YMCA at the UN ECOSOC Youth Forum: a global partner for sustainable consumption


‘YMCA youth-led solutions on climate action are reducing food waste, and implementing carbon-neutral projects. We’re a global partner for sustainable consumption’, said Sokthea Phay, a member of the World YMCA’s UN Advocacy Group, when he addressed a Ministerial Roundtable at the UN’s ECOSOC Youth Forum on 7 April 2021.

Calling on countries and peoples to take their full responsibilities in allowing ‘a Just and Inclusive Transition towards green and sustainable policies’, he pointed to YMCA’s role in developing Youth-Led Solutions to take climate action in their communities.

Having launched a global summit on climate action and SDG12 in October 2020, in March 2021 World YMCA approved seed-funding for a first round of climate action micro-projects projects in some 20 countries around the world.  Most of the Solutions selected focused on waste management, advocacy and activism, food security, the green economy and employment, and conservation. Many of the youth-led solutions aim to partner with the YMCA, government, the private sector, or other community organizations.

Read Sokthea Phay’s full text below.

Sokthea is a member of a 26-person YMCA delegation to the Forum.  As one of the largest and oldest youth organizations in the world, YMCA has special accreditation to the United Nations Economic and Social Council, first granted in 1945.

“It’s both a privilege and a responsibility to make use of our right to be there and have a seat at the table, giving a voice to young people across the world”, says Razvan Sassu, Head of Policy and Strategy of the World YMCA.  “Our advocacy group pilots a sustainable policy and advocacy framework at the World YMCA level, better positioning the Movement to empower young people worldwide.”

The current members of the group are:.

– Milla Mäkinen, YMCA Finland

– Zinta Akpoko, YMCA Nigeria

– Stefanie Tornow, YMCA Germany (Bonn)

– Joe Fifield, YMCA of the USA (Greater Twin Cities)

– Karla Maria Contreras Rodriguez, YMCA Guatemala

– Ana Clara Castillo, YMCA Uruguay

– Amanda Gailiss, YMCA Australia (Victoria)

– Da Eun Yang, YMCA Korea

– Eugene Lucien MBEE, YMCA Cameroon

– Dorina Davies, YMCA Kosovo

– Sokthea Phay, YMCA of the USA (Greater Long Beach)

Launched in 2019, the UN Advocacy Group is supporting World YMCA on policy and advocacy issues in connection to the United Nations. Until the pandemic, the UN Advocacy Group supported the development of the World YMCA’s internal policy framework, represented YMCA youth at various UN events, helped connect the ‘YMCA@175’ celebrations to the UN Youth Envoy, and much more. Since the pandemic, the work of the Group shifted to a digital format.

In attending this 10th anniversary ECOSOC Youth Forum in 2021, World YMCA has attended each session since its beginning with considerable delegations championing the voices of young people worldwide.

Sokthea Phay’s remarks

Distinguished representatives of Member States, civil society organizations, and fellow youth representatives,

My name is Sokthea Phay, and I represent the World Alliance of YMCAs, which has been empowering young people to address global issues and take actions for over 177 years.

YMCAs in 119 countries are stepping up to become a global partner to ensure sustainable consumption for a sustainable world. They are embarking on a journey towards becoming a carbon-neutral global youth movement and advancing youth-led solutions on climate actions.

Right now, the world is facing many pressing issues regarding unsustainable consumption. The world’s consumption of materials hits records of over 100 billion tons a year. A lot of these increases are from rising uses of non-renewable natural resources. The unsustainable use of natural resources is ruining the planet when recycling is failing. Climate and wildlife crises are propelled by the unsustainable mining of metals, fossil fuels, and deforestation. Every year, 1.3 billion tons of food, enough to feed 3 billion people, go to waste, while 1 billion people go hungry and another 1 billion people are undernourished.

YMCA youth-led solutions on climate actions around the world are working to reduce food waste and implementing carbon-neutral projects. As we move forward for sustainable development and economic growth, it is vitally important that we decrease the irresponsible use of natural resources, minimize food waste, and reduce unsustainable consumption of wildlife. As the world is suffering from a global pandemic, reducing the unsustainable consumption of wildlife could also reduce the risk of global health risks.

Critically, moving towards sustainable consumption must take into account those who risk being left behind by these policies. To minimize these risks, we urge Governments to ensure a Just Transition towards green and sustainable policies, being bold in their actions for doing what is necessary, but also offering bridge support to the people and communities who risk being left unemployed or having their livelihoods affected negatively by the transition.

To reach this goal, we call upon global leaders and member states to adopt strong policies for encouraging sustainable consumption and ensuring a Just Transition, take youth solutions into account and support young people to take youth-led sustainable consumption action. Thank you.