*Linda Ramadi is an M.A in International Relations and Diplomacy candidate at Seton Hall University, she specializes in International Organizations and Global Negotiations. She is also the NGO Student Representative
On 10 November 2016 the Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations, the Soka Gakkai International and the Earth Charter International co-sponsored an event called Youth Boosting the Promotion and the Implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS). United Nations Headquarters, CMR 7.
The Opening remarks were given by the moderator Mr. Maher Nasser, Director, Outreach Division, United Nations Department of Public Information. The Speakers were H.E. Dr. Amrith Rohan Perera, Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations, Ms. Saskia Schellekens, Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, Dr. David Nabarro, UN Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Ms. Sofía García Representative to the United Nations, SOS Children’s Villages.
The New SDG App Presentation was done by Mr. Dino De Francesco from the Earth Charter International and Mr. Tadashi Nagai from the Soka Gakkai International.
In his opening remarks Mr. Maher Nasser said that the SDGS are a global agenda that was adopted by world leaders in September 2015. He referred to them as the UN guiding blue print for a future where people live in peace and prosperity while people work to protect the planet. He said the 17 SDGS and the 169 targets are interconnected, comprehensive and a pledge not to leave anyone behind.
He mentioned the three pillars of the work of the UN as being peace and security, peace and development and of cause Human Rights. He said the three pillars are interconnected or interrelated. He opined that the same thing can be said about the implementation of the 17 SGDS which themselves are important in sustaining the three pillars. Mr. Nasser then gave the floor to the speakers to make their presentations.
The first speaker Mr. Nabarro, said that these sustainable goals are a blue print to a plan for the future of the world like no other plan. He explained that the goals are meant to keep people prosperous, safe, secure, healthy and educated. He further said that the plan is to keep the planet in a fit state to look after many generations to come. That it was a plan for equality, for peaceful resolution of conflicts and coexistence. He referred to it as a partnership that is important for the future generation like his grandchildren and great-grandchildren to come. He believes there should be space for uplifting people everywhere. He asked the youth present to tell of how to better engage the youth in the implementation of the SDGS and emphasized their involvement as important.
He further said that there is a real joy in knowing the youth are a part of something that creates comfort and prosperity like taking care of the natural environment and creating a place where life is respected. He also pointed out that it will make a better world tomorrow when the youth are given the opportunity to engage with world leaders and take part in fighting for justice and solidarity. He recognizes that there are differences such as religion, ethnicity, geography, age, sex and even sexual orientation can create a barrier among the youth however he said, despite these differences young people want to work together with joy and they also want to trust each other.
Mr. Nabarro submitted that it is the UN’s job to make sure that these differences are not made a problem. “The youth need to be brought together and connected.” He said. He stressed that they must be connected in universality. He concluded by asking the youth for 1 million activists spreading the word about the SDGS by making a goal of reaching an average of 1000 people per person.
H.E Ambassadar Sabaru Hassan spoke on how the SDGS have affected the youth in Sri Lanka. It was his submission that the SDGS have the ‘potential’ to transform the lives of the youth in Sri Lanka as it will depend on the people who implement it in order to achieve the full potential by 2030.
He said the SDGS will determine the part of progress for humanity and transform our world for good. He said the agenda is to leave no one behind. He emphasized that the youth have a unique role to play in sustainable development. He further emphasized that the key to reaching the SDG goals by 2030 lies in educating the youth about the 17 goals and what the goals want to achieve.
He submitted that the first goal that the youth can play in sustainability is to bring the message of SDGS and its importance to the global audience, because it is only by informed thinking can the goals be achieved. He said in Sri Lanka he has seen the effectiveness of mobilizing the youth. He further said that social media is a very useful tool in communicating these goals. He pointed out that the SDGS mobile app is a good example of this. He said in Sri Lanka they have started three mobile hotspots to take the SDGS to the rural level. He submits that Sri Lanka has made use of the Global Balloon project bring internet connection to the rural areas. He opined that the youth will be in the better position to use this technology, information to the global level.
