‘Never about us, without us!’ – Denmark, young people and the SDGs

Clara Halvorsen is the official Youth Delegate to the 2017 UN High Level Political Forum from the Government of Denmark. Here she shares her experiences on how young people are meaningfully engaging with the Danish Government to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Sitting in a session at the High-Level Political Forum in New York, one of the very few young invited speakers stated a key point on how youth should be involved in the implementation of the Global Goals:

“Never about us, without us!”

In times where we are discussing how governments should meaningfully involve young people in the delivery and monitoring of the goals, this statement sum up the  two things that should always be kept in mind.

First, young people should always be allowed the space to be the experts on questions regarding youth.

Just as you would always consult a specialist in sports when discussing the performance at the Olympics or a researcher in green transition when discussing global warming, youth should be allowed to be the experts when topics related to youth are discussed.

Clara Halvorsen

Youth as experts

When discussing the direct involvement of youth in the process regarding the implementation of the Global Goals, youth should have their voices heard.  This means, that youth should be the among the speakers, panelists and experts in national and international spaces where decisions are made.

We should also be aware that the discussion is not centered on how we can involve and create processes and spaces for youth to only discuss youth.  We must focus on how young people can feed directly into the implementation of all the goals. We should ask ourselves how youth can lead in ending gender inequality, eradicating poverty and combating climate change. By meaningfully including youth in the implementation of each of the Global Goals, we ensure sustainability and future successes.

When I bring this point to the table, I am often met with the argument that youth are not responsible or mature enough to be involved in governmental processes. I can prove this wrong.

The Danish Example

In Denmark part of the international development budget is provided through the Danish Youth Council. The funds are earmarked for youth-to-youth projects between Danish youth organisations and their international partners, who are also youth led organisations. In cooperation, the two youth organisations design a project and write a project application which is then sent to the granting committee, made up of young people from different member organisations of the Danish Youth Council.

When granted, the organisations implement, monitor and evaluate the projects. The aim of these projects is not to do projects that only benefit young people, but help deliver the Global Goals for everyone through active youth involvement.

On the national level, Danish youth, through the Danish Youth Council have been contributing to the Danish Voluntary National Review on equal terms with other stakeholders such as civil society and the private sector.

On five pages, the Danish Youth Council examines how Danish youth contribute to the Global Goals in Denmark and in development contexts. It also identifies challenges, gaps, and steps to be taken for the Danish youth sector to fully contribute to the agenda both nationally and internationally.

Not passive but participants

This leads to my second consideration for governments who want to involve young people. Youth should be active participants, not passive tokens in development. You can not implement the process as the above, if you don’t have the confidence that youth are able to lead the process. Youth should never participate in processes just for filling a certain quota or meeting a demand from the public. Good youth involvement means active youth participation.

The Global Goals are the future of half of the world’s population. The generation that are young now will be the ones having to pay the price if the goals haven’t been reached in 2030. Governments around the world – as well as the United Nations and other international institutions – should let youth play our role: as an equal partner in the implementation of the Global Goals.

1.8 billion youth are ready to help us reach the Global Goals before 2030 – are governments ready to give us the space and responsibility to do so?

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.

‘The Global Goals won’t happen without young people’

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‘Never about us, without us!’ – Denmark, young people and the SDGs

by wearerestless Reading time: 3 min