Alex Kent is the UK Director of Restless Development and blogs as David Cameron steps down as the Prime Minister of the UK and Justine Greening moves on from her role as Secretary of State for International Development.
We do not often thank our politicians, but if there is anything that Jo Cox’s murder – and the short lived outburst of people saying #ThankYourMPafterwards – showed us, it is that if we want them to be better people, we need to treat them as people. That means thanking politicians for their service and thanking them when they get things right. No way will we stop campaigning to hold all governments to account and change their policies, but David Cameron’s government, and Justine Greening especially, have made a massive difference to the young people trying to make the world a better place, and so I feel we need to thank them both.
To David Cameron:
Over the past 6 years you have achieved huge things for international development. Launching a historic commitment to the UK Aid which saves lives and lifts communities out of poverty. Making sure that every country in the world committed to ambitious Global Goals which leave no one behind. Starting the International Citizen Service which has given 20,000 young volunteers from the UK the chance to pair up with young volunteers from developing countries in projects which change their lives and their communities. Bringing world attention to ending sexual violence in conflict, and backing that up with the investment and drive to prioritise education for millions of girls who would have missed out.
To Justine Greening:
We hope one of your lasting achievements will be the revolution you have started within the UK Department for International Development of putting the world’s young people – 1.8 billion strong – at the heart of international development.
5 things you’ve done for young people:
1. Asked young people what they wanted
From challenging Restless Development to come up with 30 ideas on putting young people at the heart of development, to regularly putting consultations on policy out to young people on social media, and surveying thousands of young people across multiple countries – you pushed to ensure young people were the power brokers, the ones who DID development and not a global set of people who had development done to them.
Let young people lead
Last year, rather than just create a photo opportunity, you asked 17 young people who were leading advocacy on the Global Goals to lead the creation of a Youth Summit. Designed by young people, for young people it brought hundreds of young people into the physical heart of Whitehall to make their views on the Global Goals clear.
You have tried to turn around the narrative on young people. You championed ‘positive transitions’ from adolescence to adulthood, with a focus on young people being empowered, having the opportunities, the skills the networks to have the best opportunity to fulfill their potential. You were vindicated in that hope by the way young people led the fightback against Ebola in Sierra Leone. You pushed for young people to be more involved in the EU referendum, and your message about how much young people’s participation and inclusion in politics matters is more important now than ever.
In your role as Secretary of State you held the torch high for young people and their leadership of development, creating a youth team in DFID with a growing mandate. This influence spread beyond the corridors of Whitehall to a global stage. For the first time ever you took two youth delegates to the UN General Assembly last year, and have just announced the youth delegates for this year’s UN General Assembly in September.
Most of all we thank you for leaving a legacy. DFID now has a youth agenda aimed at putting young people at the heart of development. The youth agenda has been picked up by DFID offices around the world. You’ve also invested in and set up the International Citizen Service as a programme for a further 60,000 young people that will in turn have the impact from leading development, continue to inform and shape international development and global influence.
To the new Prime Minister and Secretary of State for International Development
You might be thinking a lot has been done already (you would be right), you might think that the negative stories of how aid has been misused in the past mean it is something to keep quiet about (you would be wrong), but the main thing you should think is that you have a fantastic job. Despite a world full of challenges, you – and a generation of young people raring to help lead – can change the lives of more people across the world in a week than probably any of your colleagues. If you can make the big, optimistic case for international development led by the people it serves, you will be thankful for the chance to do that job, and I hope young people will be sending you a similar thank you message in years to come