Young people and development have been terms that are becoming mutually exclusive, something that I am extremely proud and excited about. Back in 2010 I worked on the MDG’s, which then, where just a group of goals, which I personally found quite vague and later, found out where created with little devotion or consultation. The process leading up to the UN summit that is happening this September, that will shape the future of development for the next several years has had nothing but a positive, open minded and most importantly – inclusive consultation process. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s), have been created with what is important for us – the voice of young people as recognized – as an essential component, from the start of the consultation process, right the way through to now, the build up to their adoption.
Some may argue that the MDG’s covered areas that are relevant to young people – but the specificity of the SDG’s needs to have a specific youth aspect to ensure that our governments are accountable for youth specific issues. The interest, enthusiasm and zest for our contribution has been contagious worldwide, with artistic displays, poems, music, political briefs and blogs being set up and shared all over the internet. I am confident that the youth prerogative will be achieved, not only because I feel that young people’s issues have become more prevalent, but because young people have had the opportunity to be a part of the consultation process and evolution of the SDG’s thus far, whether through the extensive and blooming Action 2015 program, to large conferences and events advocating for youth specific issues such as the World Conference on Youth in Sri Lanka last year.
Decision makers have noticed that it will be young people who have to live with the consequences of what is decided at the UN in September and that it is young people who have to take ownership of these goals. In the UK we are lucky that the Department for International Development (DFID) have recognized the positive contribution of young people in shaping policy at home and abroad and are actively seeking our opinions and input for future policy development. Only the future can tell whether this gesture is tokenistic, but the air of positivity around the development agenda is exciting and infectious and I personally believe that this is only the start of a long-lasting relationship between young people and high-level decision makers.
The lesson that should be taken from this process is not only that young people need the opportunity to be heard when it comes to shaping development legislature, but that we need to be positive and hopeful when working on issues that in reality, can have a negative and regressive impact on people’s lives. I look forward to a future with the SDG’s with gender equality, clean seas and fresh air and a world without poverty and war. I hope for further collaboration of ideas and consultation between policy makers and youth, I look forward to the day we can look back and be proud of the positive attitude we have taken towards tackling the most challenging issues of our time and overcoming them as a collective entity.