5 ways that the international processes could set young people up to succeed

In the second of a two part special feature, Director of Policy and Practice Mark Nowottny sets out our 5 key recommendations to ensure young people can claim their role in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals come 1st January 2016.

Last week, (in part one of this post), I tried to untangle the web of meetings and conversations happening around the globe that are shaping the way we ‘do’ development over the next 15 years – including how and why young people should be central to it all.

This week, Ambassadors and ministers are gathered in New York to continue negotiating the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and how we can fund them. We’ve had all the rhetoric, so with just five months left until the SDGs are supposed to be signed into force in September…

From the seat of Youth Governance and Accountability Task Team Member, Merybell Nabilah, at the Intergovernmental Negotiations, April 21st-24th
From the seat of Youth Governance and Accountability Task Team Member, Merybell Nabilah, at the Post-2015 Intergovernmental Negotiations, April 21st-24th

Here are 5 ways that the international processes could set young people up to succeed over the coming months:

  1. Join the dots, now. With the Addis Ababa Financing meeting in July, the clock is ticking to make sure that the multiple processes are joined up and that different tracks speak to each other and reinforce each other properly. Easy to say, harder to do. But if not, the implementation of the Goals could fail.
  1. Invest in the Data Revolution. Hardly new, but there’s broad agreement that investment in both national statistics offices and citizen-led initiatives could be transformative. The Independent Expert Advisory Group on a Data Revolution for Sustainable Development recommended that “a  new funding stream to support the data revolution for sustainable development should be endorsed at the Third International Conference on Financing for Development”. At the Cartagena Data Festival this week, talk has been of investing in the “demand” user-led side of the revolution and of some sort of global partnership for data. This will be critical, and we need the financing conference in Addis Ababa to deliver it.
  1. An indicator, an indicator, my kingdom for an indicator. We urgently need to invest in measuring participation. Young people have consistently called for access to decision-making processes, and want to ensure their experiences, perspectives and knowledge is heard and acted upon. Goal 16 – covering peaceful and inclusive societies, justice, and effective accountable inclusive institutions – is notoriously politicised and hard to measure in traditional ‘stats & numbers’. Target 16.7 – “Ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels” – will be crucial for young people’s participation, but only if it can be measured robustly. The World Programme for Action on Youth, Youth Wellbeing Index, and Commonwealth Youth Development Index have all been open about the gaps in data around ‘participation’ and calling for better data for close to 20 years. If we don’t invest in a new global level indicator on inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making now, we’ll have missed a huge opportunity to fill a long-identified gap. And National Statistical Offices can’t do this alone; we need support from the Inter Agency Expert Group on SDG indicators, resources for capacity building, and partnerships that include civil society and young people to work together to develop, collect and analyse the data.


  1. Get governance and institutions right, and the rest will follow. Innovation, the private sector, and open data are all the rage. But important dialogues on building effective and inclusive institutions have seemed strangely subdued and isolated. If the real untold story of the last 20 years was the erosion of crucial global and national institutions, then nothing’s more important than getting behind the political vision of rebuilding them as effective, open, responsive and inclusive of young people – “Institutions 2.0″ if you will. Target 16.6 “Develop effective, accountable, and transparent institutions at all levels” could be the key to kick-starting this. Public institutions must be able to adapt and adopt new roles in meeting the more sophisticated, ambitious and universal SDGs. How these institutions are ‘opened up’ and facilitate much wider participation and mutual accountability is key.
  1. Don’t stop listening. We hate to bang this predictable drum, but it’s just not happening enough in these conversations. Young people care about “how” we decide the Goals, as well as “what” they are. They showed this at the High Level Meeting of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation last year, and young women and men are hungry to engage more. There are good ways for governments and UN folk to make sure this happens, and we don’t buy the argument that when the negotiations turn serious or technical, it’s time to shut citizens and young people out from government business.

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5 ways that the international processes could set young people up to succeed

by wearerestless Reading time: 3 min