Hezkias Tadele is one of our Youth Governance and Accountability Advocates, a group of passionate youth activists lobbying around youth participation & accountability in the Sustainable Development Goals. He recently took part in the Financing for Development Conference in Addis Ababa, where governments met to discuss financing sustainable development and support for the implementation of the post-2015 development agenda. Here are Hezkias’ reflections from the conference.
“2015 is the time for global action”. Those were the words of UN secretary General Ban ki Moon’s during the CSO Financing for Development forum that was held in Addis Ababa from 11-12 July 2015. Anyone who is following the discussions around development knows how much is at stake this year, and would share the UN secretary General’s opinion. It is worth mentioning here that one of these ‘global actions’ was finding clear mechanisms to finance the “ambitious” Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the course of the third Financing for Development Conference (FFD3) in Ethiopia – the first out of 3 major global development moments happening this year.
As a young person who is curious about the financial resources for the SDGs and the execution mechanism of the goals, I was very eager to attend this conference, especially as it was hosted by my country. Unfortunately participation to the actual conference debates, plenaries and roundtables were very limited, and the most important discussions and negotiations were happening behind closed doors. As a youth activist from Ethiopia I felt very happy attending this conference as part of the youth Governance and Accountability Task Team, since many Ethiopian Youth were not even aware what the conference was about even though it was hosted in our own country.
Once the conference officially began, as a youth activist without access or a voice in the actual decision-making, I started to wonder what is happening behind the doors of the delegate rooms. I wondered whether these delegates, especially the developing countries, would reflect the real concern of African people in general and young people in particular.
Africa is a continent where at least half of the total population is below the age of 35. However, the representation of young people in these negotiations was almost non-existent. Further, for me, what matters is not only the physical presence of youth delegates but the recognition of youth as agents of change and our importance to the world.
“Leave no one behind” is one of the key principles of the SDGs, preached similarly by governments and civil society, but I feel like we were left out in this important conference and agreed outcome. To give you some examples of what I mean:
We were happy to see the text referring to children and young people (paragraph 7), saying “We recognize that investing in children and youth is critical to achieving inclusive, equitable and sustainable development for present and future generations,………” but at the same time this shows youth are still considered purely as beneficiaries rather than agents of change.
The text talks about youth policies and strategies (paragraph 16) “We will promote national youth strategies as a key instrument for meeting the needs and aspirations of young people…….”. However, most countries have youth strategies and policies already, and what lacks is the commitment to implement and invest in these policies and strategies.
A lack of concrete commitments and actionable outcomes is the main disappointment coming out of Addis. I heard many governments making nice promises, but the document doesn’t reflect the needed ambitious commitments.
However, I remain positive and hopeful. My fellow youth advocate, Cheick Traore, has recently been appointed to Special Envoy for Youth on the implementation of the SDGs in Burkina Faso, and his country has shown they truly want to involve young people in their decision-making at the highest levels. He was part of his official government delegation in Ethiopia and could therefore play a crucial role advocating for our issues from ‘inside’.
During our side-event on youth priorities for FfD, organised by the UN Major Group of Children and Youth, we discussed the crucial role we young people can play in monitoring and implementation of the FFD Action Agenda, and shared best practices and examples of initiatives to already put this into practice, such as Voice Africa’s Future (VAF) and Restless Development’s Big Idea.
So although the FfD outcome document has been signed and agreed, this is only the beginning. And we need to make sure we are involved, as this is a critical time for us to ensure we are not left out of the ‘delegates rooms’ when it comes to the implementation and monitoring of these global development commitments.