How can young people receive the support and knowledge they need to innovate and lead the sustainable future? How can youth engage in the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)? These are the questions that were on the discussion table at the SIANI Youth’s and SDSN Youth’s joint event “Ung kraft för Agenda 2030” (“Youth’s power for the 2030 Agenda”) at the Swedish political week of Almedalen 2017.
There is an indifference and unawareness about concerns such as global hunger, poverty or overconsumption across all generations, but somehow a lot of responsibility and blame is often put on youth. Whether young people are more indifferent than people of other age groups is a matter of sociological research. However, even if everyone is willing to engage in the issues of global development, it can only take off in a favourable environment. There are many barriers for youth to engage in the implementation of the SDGs, such as access to finance, access to markets and to relevant networks. Mentorship opportunities and lack of exposure are also on the list of barriers, as mentioned in the recently published Youth Solutions Report written by SDSN Youth.
So, what should we focus on to create conditions that would not only bring youth on board, but also help to fully realize their potential for a sustainable future?
“Youth is 100% of the world population in the future”
“We are the first generation to that can end up worse than our parents. But we are also the first generation to be able to eradicate poverty and the last generation that must solve the climate change challenge. Youth represents 50% of the world’s population today, but we are 100% of the world population and the society in the future,”said Björn Fondén, Swedish Youth Representative of the UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development 2017. Thus, he was pointing out that there is an enormous concern about the future among young people today.
First and foremost, according to Linnéa Lundmark, a young woman who coordinates the SDSN Youth network in Northern Europe, youth should be acknowledged as an actor and partner in the fulfilment of the Global Goals.
She pointed out that young people often desire to be a part of something greater than themselves. “Many young entrepreneurs and young professionals want to be change-makers, they want to improve structures, services or products or come up with new better ones and they want to crack the codes to unsolved problems,” she said. So, mobilising around the Global Goals is an outstanding opportunity for youth worldwide!
Firstly, it was the international community that developed the Global Goals and, secondly, it was a very inclusive process, where young adults and professionals got to give input. “This kind of ‘world mobilisation’ is something that should work as a carrot for young people to engage with,”Linnéa said. It is hence very important that young people are taken seriously and are equally included in the implementation processes of the SDGs. “What’s the point of receiving plans and ideas in 10-15 years when we, the young, become leaders and decision-makers, if we haven’t had a say about them here and now?” she stressed.