How Youth fit into the Sustainable Development Goals

Amy Leung discusses how the organisation UNITE 2030 gives a platform for youth activism in pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Everyone will agree that current times are rather bleak. With the pandemic, financial uncertainty, and the looming climate crisis, our generation has a lot to deal with. But while the future may look rough, it is now more than ever that young people are poised to take power and have our voices heard. The largest attempt at international cooperation and global progress comes in the form of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) –  17 goals devised by the UN in a range of areas from climate action to gender equality to be achieved by 2030. Despite the fact that young people have a large stake in deciding our planet’s future –  which will become our present – why are we still being overlooked?

Some may say that we are too young, too inexperienced, we don’t know what we are talking about. Through the actions of Greta Thunberg and other youth activists around the world, it is clear that this is not true. We are fighting for our future and need platforms to elevate our voices.

The organisation UNITE 2030 aims to provide this space for youth to collaborate. UNITE 2030 aims to promote community, leadership, and innovation among the young changemakers they elevate, allowing these activists to truly impact the future. During their 2021 Summit where hundreds of people gathered together to share ideas, the event was defined in an opening speech as being run by young people for young people. 

Image Credits: Markus Spiske

Barriers to youth participation within high-level politics are still all too prevalent. The creation of youth-led spaces like the UNITE 2030 conference have created a platform for youth to communicate and collaborate, bringing diverse experiences together and working towards a more sustainable and integrated world. From the Main Stage to smaller panels which facilitated participant interaction through online polls and surveys to even a walkthrough video of London’s Olympic Park, UNITE 2030 created a fascinating event where no two sessions were the same. Topics varied from integrating diverse voices and avoiding tokenism to how youth can play a part in working towards peace.

What really stood out about this event was how young people’s struggles were acknowledged as an important part of their environmental journeys. Too often, we fixate on the achievements of remarkable people and ignore how they got there. Through exploring both personal and institutional obstacles, panellists gave insight on the events that transformed them into activists through viewing injustice in the world around them. Panels on gender equality asked participants to talk about their own personal experiences and encouraged the audience to contribute via online polls and surveys. This wasn’t a lecture, this was a collaborative discussion between the panellists and the audience

Image Credits: Markus Spiske

Other discussions centred around marginalised voices and highlighting those often overlooked in global politics with attention drawn to homeless youth and refugee stories. Another panel touched on the future of work for youth and how for many of us, our future is steeped in uncertainty. While many predict the future lies only in tech, we were reassured that the world is changing at such a fast rate that we may end up in jobs that do not exist yet! The diversity of topics and the enthusiasm and passion of the people running the discussions made the summit one that prompted the audience to think long after its two day run was over.

This event was organised and run by Youth Changemakers involved in the Youth Delegate program, a bootcamp for leadership skills and collaboration run by UNITE 2030 connecting young global activists around the world. If you want to find out more about UNITE 2030, come check out their website or apply for the next Youth Delegate Program until April 9th right here!

Amy Leung is a first-year geography student at Oxford and is WILD’s Deputy Food and Drink Editor. She is interested in sustainable development, food systems, and being more eco-friendly at university!

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