The Power of Youth – Focus on the Sustainable Development Goals

More often, the world discusses about shaping the future but it forgets about two crucial factors: The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the youth.

When the world adopted the SDGs in September 2015, it embraced the vision of a world without poverty, one in which there would be equal opportunities for all, devoid of discrimination.

It is now three years since the adoption of these primary global goals and we should question ourselves. Are these goals as good as they appear on paper? What progress have we made so far in the implementation of these goals? What has been the role or position of the youth in these goals?

The African Youth Summit taking place from 7 – 9 November in Accra, Ghana will in some way answer as well as delve deeper into the last question: The role of youth in monitoring and implementation of the global goals; especially through a side event on: The Power of Youth: How can young people hold governments accountable on SDG follow up, review and reporting. The summit will not only present an opportunity to discuss and assess the status of implementation of continental commitments to the Global Goals but also sharing ideas, critiques, results and challenge all stakeholders to deliver on their promise.

The summit is just one of the many global events on the SDGs. But the elephant in the room still remains how we have maximized on the potential of the youth in implementing these goals. Believing in the power of the youth, the United Nations established the Office of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth to ensure youth are integrated into activities to achieve the SDGs. This was amid realities that over a third of the 169 SDGs targets highlight the role of young people and the importance of their empowerment, participation, and well-being. Further, 20 targets across 6 SDGs are strongly focused on youth: Zero Hunger, Quality Education, Gender Equality, Decent Work and Economic Growth, Reduced Inequalities, and Climate Action. Even more amazing is the optimism that the youth have regarding the SDGs. Youth 4 Global Goals reports that most young people are optimistic about the future. A YouthSpeak global survey of 180,000 young people showed 68% believe the world will be a better place by 2030.

The power of the youth has also been witnessed through various global youth-led initiatives. A perfect example is the African Children and Youth Network for Human Rights/Réseau des Enfants et Jeunes Africains pour les Droits Humains (REJADH), which comprises of young persons between 13 – 29 years, from Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Mali, South Sudan and Somalia. The youth network works to monitor and implement SDG 5 (achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls) through focusing on advocacy to reduce, prevent and end Gender Based Violence (GBV), under their children and youth-led campaign dubbed “Myth of Maputo.”

REJADH is just one of the many youth-led initiatives present and active not only in Africa but across the globe. It is therefore without any doubt that the youth have got the power to implement, monitor and generally achieve the SDGs. The power, which is manifested through their talents, enthusiasm, energy, and of course their overwhelming numbers.

In a nutshell, exclude them not; neglect them not – if progress on the SDGs is to be achieved.