Over the past three years, countless negotiations, consultations, and conferences have taken place - culminating with the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit that saw all 193-member states adopt, celebrate, and make commitments to the new Sustainable Agenda for 2030. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals are a revitalized commitment to build from the Millennium Development Goals by “leaving no one behind” and closing the gap of inequity, locally and globally by engaging everyone, everywhere. The SDGs are integrated and indivisible, balancing the 3 dimensions of sustainable development: economic, social & environmental - establishing a framework for development over the next 15 years.
However, that was the easy part. Talking is much easier than actions and actions call for accountability. We first need to realize that the outcome of our actions will not be driven by the “world we want”, but rather the “world we deserve.” In order to contextualize the importance of youth action, it was an honor to hear insights from speakers in various organizations mobilizing opportunities for young people at the grassroots, national, and international level at the online global forum we hosted last week. These include Jasmin Burgermeister (German Youth Delegate on Sustainable Development), Marwan Bishtawi (Associate Coordinator, Pax Romana & ICMYO), Roxanne Moore (UN Major Group for Children & Youth, Interim Focal Point for Youth Gateway) and Kathy Zhang (Sustainable Development Solutions Youth Network, SDSN-Y).
An interesting point of discussion was that the youth need to be equipped with the skills, knowledge, and capacities to truly make change. Their ambition and potential needs to be met with tools such as technology and innovation to be turned into meaningful contributions to society in order to reach the SDGs. This is especially true when the youth generation, comprising 40-50% of the world’s population, is globally dispersed and comprised of individuals with complementary skills. Bringing down the SDGs to the local level is also crucial to contextualize their personal significance to each individual, giving each person a reason and determination for working towards achieving the goals that will be most constructive and relevant to their needs. Personalizing the goals at the local level is essential to galvanize resilient change, therefore there should be greater institutional support at all levels to provide both the knowledge to bring about change, resources to maintain and scale positive change in society, and mechanisms for reporting impact. Community-based impact assessments are essential for determining people’s priorities, while providing opportunities to share best practices in order to overcome barriers to progress.
As highlighted by one of our speakers during the video conference, an element of humility must be preserved to better help each other out, while maintaining professionalism when doing work at the local level. Such a mindset will propel us towards maintaining human-centered intentions throughout our work. We finished by discussing commitments we can each make, within our own capacities, to spread awareness on the SDGs and contribute to them locally. We can each voice our opinion, advocate, write policy, and engage in activities related to the thematic areas we are most passionate about. There is no better time than “now”, with a plethora of youth organizations accessible to build on already existing structures. These include, among others, the youth platforms mentioned by our guest speakers - Youth Gateway (the Global Youth Partnership for the SDGs), the UN Major Group for Children & Youth (UN MGCY), Pax Romana (a part of the International Coordination Meeting of Youth Organizations - ICMYO), and the Sustainable Development Solutions Youth Network (SDSN-Y).
Within #Youth4SDGs, we are currently two weeks into the #17weeks17goals social media campaign, where we feature an overview, youth contributions, and youth organizations related to a specific SDG each week. We also are in the process of developing a Community Ambassador Program, to bring this global campaign to the local level. We each have the potential to champion youth action in your community - let’s seize the opportunity together, so don’t hesitate to contact us for more information.
#Youth4SDGs is a youth-led campaign meant to empower and connect young people with existing opportunities to meaningfully engage in sustainable development activities. We want youth to identify-match-engage-develop-sustain their passions into action by linking them to already established youth engagement platforms to fulfill our generational responsibility. Learn more by following us here on Facebook and sign up to join the next forum!