Kosi Izundu, 26 from Nigeria, is one of the Youth Advocates supported by Restless Development for the 2017 UN High Level Political Forum. Here she shares her experiences from the Forum and outlines the challenges that remain for implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and youth-led accountability at the global level.
On the 6th of July, 2017, I set out for my trip to the United States to New York for the UN High Level Political Forum (HLPF) for a power packed two weeks of conversations with governments all over the world.
Countries attending had volunteered to present on their progress on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
With a team of five young people representing Kenya, Zimbabwe, India, Argentina – and I from Nigeria – we have been here to ensure the voices of young people are heard throughout the Forum.
Now that the HLPF has drawn to a close, it is clear that there are still many challenges for everyone involved in the 2030 Agenda.
Voices of the grassroots are missing
The SDGs promised to leave no one behind. Yet my experience at the 2017 HLPF has shown that those most marginalised in communities, such as youth, people with disabilities or from indigenous communities, all around the world still continue to struggle to get their voices heard in these ‘high level’ spaces. If the Forum is going to truly reflect the voices and lived realities of citizens, especially young people, it needs to become a more inclusive and open space for meaningful participation.
There is a lack of connection between the global, regional, national and local levels
At the HLPF, the conversations and decisions that take place are too distant and disconnected from the day to day implementation of the SDGs across countries and communities worldwide. Greater emphasis needs to be placed ahead of the HLPF to ensure local communities, citizens and national organisations can engage in discussions that directly feed into the Forum’s agenda. This will help increase internal policy coherence and understanding on implementing the SDGs internally between different layers of government.
We must then ensure Governments and Regional authorities hold effective and meaningful consultations to feedback to their citizens and civil society, ensuring an efficient and participatory method for achieving the goals.
Conversations need to shift to create effective policies, strategies and plans to implement the SDGs
We have 15 years to achieve the Goals, yet many of the discussions still happening at the HLPF focus on the ‘why’ and the ‘what.’ They must instead focus on the ‘how,’ ‘who’ and ‘where.’ We need to look at how can we create more models for delivering the SDGs, who exactly are those people who we mean are being “left behind” and where are the skills and resources best placed to deliver these projects.
A lack of disaggregated data
If the SDGs are going to be achieved, then young people must be able to meaningfully monitor progress and hold their leaders to account. Having access to official data is key to this. We know that young people are already collecting their own data to hold leaders to account, but Governments must do more to support this by making official data sources more accessible. One way they can do this is by ensuring the data is disaggregated by key factors such as age, gender, disability.
Inadequate funding for monitoring the implementation of the SDGs
The task we face to implement the SDGs is a historic one. Two years have passed since world leaders signed up to these Goals, yet it is clear that there remains a clear gap in the amount of funds being made available to ensure we turn the promise of the SDGs into a reality. Governments must do more to ensure that they increase the amount of money available and ensure it gets into the hands of the right people, such as institutions like the UN and civil society organisations, who can then empower young people to implement and monitor progress of the SDGs.