Ezekiel King-Phillips, Projects and Communications Intern at Restless Development USA, recently attended the High Level Political Forum (HLPF). The purpose of the Forum is for UN member states to report their progress towards achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Here are his takeaways from HLPF and how youth activists from across the world are the real drivers of change.
For those of us who aren’t currently knee-deep in the world of sustainable development and international diplomacy, getting involved with the work that goes on at Restless Development or the UN might seem like an impossibly daunting task.
I spent 10 days rushing around the UN. From meetings to events to interviews, as well as helping Restless Development’s Youth Accountability Advocates get around. It was hard trying to get my own sense of what was going on!
Now that the 2018 High Level Political Forum (HLPF) is over, I am more familiar with the world of high level meetings and sustainable development. While it’s important to pay attention to events happening at the UN, they aren’t the be all, end all of development work.
What happens at the UN-level lays the groundwork for grassroots organisations. This is what Restless Development’s local partners are doing on a daily basis.
Let’s take for example Sustainable Development Goal 5: “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”. This is one of 17 Sustainable Development Goals agreed by member states at a 2015 Summit, which is part of a document called Agenda 2030.
SDG 5 is broken down into nine targets, or smaller measurable goals. Countless governments, organizations, foundations, and companies are focused on achieving the goals together.
These targets for SDG5 are also quite large, including ending all discrimination against women and girls everywhere and universal sexual and reproductive health and rights. While gender equality has been made a specific goal, specific SDG goals are intertwining and cross-over.
Although these goal and targets are important, they provide a framework to direct the development of policies globally.
The SDGs are a helpful guide to how to tackle the challenges of the world. But young leaders, rooted in the needs of their communities, are the ones who really make the change.
Young leaders join sessions at HLPF each year to advocate for the needs of the young people whose interests they represent.
Each of the Restless Development programmes comes from a local group or a partner who is interested in the work being done by young leaders around the world.
Young people are changing their communities globally. In Sierra Leone and Nepal they are teaching young women to make sanitary products. In Zimbabwe and India they are speaking with their national and local leaders about ending early marriage. In India and Uganda, they are teaching boys and young men about menstruation to try and overcome the stigma attached to it.
Young people don’t necessarily know about the SDGs, but they do know that the work they’re doing benefits women and girls in their communities; and that’s what important to them.
We’re proud to support these young people globally and raise their voices within spaces like HLPF. We believe that it’s important to make the work young people are doing visible to the global leaders.
That’s why we participate in global meetings and summits (like HLPF). These summits really tie the work that young people are doing on the ground to global agreements like the SDGs.