Lorraine Perricone-Dazzo is Restless Development USA‘s Fundraising & Communications Manager, and blogs from New York, the location of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Summit – on how the United States of America has shown commitment to youth in international development, and what it needs to do next.
The Commander in Chief needs a strong warm up act, so it is fitting that just minutes after Restless Development will wrap up co-hosting the event #Generation2030, President Obama will speak in the main halls of the SDG Summit marking the official signing of the Sustainable Development Goals at the United Nations. Our #Generation2030 event will promote youth as crucial players in delivering and monitoring these new global development goals, – but the US government has also demonstrated their commitment to elevate the role of youth in development.
Putting money and policy where our mouth is
In October 2012 the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) released their Youth Policy: Youth in Development: Realizing the Demographic Opportunity. Restless Development has been recognized as an important partner in developing and executing this agenda. USAID called upon our experience and expertise in conducting consultation to aid in designing the policy. Now USAID is putting their commitments where their policy talk is and have designated an impressive pot of funding to holistic, youth-focused programming globally under the Youth Power contract. YouthPower engages young people in development efforts, builds the capacity of youth-serving and youth-led organizations and builds cross-sectoral approaches. Restless Development is a key partner on a consortium of youth experts, led by FHI 360 – 1 of 6 such groups who will be advising-on and delivering this programming. USAID is prioritizing youth engagement in all projects which are part of this initiative, demonstrating their commitment to the bold stance of their youth policy that ‘development can be accelerated when the majority of youth in any country are able to make significant contributions to economic, social, and political life…’
Speaking up for African youth
Three months ago, on his second Presidential visit to Africa, President Obama passionately told an audience of mainly young Kenyans, that “when it comes to the people of Kenya – particularly the youth – I believe there is no limit to what you can achieve” in a speech highlighting the importance of youth and partnerships in the successful development of African nations. He spoke about the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) stating that, ‘we are empowering and connecting young people from across the continent who are filled with energy and optimism and idealism, and are going to take Africa to new heights.’ Restless Development to date has had 2 young staff members, Jestina Simba and Salieu Timbo, both from Sierra Leone, received the Mandela Fellowship of the YALI program, giving them the opportunity to learn and network in US universities, gaining skills and knowledge on civic leadership.
Hollywood star power bringing Global Goals to a global audience
Celebrities have also been championing the role of youth as leaders of today and the future. US comedian Amy Poehler’s ‘Smart Girls’ project aims to teach young women to ‘change the world by being yourself’. Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Stevie Wonder and other well-loved American film and music personalities appear in the We the People video to be released along with the Global Goals on 26 September. This crowdsourced film will be released at the Global Citizen Festival in NY, which for years has been driven by the passion and energy of young people.
So what next?
In UN spaces and beyond I hear the Sustainable Development Goals more and more frequently being referred to as ‘The Global Goals’, pointing to their focus on inclusivity – both sectorally and geographically. All governments are expected to work towards achieving these, not just those countries considered ‘developing’ or ‘impoverished’. The US Government has shown their commitment to including young people in their pursuit of sustainable international development, but they will need to focus on achieving all of the goals – economic and environmental – and on home soil as well. Initiatives like My Brother’s Keeper aimed at tackling inequality in the US have been initiated by the Obama administration and should be carried on by new leadership in 2016 in order for the US to be a powerful contributor achieving the vision of the Post-2015 world.