Maria Paula Garcia, 27, from Argentina attended the UN High Level Political Forum as a Youth Advocate in the Youth Power campaign. Here she shares her reflections on the Forum and what the next steps are for young people in her region of Latin America.
7 Sustainable Development Goals under thematic review.
44 Voluntary National Reviews.
70 Government representatives.
2,500 civil society experts and other stakeholders…
…The 2017 High Level Political Forum (HLPF) is now finished, but now what?
We’ve been monitoring progress of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for almost two years and now is time to look forward and strategize what to do, when and how.
The 2030 Agenda is huge and ambitious, and guides development work at the local, national and global levels that ensures we achieve the goal of leaving no-one behind in the process.
As my fellow Youth Advocate Kosi Izundu from Nigeria highlighted already, we have seen that there are big challenges if we are going to bridge the gap between what is said at the UN Headquarters in New York, and what is actually going on at the grassroots level globally.
Some governments are making big efforts towards achieving the SDGS, which they should be congratulated for. However what was clear at the HLPF is that this is not enough still.
To involve everyone in this process, ensuring its success, the Forum needs to rethink its structure so that civil society and local communities are truly able to engage with policy makers and hold leaders to account. Governments must facilitate active civil society engagement on a larger scale, allowing the sharing of best practices from across the globe if we are to increase and encourage faster progress towards achieving the Goals.
During the Forum, we heard that we won’t achieve the SDGs if we attempt to do it without engaging citizens, specifically young people. The lack of enabling scenarios and information available on how to actually engage with governments are seen by many as the main barrier to young people being involved.
We therefore must provide further education on the 2030 Agenda from a human rights approach. One that allows us to make the link clear between our everyday problems (poverty, lack of access to health services, gender inequality etc.) and the social, political and economic agendas that guide the actions taken by governments.
What do I mean by a human rights approach? We need human rights education and youth-led accountability to know our rights, to actively participate. We need to do this based on evidence and peer-to-peer learning.
When we are able to take informed personal and collective decisions and to be part of the decision making process at the political level, politicians will be able to consider our actual needs, concerns and experiences to achieve a more sustainable development. As the UN Youth Envoy said: “Young people are the leaders of today, we must be included and engaged today.”
As for next steps in my region of Latin America, a region that had eleven countries conduct Voluntary National Reviews at the HLPF, the big challenge now is how to best integrate the 2030 Agenda with other, pre-existing local and regional agenda coherently and effectively, such as UNFPA’s Montevideo Consensus This document is one of the most progressive programmes for rights-based sustainable development with equality, with a particular emphasis in sexual and reproductive rights and youth.
What can activists do?
We, as young activists and advocates, need to ensure the right information on the SDGs is accessible and relevant to make citizens aware of their government’s responsibilities. We also need to enable spaces where young people can organise and create networks between themselves, as well as collect their voices to understand the needs of young people and the barriers they face from participating in society. In this process, we shouldn’t forget that young people is also young LGBTI people, indigenous people, people with disability, women and girls. Thirdly, we need to demand and recommend clear and specific ways that our governments can improve their ability to meaningfully engage young people in their delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals.
If the HLPF is going to play a central, decisive role in the follow-up and review of the SDGs, it needs to be a Forum that connects the decisions that are taken at the global, national and local levels. My experience in New York reiterated the fact that young people, in all our diversity, need to be engaged and leading throughout these decisions and conversations, so that we achieve in SDGs in an inclusive way that leaves no one behind.
Read more of our HLPF Blog Series: