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Engaging Youth in Achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by 193 member states of the United Nations at the Special Summit in New York, in September 2015, will set the world’s development agenda for the next 15 years from 2016 to 2030. The 17 goals which contain 169 targets, seek to achieve 3 extraordinary things – end extreme poverty, fight inequality & injustice and fix climate change.

The agenda is unique in that it calls for action by all countries, poor, rich and middle-income. It recognizes that ending poverty must go hand-in-hand with a plan that builds economic growth and addresses a range of social needs including education, health, social protection, and job opportunities, while addressing climate change and environmental protection. It also covers issues such as inequality, infrastructure, energy, consumption, biodiversity, oceans and industrialization.

The implementation of the SDGs will to a great degree rely on citizens who will have to hold their leaders and governments to account and remind them of their commitments. This is a quality the youth possess in abundance; their ability to act and mobilize others has been strengthened by broader connectivity and access to social media. They can easily communicate the development goals to their peers and communities at the local level, as well as across states and regions. Again, youth are well-placed to develop new forms of activism and bring new energies and perspectives to environmental affairs.

When young people are empowered with the knowledge of their rights and responsibilities, and supported to develop leadership skills, they can drive change in their communities and countries. Youth best understand the problems they face and can offer new ideas and alternative solutions. In addition to bringing fresh perspectives, young people often have direct knowledge of and insights into issues that are not accessible to adults.

Governments that recognise the value of collaborating with young people as partners and establish clear and explicit pathways for their meaningful participation from the onset will be much better positioned to achieve the 17 SDGs and related targets.

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