Today, the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers Community launches a Youth Recovery Plan featuring the insights and ideas of more than 2 million young people captured from surveys and dialogues in 150 cities. It features policy recommendations to achieve a more equitable post-COVID-19 world.

Behind the plan is the conviction that by giving young people a say in decision-making, solution-building and lasting change – post-pandemic recovery plans will be more effective, sustainable and inclusive, and ensure a better future for generations to come.

Here are their urgent priorities and calls to action.

Achieve the net-zero transition

Risalat Khan, Boulder Hub, USA

Mother Nature is ringing the alarm bells. Because we failed to truly hear her messengers — tireless and brave scientists — for an entire generation, worse pandemics will come unless we stop and reverse biodiversity loss.

This month has enabled us to have a peek into the climate hell that awaits us, with floods raging across Europe and China, extreme heatwaves in Canada and the US, and wildfires spreading out of control. This could soon become our permanent destiny unless we rapidly switch out fossil fuels with renewable and clean alternatives now.

What needs to happen? Less talk, more action. Less emissions, more equity. Less net, more zero. That’s what needs to happen, now.

Image: World Economic Forum Davos Labs

Create inclusive jobs

Enrico Nano, Rome Hub, Italy

The turn of the decade has given rise to the worst jobs crisis since the Great Depression. Nearly half of the global workforce is at risk of losing their livelihoods, with the most acutely affected being the working poor, youth, women and minorities.

Governments should embrace bold actions to revert this trend, introducing a global wealth tax on top assets and a productivity tax on automation gains to finance up/reskilling programs – also through tax credits to companies, investors and workers – as well as resilient safety nets, namely social security and pension systems.

Image: World Economic Forum Davos Labs

Prioritize mental health

Gonzalo Benetti Hernández, Rosario Hub, Argentina

The Youth Recovery Plan is sounding the alarm to a worsening mental health crisis.

Policies like strict stay-at-home orders, repeated school and work closures, and social distancing from support networks, have saved lives but have also increased psychological stress and interrupted mental health services for many – evening preventing access for those most in need.

More than 98% participants surveyed consider mental health access as a fundamental human right. Governments must guarantee universal access to mental health services and private actors must do their part to de-stigmatize mental illness through targeted campaigns, if they are to help respond to this crisis.

Image: World Economic Forum Davos Labs

Rethink the future of politics

Sikander Bizenjo, Karachi Hub, Pakistan

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the systemic flaws in our global structures and upended governments at all levels. For political systems to be representative and build back better through effective policymaking, all parts of society must be included in recovery efforts – especially the voices of diverse youth.

To make a difference, it is essential that young people are engaged and represented in formal political processes and have a say in formulating today’s and tomorrow’s politics – only then will we meet the needs of all people, rather than a few. 2021 can be a turning point but only if inclusive political participation is prioritized.

Image: World Economic Forum Davos Labs

Accelerate digital access

Wanjuhi Njoroge, Nairobi Hub, Kenya

COVID-19 has literally reshaped every aspect of our lives from how we work, study, shop and socialize – exposing a drastic and widening digital divide.

There's an urgent need to deliberately invest in connecting the 3.6 billion people who remain unconnected if the world is to reset economic, social and environment systems. Digital access has to be a fundamental human right. This is crucial if we are to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, without leaving anyone behind.

Image: World Economic Forum Davos Labs

Pursue conscious consumerism

Bianca Goebel, Melbourne Hub, Australia

Current global rates of consumption require the resources of about 1.6 earths. At this rate, we risk exhausting our planet's life support systems that provide us with fresh water, nutritious food and clean air.

Action towards conscious consumerism requires decoupling economic growth from impacts associated with production and consumption. The rate of change from business is too slow. Consumers must re-engage with the political process and take part in organized consumer action - especially as investor groups. Governments and corporations must step-up to minimize their impact by exploiting their procurement power as a means of staying within planetary boundaries.

Image: World Economic Forum Davos Labs

Expand digital literacy

David Timis, Brussels Hub, Belgium

While social media platforms have elevated the voice of many, they have also facilitated the spread of targeted misinformation, content intended to polarize, and created spaces where hate and division are rife. Therefore, in order to reset economic, social and environmental systems steps must be taken to prevent abuse and harm in online spaces, while giving users the chance to openly exchange ideas and engage in constructive dialogue.

This can only be achieved through a multi-stakeholder partnership involving private corporations, governments, international organizations, and individual users, which should devise solutions that have a positive, long-term impact in the digital space.

Image: World Economic Forum Davos Labs

Make public health a priority

Mariam Raheem, Lahore Hub, Pakistan

With newer COVID-19 variants contributing to a resurgence of cases and the increasing strain on healthcare systems, governments need to make a commitment to curb COVID-19 within their countries’ contexts. However, global commitments alone may not be sufficient for post pandemic recovery; efforts to regain public trust and robust, transparent and sustainable schemes to pool resources for equitable and accessible healthcare services will be necessary.

Without a radical rethinking of global healthcare systems, far-reaching socioeconomic impacts will continue to persist. It is time to reset global health systems and refocus policies that allow for the provision of universal health coverage.

Image: World Economic Forum Davos Labs

What is a Global Shaper?

The Global Shapers Community is a network of young people under the age of 30 who are working together to drive dialogue, action and change to address local, regional and global challenges.

The community spans more than 8,000 young people in 165 countries and territories.

Teams of Shapers form hubs in cities where they self-organize to create projects that address the needs of their community. The focus of the projects are wide-ranging, from responding to disasters and combating poverty, to fighting climate change and building inclusive communities.

Examples of projects include Water for Life, a effort by the Cartagena Hub that provides families with water filters that remove biological toxins from the water supply and combat preventable diseases in the region, and Creativity Lab from the Yerevan Hub, which features activities for children ages 7 to 9 to boost creative thinking.

Each Shaper also commits personally and professionally to take action to preserve our planet.

Ensure public safety

Kamila Camilo, São Paulo Hub, Brazil

Public security policies involve rethinking the educational system, drugs policy, fighting structural racism that targets black and poor people's likings. It is necessary to use technology in favor of people and not as a control tool. The invitation is to co-create solutions with those who most need these policies.

Women feel more insecure in public spaces, what if we bring women in to do urban planning? What if constantly persecuted black people could help create monitoring systems. Public safety is about perception. Our invitation is for the government, private sector and civil society to come together, and we can offer better training to police officers, including non-violent communication and access to mental health, as well as open spaces for youth participation in the creation of these alternatives.

Image: World Economic Forum Davos Labs

Support next-generation ESG

Taylor Hawkins, Sydney Hub, Australia

We must move beyond previously acceptable standards of reactive disclosure. A prosperous future demands a new and ambitious culture of leadership. One that is inclusive, transparent and accountable, and that proactively seeks to both meet and raise standards of justice, equity and sustainability.

We must provide both ample support and, when required, consequences for the leaders who hold this future in their hands. This will ensure that critical technologies are used to improve the quality of life for all, rather than enabling the perpetuation of inequalities.

Image: World Economic Forum Davos Labs

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