Maeve O’Reilly, Restless Development’s Policy and Research Coordinator, writes about why young people need to be involved in this summer’s major UN event on the Global Goals in New York (and how you could represent young people in New York!).

In 2016, Richard Dzikunu, a young leader from Ghana, found himself explaining to a room of UN folks how and why his work tackling one of the biggest issues in his country is working.

He was at High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, an annual conference where governments from around the world meet to discuss how they are going to implement the Global Goals (also called the Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs) – 17 internationally agreed goals which tackle the most important issues facing the world.

There’s a lot of hot air in these spaces. But Richard had a solution to share with leaders that is helping deliver the Global Goals.

With a team of young people in Ghana, he is gathering gather vital data on maternal mortality rates with the aim of reducing deaths among expectant mothers.  His solution can help ensure leaders keep their promises on issues like maternal mortality.

That’s why this summer we’re heading back to New York, to attend the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) and present what young people like Richard are doing, and how this could be the key to the success or failure of the Global Goals.

Here are four reasons why now more than ever we need young people’s voices at the UN this summer.

1. The world has a problem

Time flies. The Global Goals are two years old already. The targets set – like stopping climate change and eradicating poverty – are hugely ambitious. With governments only just starting to realise the enormity of the challenge ahead of us, we need much more public mobilisation, campaigning, monitoring and evidence-collecting if we are to stand a chance of achieving these Goals by 2030.

2. But young people have a solution

Young people like Richard are taking the lead to implement and monitor the progress of the Global Goals.

He is a Youth Power Accountability Advocate, one of 110 in 7 countries, who are delivering youth-led, data-driven monitoring of the Global Goals to hold decision-makers to account for the targets they have promised to achieve.

And they’re already getting results.

While in Uganda, Accountability Advocates there have used community-level data to hold district decision-makers to account on development commitments to health, child marriage and employment. Their work has led to new laws being enacted, while the data they generated has been adopted by the Ugandan government to improve its programming.

3. In 2017 we have a unique opportunity to influence governments

If young people are already engaged, then what are governments doing?

The annual United Nations High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development is the official process to hold governments accountable for achieving the Global Goals.

Each year, countries can present the progress they’ve made towards the Global Goals by conducting a Voluntary National Review (VNR). In these early days of the Global Goals, the way in which governments report on their progress is still being set.

How they are reporting using their Voluntary National Review will set the trajectory for the success or failure of the Global Goals, so it’s incredibly important that Governments conduct these reviews by engaging with the 50% of the world’s population who are under 30.

Governments need young people’s expertise, perspectives and knowledge to ensure we get it right.

4. We have a plan to make sure young people aren’t sidelined

At Restless Development, we want to wedge open the door and make the HLPF a more accessible and interactive Forum for young people. Our expertise and experiences must be heard and acted on.

That’s why Restless Development will host two Youth Advocate Action Days in New York on the  8th & 9th of July at the start of the Forum to support young advocates to navigate the UN and effectively have their voices heard on the issues that matter to them. You can register to attend them here.

The training will involve peer-to-peer learning between young advocates, skill sharing from expert UN and civil society partners on how to make change happen, as well as providing an opportunity to engage with key decision makers.

Get involved in this year’s HLPF

Excitingly, in collaboration with the Permanent Mission of Denmark to the United Nations, we’re recruiting six Youth Advocates to join us for the High Level Political Forum.

This is a fully funded role and you’ll be supported throughout by Restless Development staff to participate in the Forum and advocate on the leading role young people are already fulfilling around the world to ensure we achieve the Global Goals.  

Find out more and apply to be a Youth Advocate! (9am BST Wednesday 7th June).

What do you think?

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