The Global Goals won’t happen without young people: we can’t ignore these four reasons why

Ignatious Chiveso, 28 from Zimbabwe, is one of Restless Development’s Youth Advocates at the 2017 UN High Level Political Forum. Here he tells us 4 reasons why the Sustainable Development Goals need young people if they’re going to be successful.

The simple fact that there are more young people in the world than ever before is enough reason to involve us in the Global Goals – goals that will shape the world for generations to come.

But we also can’t ignore the number of other reasons why young people deserve the opportunity to be involved – to help drive the delivery, monitoring and ultimately the success of these goals. Here are four.

1. Young People are more connected than any generation before

We now live in a ‘global village’ where digital technological advances have resulted in people, information and knowledge all flowing across boundaries and borders with ease and speed never before imagined.

Central to all of this are young people, connecting with one another globally via social and communication technologies with a relentless determination to innovate and improve the world we live in.

Young, innovative and talented minds offering solutions to pressing worldwide concerns represent a huge untapped resource.  If we are to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, governments and big global institutions like the UN must fully invest in building the skills and capacity of young people worldwide, in all their diversity. If we combined this with the global connections and desire to have a positive impact on the world young people have, we would unleash the our collective power.

2. Young People are already leading development

Working with young people in Zimbabwe via the Act!2030 Alliance, I witness on a daily basis the leading role young people are already playing to implement the SDGs.

In January this year, supported by UNFPA and with technical expertise from UNAIDS and the Global Fund, we conducted a national consultative process where we met face to face with diverse groups of young people in the countries’ 10 provinces, so that they could input their own priorities for a application funding from the Global Fund – a fund set up to end AIDS, Tuberculosis and malaria. Our work was also used to influence Zimbabwe’s National Strategy for Sexual Reproductive Health and for tackling HIV in the country over the next 3 years.

An increasing number of young men and women are building their technical knowledge and understanding of development, which they have gained from doing development work on the ground in their own communities.

These young people are taking this knowledge and expertise to influence structural change at the highest level, directly engaging key decision-makers at global events (just as I’m doing at the High Level Political Forum!).

But the flow of knowledge and expertise doesn’t stop there. Young people share the skills they have learned at these events with their networks and communities, whether it’s experience of lobbying their leaders  or managing and delivering projects.

If we are to achieve the Global Goals  by 2030, we need to create more of these young leaders.

3. Young People will hold their leaders to account over the promises of the SDGs

One of the biggest criticisms of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) was the lack of available data on progress, and in particular the ability for citizens to access and engage with this data.

For the Global Goals, young people are already collecting data and generating their own to ensure they can monitor progress of the Goals. With this data, they have the power to hold leaders to account over the promises they made.

My fellow Youth Advocate Peter is one young person who is doing just this.

The data collected and generated by young people and youth-led accountability is also vital to increasing the effectiveness of development work on the ground, where initiatives must be based and grounded in collected evidence.

4. This is the largest generation of young people ever

Finally, back to the fact that young people make up half the world’s population. We are in the era of Peak Youth. Generations of educated but unemployed young people are emerging who have the skills and passion to participate and lead their communities but currently cannot access the space to do so.  

Because of the large population boom of young people in developing countries today, there is no better time than now to start making the right investments in youth-led development.

At this year’s High Level Political Forum, the message I want to get across is that truly transformative change is possible and within our reach. Without the meaningful engagement of young people throughout the implementation and monitoring of the Sustainable Development Goals, the realisation of a future where we end poverty, inequality and the worst effects of climate change will not be achieved.

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.

Read more of our HLPF Blog Series:

Four Reasons we need young people’s voices at the UN this summer

Despite all our work, further action is needed

Before the opportunity passes us by.

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The Global Goals won’t happen without young people: we can’t ignore these four reasons why

by wearerestless Reading time: 3 min