UN Hosts First-ever #YouthLead Innovation Festival to Highlight Youth-led Solutions for the SDGs

More than 6,000 young people from around the world join virtual gathering to celebrate International Youth Day 2021

13 August 2021 (UN Headquarters, NY) – To mark International Youth Day, the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth convened the first-ever, all virtual #YouthLead Innovation Festival, welcoming thousands of young people from all across the globe. Over two days, participants joined interactive discussions with more than 65 diverse speakers to discuss the importance of innovation and technology to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and support COVID-19 recovery.

The event brought together young innovators and solution-makers together with United Nations offices, policymakers and industry leaders for timely conversations on shaping a solutions-oriented future. Multi-stakeholder sessions focused on six key thematic areas: health and wellbeing; climate action and biodiversity; economic empowerment and employment; digital technology; food security; and education.

“The young people of today are digital natives that routinely contribute to the resilience of their communities, proposing innovative solutions, driving social progress and inspiring transparent and inclusive political change,” said Jayathma Wickramanayake, the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth. “Time and time again we see young people at the frontlines of developing new solutions and becoming pillars of their communities, despite facing multidimensional challenges in their day-to-day lives.”

Yet despite the rapid growth of digital technology and innovation, many young innovators from the most vulnerable and marginalized communities continue to left behind. In recognition of these challenges, the event sought to especially provide spaces for young women; LGBTQI+ youth; indigenous youth; migrants, refugees, and stateless youth; and young people with disabilities; as well as the innovative work that aims to support them.

The event also featured the launch of the “Youth Activist Checklist: Guidance on Digital Safety and Online Protection of Young People” — a first-of-its-kind resource developed by the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth in collaboration with Twitter, and based on the inputs of young activists who participated in global consultations to
help shape the resource. The checklist is available to all young people who use Twitter, with an aim to educate young people on potential online risk factors; inform young people how to protect themselves and take advantage of existing privacy settings on social media accounts; help them understand how their digital footprint can impact them long-term; and learn what they can do to reduce the potential negative implications. The collaboration also aims to highlight the importance of engaging young people in shaping digital development, including as it relates to technology and digital platforms that youth use on a daily basis. 

The #YouthLead Innovation Festival builds on the vision outlined in the UN’s first-ever systemwide youth strategy (Youth2030) launched in 2018. The strategy explicitly calls for the UN to become a knowledge and innovation pioneer, while engaging youth as equal partners in the process.

In the lead up to the event, the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth launched a social media campaign showcasing #YouthLead solutions for the SDGs, featuring more than 100 youth-led solutions. The campaign also includes a TikTok Takeover, where dozens of young people have shared how they are bringing innovation to address the challenges the world is facing today, and to help achieve a better world for all. Solutions are being featured via the @UNYouthEnvoy TikTok throughout August 2021.

For press enquiries:
Matthew Hunter
Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth
+1 (631) 829-4275 

For more information on the #YouthLead Innovation Festival:


  • Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth (OSGEY)

Published Date

18 August 2021