He submits that Sri Lanka is the best positioned country in the Asia pacific to bring the implementation of the SDGS to the region. He said the youth need to develop their leadership and citizenship knowledge skills to achieve the goals. According to him ,the ministry of sustainable development needs to work with the youth in this respect. He conceded that there are indeed challenges to achieving the SDGS, such as climate change but that despite these challenges youth empowerment could be done through education and skills development. He said the key to successful future societies are largely knowledge and skills. It is noted that 1.3 billion people on planet earth are the youth.
Mr. Tadashi Nagai from the Soka Gakke at tai International was then given the floor to introduce the mobile app. Mr. Nagai said it took 10 months for the organizations to develop the app since January 2015. He submitted that the main purpose of the app. is to raise awareness to the youth about the SDGS, especially at grassroots level. He explained that mapting, as they call it, is a mobile participatory app to assist in engaging the youth in the SDGS.
He said it allows users to also contribute in the promotion of sustainable action. He explained that this mapting is based on the belief that one individual action can make a difference and that there is a desire to engage people and inspire them to act by showing that our future shows great promises. He put a question and asked how then the app. will engage and inspire the youth to participate in SDGS?
Mr. Dino De Francesco from the Earth Charter International took over the presentation at this point as said their aim is to plant a seed of change and a seed of hope in the youth. He said the following were the answers and the features for the mapting:
- Users would contribute in spreading a positive message by taking pictures of every act, solution and project that will help in achieving the SDGS, that this opens a map of what has been done around them,
- Allow users to interact and create a community around achieving SDGS,
- Create synergies around ideas and ask questions on how to collaborate something as the youth.
- Use gaming similar to the pokemon game as a tool to attract the youth to use the app and also participate in the implementing the SDGS.
Ms. Saskia Schellekens said the office of envoy on youth and the role played by Sri Lanka on World Skills day since adopting a resolution has been exemplary. She said they are currently 90% live in developing countries and that there is global and regional consultation concerning the 2030 agenda participation. That 90% voted in my world survey.She submitted that there is rhetoric around young people being lazy and young woman being cast as victims. She said young people should be valued for the potential they offer and their voices need to be amplified. She said we need to bring young people into decision making processes and give them a seat at the global level.
Ms. Schellekens, spoke about the last financing for development agreement that was adopted last year ahead of the 2030 adoption. It is said to be first development outcome that addresses the need to invest in young people for them to invest in young people for them to achieve their full potential. She said it had the explicit commitment made by member states to develop and implement youth strategies. She said this means that the ministry of youth needs to be strengthened.
She said further that there are 120 countries today that have national youth policies on book but unfortunately for many of them these policies came without a budget or very limited budget. She submitted that the Ministry of youth is the weakest in countries with cross sectional implementation. She therefore put emphasis on the fact that there is need for youth to be reflected in national strategies.
Ms. Sofía García, Representative to the United Nations, SOS Children’s Villages spoke about young people living institutional care. She said there is a need for an equity and leave no one behind approach as regards to the SDGS. She explained that young people are not homogenous and that they all have different circumstances.
She said young people leaving institutional care have potential to be leaders but are not there yet. She submitted that some young people need an extra push as they are some young people that are marginalized or disadvantaged. She explained that these are children without parental care. She further explained the plight of young people living institutional care without an infrastructure by government and appealed to government institutions to help them succeed outside. She said this makes it harder for such young people to transition into adulthood.
She emphasized the need to identify youth at risk or else they will be left out. She said young people needed to be treated with respect.
At the conclusion of the meetings it was clear that young people are a very important part of the agenda in the implementation of the SDGS and that without them the future of the SDGS if not solid. The message that reverberated was that young people as the leaders of tomorrow have a unique opportunity here to shape the future and this is a platform for them to shine.
-by Linda K. Ramadi