Originally published by ODI’s Development Progress in their second youth priorities blog of the series, Tabitha Ha discusses how young people must be included in planning and delivering the post-2015 framework, particularly by seeing governance structures where young people are included in the decision-making processes. View original here. 

On International Youth Day, let’s give a big ‘shout out’ to the role of young people in developing the post-2015 framework. During the 2012 London meeting of the High-Level Panel (HLP), I distinctly remember somebody saying to me that ‘everyone was falling asleep until the young people started speaking!’

For me, this sums up the ambition and energy that young people have brought to the post-2015 discussions and decision-making spaces since the beginning of the process. Since our first action – staging interruptions of a speech being giving by Nik Hartley, the Restless Development chief executive – we have been sending a loud and clear message: young people must be included in planning and delivering the post-2015 framework if it is to be successful, and we are perfectly able to say it ourselves.

Youth step up and call out

Young people have had a voice across the highest levels of decision-making, being present both physically andonline. The Major Group for Children and Youth(MGCY), one of the ‘most impressive Major Groups’ according to Felix Dodds, has strengthened the platform for children and youth across influential spaces, including the Open Working Group (OWG) meetings and High-Level Political Forum (HLPF).

At the national level you will find passionate young people lobbying decision-makers. Act!2015 is a movement pushing for the post-2015 goals to includecommitments to advancing sexual and reproductive health rights, including the HIV response. As negotiations on the final framework unfold, young people’s activities at this level will be increasingly important.

Across the world over 2 million young people have added their voices to the process through the MY World survey. While working with the International Citizen Service at Restless Development, I and other Development Advocates helped some of the most isolated and digitally excluded young people in India, Sierra Leone and South Africa to contribute their opinions offline.

Young people from Sierra Leone visualise their hopes for the future

In early 2013, I helped to bring together Youth Voices on a post-2015 World, which published the results of 12 country consultations and a global survey with young people. Throughout these spaces, young people have been calling for what they want to see in the next set of development goals.

What do young people want?

‘Education and healthcare were obviously the top priorities, right?’ I hear you ask. These were indeed high on the list, but governance was seen as the most important issue overall. To add a little detail from Youth Voices on a Post-2015 World: ‘Young people want to see effective governments that are held to account, and governance structures where young people have access to decision-making processes.’

We also made recommendations for the process itself: ‘The increased sensitization and empowerment of the people, better harnessing technology, increased collaboration and institutional reform.’

In light of these demands, young people welcome Goal 16 from the OWG, in particular the commitment to ‘build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions for all’. They are also supportive of innovative youth-led projects, such as the Big Idea, which seek to empower and enable young people to hold their decision-makers to account through open data, in line with the demands of the Lyon Declaration, which acknowledges that access to information, and the skills to use it effectively, are required for sustainable development.

Will decision-makers take young people and their demands seriously?

As we await the final report of the OWG and the start of the intergovernmental negotiations, let’s hold off the biggest celebrations – there are still major risks to meaningful youth participation and to priorities falling off the agenda. At OWG 12, one of the co-chairs denied that children and youth are stewards of the next agenda, stating that ‘adults will be the stewards and children and youth will be the beneficiaries’. Such attitudes threaten youth priorities, rendering youth participation meaningless and tokenistic.

How do we commit, on International Youth Day, to supporting ‘youth’ and their priorities post-2015?

  • Young people have a key role to play in translating ‘post-2015’ into ‘people-friendly’ accessible language, to engage their wider communities and build support for the goals.Young people must think strategically, dedicating energy to advocating on issues they can still meaningfully influence (rather than fight for, say, a Youth Goal).

  • Non-governmental organisations must empower young people, youth-led and youth-focused organisations to be a part of the conversation and help link lobbying efforts at the national level.

  • Decision-makers must reach out, listen to and realise that they are accountable to young people. They need to work with young people to track progress towards achieving the goals and share this information with young people in an accessible way.

In the words of the MGCY, and in the spirit of the HLPto ‘leave no one behind’:

‘The time has come for us to work together strongly, between countries, and between generations. We will work with you, encourage you, support you, and also critique you. But above all, hold you accountable.’

Tabitha Ha is a young advocate and campaigner in the Global Policy and Practice team at Restless Development, a youth-led development agency that puts young people at the forefront of change and development. These views are her own and not necessarily the views of Restless Development.

 

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