The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the All-China Youth Federation co-hosted the 2020 Asia-Pacific Forum on Youth Leadership, Innovation and Entrepreneurship virtually on the 17th October, the International Day for Poverty Alleviation.

“Youth represent that brightest hope to make a monumental difference…to shatter stubborn development challenges like poverty, which we have been working on for decades,” said Kanni Wignaraja, UN Assistant Secretary General, UNDP Assistant Administrator and Director of the UNDP Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific, during her video message to the regional youth.

The Forum brought together over 100 participants, including youth start-ups and youth entrepreneurship ecosystem enablers, from 14 countries and territories in the Asia-Pacific region, collectively sharing stories and good practices that youth contributed to poverty alleviation and the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“The digital economy presents an opportunity for economic recovery to get the world back on track when it comes to alleviate poverty and achieving the SDGs. Young entrepreneurs, especially those who are utilizing digital platforms and tools to run their business play an important part in empowering local communities and keeping the economy running” said by Ms. Jayathma Wickramanayake, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth.

During the online Forum, 18 youth-led start-ups from the region shared their stories and solutions and explored the role of young people in contributing towards poverty alleviation.

One such solution is Food Mario, a platform that connects home-based cooks to customers, where people can start selling food from their own homes in Nepal. Mr. Rohit Tiwari, the founder of Food Mario said this idea came from his mother, who cooks her family every single day. “Women like my mother definitely deserve a market where they can start a business.” On Food Mario more than 80% of the home-based cooks are women who were previously not contributing to family income. Food Mario is Nepal’s first and only platform that connects home chefs with customers all over the Kathmandu Valley. It has helped more than 150 families to start businesses from their homes and contribute to local poverty alleviation.

“To build back fairer, greener and stronger, we need everyone, especially young people. You know the needs of your communities and how they’re affected,” said Beate Trankmann, UNDP Resident Representative in China. “Whether it’s loss of income, or other factors affecting poverty – such as education, health, access to clean water – all these challenges must be met. And your energy and ideas can do that.”

Another solution focusing on inclusion is Deaf Tawk from Pakistan, a digital platform for people with hearing impairment. It is a mobile application that provides a video calling service in which hearing impaired users connect with a certified sign language interpreter in real time. Whenever they need to visit the doctor, educational institute or in communicating with the general public they can log into the app and within few seconds they are connected with interpreters. With more inclusive access to services, people are more likely to break the poverty cycle.

Over the past 4 decades, China has made many contributions on poverty alleviation; in achieving this, young people have been on the forefront. “On the journey towards joint participation in poverty alleviation by the whole of society, Chinese youth organizations and young people from all sectors of society are presenting unique leadership and innovation by taking part in a wide range of social activities.” said Mr. Guan Zhijie, the Acting Vice President of the All-China Youth Federation.

Zhang Wenni is one such example. She was the first Secretary and the Resident Poverty Alleviation Team leader of the village of Yushu, in Shaanxi Province. During her tenure, she helped the village construct roads, protect water resources and built waste treatment plants. After she moved to Yan’an City, she established the youth e-commerce alliance and helped the local people increase their incomes by a total of RMB 388,000.  

The Forum provided a platform to showcase how youth can effectively contribute to sustainable development in Asia-Pacific. It also opened up networks for collective learning and facilitated sharing of experiences, leading the way forward for a more inclusive and productive entrepreneurial ecosystem.

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