Insights from U.S. Youth Observer to the U.N. Jackson Dougan

Daniel Garay
Web Editor

Days after the 2015 ECOSOC Youth Forum, The Global Current’s Daniel Garay spoke with Jackson Dougan, U.S. Youth Observer to the United Nations via phone interview. Last semester, Mr. Dougan visited Seton Hall to interact with members of the university’s United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA) chapter. The conversation continued at the United Nations Headquarters, where Mr. Dougan greeted the Seton Hall delegation during the forum.

Mr. Dougan is a scientist by profession, having graduated from Oregon State University in 2013 with a degree in Biology. He was chosen to serve a year-long tenure as the United States’ youth representative in August 2014.

The Global Current (GC): What does it mean to be the U.S. Youth Observer?

Jackson Dougan (JD): The position was created to really elevate youth voice to the level of global policy dialogue and I’m at the United Nations trying my best to represent the many voices of American youth.

GC: You were one of the many observers and delegates over at the ECOSOC Youth Forum and the main topic of discussion was the sustainable development goals (SDGs). What is your opinion on the SDGs?

JD: What I think, as an individual citizen, with the sustainable development goals is that they have to be big and they have to be broad because one, we’re dealing with the United Nations, we’re dealing with the global citizenry so we’re not dealing with one country, one locale. And two, we’re not looking at 1.5 seconds. We’re looking at 15 years, so if we’re looking at one specific thing that can be achieved in five years, that’s not necessarily going to concur with the rest of the goals that we need to live long-term, like eliminating extreme poverty by 2030. They should be broad, they should be long-term, and they should be measurable. We should have metrics we’ll be able to employ to measure whether or not we’ve actually succeeded in these overarching goals.

GC: In the sustainable development goals, there are seventeen of them that are on the table for discussion. As Youth Observer, which goals do you [most] want to see implemented?

JD: Instead of answering specific goals, I would choose contextual goals. I think those metrics that need to be employed to eliminate poverty have to be treated. Second, those goals surrounding the dire climate change crisis need to be instituted and to be discussed. And third, I think those goals surrounding equal access to education and gender empowerment – because the two go hand in hand – must also be discussed and must also be employed.

GC: What did you think of the forum in general?

JD: I thought the forum was a useful platform to bring together youth and policymakers to further discuss ideas surrounding the sustainable development goals, and I think that the forum served [as]

a beneficial platform once again to discuss ideas relating to other key U.N. bodies, like the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women. There was a short session held on gender equality and I think a lot of things came up in that session that can be brought to the attention of policymakers in other spheres of the U.N. and specifically with regard to that session, the policymakers in the Commission on the Status of Women, which will be holding such a forum later in March this year.

GC: Regarding youth policy, what would you have to say to someone who lives in a place of economic downturn or a place devastated by extremism along the lines of something they can do locally to shape the world we live in?

JD: Challenge your community leaders. Don’t be afraid to challenge. As individuals, we have that inherent right to challenge the system. Try to get those political leaders and business leaders to realize that they have the responsibility to create a space for youth and for the 1.8 billion voices that may not be heard worldwide.

GC: Do you think the results of the ECOSOC Youth Forum will have any weight in the finalization of the SDGs?

JD: As far as creating a new sustainable development goal of universal youth access to policymakers and positions of power for youth, I’m a little skeptical, but I’m hopeful. I think that hope was what brought all of the young delegates to the forum and I think that hope is what we should work within the next decades of working towards a more equitable and sustainable world.

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