Pooja Kapahi, Restless Development’s Communications Coordinator in New Delhi, India, is attending the UN High Level Political Forum in New York this July. Here she asks why young people are not more involved in the delivery and tracking of the Global Goals.
It’s been two years since the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were agreed, where governments promised to take action to eliminate poverty, reduce inequalities and tackle climate change.
I am one of the 3.5 billion people in the world who are under the age of 30. At this year’s HLPF, I will be there to ensure our leaders know the SDGs won’t be achieved without young people. We must be meaningfully engaged as partners and leaders to actually deliver the goals and make sure progress towards delivering them is being monitored properly.
Why is this event so important?
The HLPF provides the highest level of accountability for governments, who are reporting on their plans and progress to achieve the SDGs.
In these crucial first few years, the way governments track and report on the goals will set the trajectory for their success or failure. This year’s High Level Political Forum is a small window for governments to get their reporting right.
This includes conducting ‘Voluntary National Reviews’ where representatives from governments present on the progress they’ve made so far and outline their plans for achieving the SDGs in their country by 2030.
How are governments engaging with their young citizens?
Last year, just 22 countries did these reviews. This year it has climbed to 44. In 2016, only 18% of governments conducting reviews consulted young people in any way. The approach taken varied widely between those countries, and without more information, we cannot say to what extent young people were meaningfully engaged in these processes.
Across the world, as in India, young people continue to face a number of barriers preventing them from participating in the decision making processes surrounding the Sustainable Development Goals.
Despite having the skills, knowledge and ambition to make the SDGs a success, governments continue to exclude young men and women from engaging in the decisions, processes and institutions which are responsible for implementing the goals.
Why am I in New York?
My role, along with the four other Youth Advocates being supported by Restless Development at the High Level Political Forum, will be to ensure that world leaders know these reviews must be inclusive and facilitate meaningful participation of young people to achieve the SDGs by 2030.
Through the Youth Power campaign, I have been raising awareness of the importance of the goals in our day-to-day life and how young people can take action on the ground, including mobilising young people to make sure collectively we can hold our leaders accountable. There are 600 million young people in India, and their youth power can make the SDGs a reality by 2030.
Fortunately in some places the the tide is turning. Governments are realising the potential of young people and are now taking concrete actions to ensure the collective power of young people is being harnessed.
Countries such as Denmark are significantly changing their strategic direction to ensure their programmes and policies unleash the potential of youth as agents of change.
Indonesia too have also outlined the potential of young people in their Voluntary National Review this year:
“Youth is therefore a great potential and investment for the sustainable development, and their involvement in the SDGs implementation process, either as beneficiary of development or as agents of change is very important.”
These are great first steps and countries meaningfully engaging young people should be commended for taking a lead.
Now is the time for more countries to take this step, not only in their rhetoric but more importantly in their actions. Young people – including myself – will be there to hold them to account for their commitments: that’s a promise.
This year’s High Level Political Forum is critical as these early years of reporting will set the tone, ambition and urgency for the rest of the 13 years we have left to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. The Voluntary National Reviews are at the heart of the formal process and governments must accept the responsibility of conducting these in an inclusive, open and participatory manner. Young people are already rising to this challenge. From contributing to Voluntary National Reviews, and mobilising their peers through campaigns, to collecting and analysing their own data through mobile apps, young people are holding decision makers to account on their promise to deliver a just and sustainable world for present and future generations.
At this High Level Political Forum, we call on all governments to meaningfully engage with young people as partners in their Voluntary National Review process – ensuring young people’s perspectives and expertise are actively sought out, included and acted upon.