All week we’ve heard talk of “Leave No One Behind” yet mentions of young people were rare. I (Nazzy) went to a side event on Leave No One Behind where the word youth was not mentioned once, not even to pay us lip service.
Speakers overran their time so I couldn’t raise my point and bring a youth voice into the room. Whilst the “youth angle” seems so obvious to me, I can see it’s still off the radar for so many people here.
Contrast this with meetings and events where youth involvement was central.
The “Youth Power for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)” event was bursting with young people keen to discuss ideas and plans. When we’re given space we absolutely grab it with both hands, but we need to be able to bring that into central discussion being had by decision-makers, instead of being left on the margins.
2. We’re not just participating, we’re leading with solutions
When given the necessary support and meaningful opportunities to participate, as young Accountability Advocates we have proven that we are leading the way in terms of monitoring and accountability.
Many people we’ve spoken to this week have been surprised at just how much we’ve achieved already. As Accountability Advocates we’ve set up monitoring frameworks and indicators to measure progress of the SDGs at the national level. Whilst the global level indicators are still to be signed off, we’ve just gone ahead and started the work.
It’s become clear that what we have achieved is new, innovative, and ahead of the curve. We have evidence and lessons from what we’ve done, and we’re ready to share it with everyone who is trying to achieve the Goals.
3. There should be nothing about us without us
And being at the UN this week has just reinforced this.
We’ve seen how much power is held here, and the kind of partnerships that can be forged to make a difference. Partnerships that mobilise resources and take decisions that will affect our lives. But that’s why it’s so important that we help inform those decisions and partnerships. The power held here is matched by the youth power of 1.8 billion young people – we have to unleash it and make young people impossible to ignore.
4. Going beyond the “buzz”
We are not a tick-box.
At most events we attended, people kept using the same terms – ‘meaningful youth participation’, ‘accountability’. We heard less about projects that are working, and how they can be replicated. That is because the ‘global level’ at the UN is often removed from our local action. Local action such as hearing from my (Richard) focus groups with mothers and pregnant women in Northern Ghana, where we are using data to help reduce maternal mortality rates.
The UN talks in concepts and ideas. We have collected evidence, know our data, and have used our networks to gain traction and create the change needed at the national level. This is why it’s even more important for me to bring different voices and experiences to the table, that enrich the conversation, and build a fuller picture of what is actually happening in communities.
5. We bring “Youth Power” to the discussions
The power of 1.8 billion young people can be forgotten in these spaces, but we have shown that we are active partners – not bystanders – in achieving change.
It’s unquestionable: young people bring a different kind of energy to these events. We don’t just talk the talk, we show how young people are already leaders and taking action.
After my (Richard) presentation at the Youth Power for SDGs event, the UN Youth Envoy passed me his card, and wrote on the back that I inspire him and he wants me to succeed. After this week, Nazzy and I are both left inspired too. Knowing that our work can genuinely transform the way we end some of the biggest challenges of our time – poverty, inequality and climate change.
We – and the stories of millions young people – have energised, informed and inspired decision-makers that want to listen. They are turning to us for solutions – now the rest of the world must follow and embrace the power of young people.
Read more about the work of Youth Power Accountability Advocates like Nazzy and Richard.