Young people at the helm of the SDGs

When Brittany Trifold a 17 year old took the podium to address global leaders at the RIO +20 opening ceremony, she clearly laid out one thing. That governments were always going to be on the defensive of this Future we want conversation.

“Are you here to save face are you here to save us? ” she said. If I were a government leader at that point, I know what I would say – Duh, I am here to help save us. But that also shows the sentiments with which we young people hold our governments accountable to the Future We want conversation – which now has turned into the Sustainable Development Goals – with which we are creating the Future that we want to be realized by the year 2030. We are asking questions like: What is the government doing ? Why are youth not involved in the conversation? The conversation is aloof – we say..

Not at all taking responsibility for the Future that we want. These are part of my thoughts as shared at the recently concluded LEO Africa Forum where I got to talk about : What must be done to ensure sustainable development goals deliver on the aspirations of young people

1. Firstly, Young people need to own the goals. I am not so sure that the current Secretary General of the UN – Ban Ki Moon, the lead of UNDP – Hellen Clarke and or Sam Kutesa under whose chairmanship the SDGs were launched will be alive in 2030.Not that I wish them dead – but they are already in their sunset days. They are bequeathing to us in many ways the earth that they envision for us. And if they are still alive then – they will be too old to once again talk about these SDGs and what we would have achieved. This is why the young people who currently compose about 43% of the global population need to own these goals. But we cannot own them if we do not know them.

2. What part of the SDG equation do we want to be a part of ?

I wholly agree with Maribel Ullman from Plan International who lists ways in which young people can be a part of this conversation.

. Critical Thinkers : Youth have the capacity ti identify and challenge existing power structures and barriers to change and expose contradictions and biases.

. Change makers : Young people have the power to act and mobilize others. Youth activism is on the rise bolstered by connectivity and access to social media.

. Innovate: this is where we need to use our connectivity to create and collaborate. Fresh perspectives and direct knowledge of and insights into issues that are not accessible to adults – this is a point where the young people excel. Youth best understand the problems that they face.

.Leaders : When young people are empowered with knowledge of their rights and supported to develop leadership skills they can drive the change in their communities.

As young people – we often are led to believe that we are to be led and that we need to look to our leaders to create the change that we want to see – 15 years down the road. I disagree. I say – find what you are good at and where you belong as young person. Figure what you want to be remembered for and work at creating a legacy. So, are you a leader, critical thinker, change maker or innovator ? TAKE YOUR PLACE! We need every one’s input in creating the Future that we want.

The SDGs may not be easy to realize and this is because among other things – they are sweeping and their implementation very broad. They are complex and for that more difficult to communicate, put into action, + monitor more than the MDGS. But the problems of this world are complex. We need to work together , all stake holders alike. But I think more – the young people, because this is our future.

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