Written by Yvonne Jeffery
In New York City this September, I delivered a presentation on the United Nations and the General Assembly to help four passionate Youth Advocates prepare for their roles as youth representatives during the 69th session of the General Assembly. I also attended several events at the UN to learn more about how the post-2015 agenda is developing to help prepare training for the volunteer staff of the National Model United Nations.
On the edge of setting a new development agenda in 2015, the international community is completing an unprecedented process to include opinions on priorities for the agenda in the largest survey ever. Collecting 5 million votes worldwide, 70% of the MY World survey was collected offline, and the voices that spoke (77%) were overwhelmingly those of youth. Restless Development assisted in this process by reaching geographically remote and digitally excluded communities without access to the survey as part of its mission to empower young people to participate in development and policy-making processes.
At the 69th session of the UN General Assembly, Restless Development continued its mission at the highest levels. Through engaging representatives at High-Level Events by directly connecting them with Youth Advocates, and bringing young people’s hopes for governance and accountability to the table, the campaign for youth participation and governance in Goal 16 of the proposed Sustainable Development Goals unfolded in full ‘Restless’ force! In conjunction with Plan International, and the ODI, Restless Development also launched a report to highlight the necessity of a standalone governance goal that ensures government institutions are capable of empowering and meaningfully engaging young people, and including them in decision-making processes.
On 24 October, the United Nations will commemorate its 69th birthday. The theme for 2014 is Global Citizenship and Youth. It is a timely global reminder that young people are a powerful demographic, upon which the post-2015 development agenda could be made or broken. At Restless Development’s side event on The Power of Youth: Holding the World to Account for the Post-2015 Framework, Corinne Woods, Director of the UN Millennium Campaign, called young people to action, stating, “Now is the point that voices must be heard… we can make or break a powerful new agenda on the strength of our voices. Citizen feedback must equal government action.”
As we should expect accountability from our governments, as young people we should also hold ourselves to account. UN Youth Envoy Ahmad Ahlendawi concluded at The Power of Youth discussion, “States have to listen. Otherwise we risk trust with the people.” To realize the world we want, we must be the first to take action, bring our voices together, and be heard.