Volunteerism is a powerful means of engaging people in addressing development challenges

#Generation 2030: Torchbearers for the SDGs

20150927 gen2030 Closing-remarks-by--young-activ w400Young people, Member States' high-level representatives, civil society organizations and UN entities recognized the role of youth engagement in implementing and monitoring the 2030 Agenda at '#Generation 2030: Torchbearers for the SDGs', a youth-led High Level event held on 27 September 2015 during the UN Sustainable Development Summit in New York. Participants sent out clear messages about the crucial role young people can and will play in achieving and localizing the recently adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

Young people from all over the world have indeed contributed to the post-2015 process in an unprecedented way. Global and national youth organisations played a key role in mobilizing their networks and reaching out to local communities. Individual young people below 30 years of age were the main group of voters for the MY World survey, accounting for 76% (6.4 million of votes). UN Youth Volunteers facilitated this contribution in a number of countries. This is one of the results of UN Secretary-General's call on the UN Volunteers (UNV) programme, in his 2012 Five-Year Action Agenda, to create a youth volunteer modality, as well as of UN General Assembly Resolution 67/138 calling on all stakeholders and UN agencies to support youth volunteerism.

During the event, young people showcased how they helped identifying and shaping the new development priorities and how they already partner with governments and UN entities for development and change. Youth representatives from Uganda, Kenya, Mexico, South Africa, Zimbabwe and the United Kingdom, as well other youth representatives, presented their own local and national volunteer engagement on issues like environmental protection, social accountability and equality. For example, Merybell Reynoso, 25-year-old, moderator of the Dominican Republic's National Youth Consultations on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, gave inspiring insights into her experience with implementing participatory budgeting and youth-led initiatives for the Action/2015 global campaign to foster local and global accountability and good governance practices.  Ankit Kakaire, member of the Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Health of India, talked about her engagement in local projects on sexual and reproductive health and rights of people with disabilities and about making people aware of their own rights through education and volunteer action.

In the high-level segment of the event, Crown Princess Mary of Denmark shared her vision of putting young people at the heart of the SDGs, stressing the innovative power of young people in using their limited monetary resources to create real change for themselves and their communities. Other key speakers, such as the Rwandan Finance Minister Claver Gatete, addressed the need for effective monitoring frameworks that help make governments accountable to young people. Young people in Rwanda were indeed very involved in shaping the national post-2015 priorities, and are eager to remain engaged as the government follows up on the commitments made. UNDP, along with UNV and UNICEF, facilitated extensive youth consultations, including with disabled young people, to take their perspectives into account in the post-2015 reports from Rwanda. Through the MY World survey and the consultation process, Rwandan youth strongly voiced the need for a good education, including at secondary and tertiary level, and the need for growth and employment opportunities for young people to fully engage in society (watch video about Global conversation in Rwanda).

20150927 Gen2030 discussion-panel w400During the high-level panel discussion on accountability and implementation of the SDGs, Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator, urged to keep up the momentum while making sure that young people stay engaged and are effectively pulled in in implementing the SDGs. Civic education will enable young people to use the right entry points to include their views into the formal system. It is crucial for countries to foster an enabling environment for youth volunteering that provides opportunities for young people to bring in their ideas to develop new solutions and monitor SDG progress. In fact, volunteering is a tested way for young people to engage in development, contributing their approaches, energy, creativity and innovation, while gaining new skills (read examples in the UNV booklet about Youth volunteers - Engaging communities, changing lives). The UK Secretary of State for International Development, Justine Greening, put the spotlight on her own positive experience in involving youth in decision making.

The event, hosted by the Permanent Missions of Denmark, Rwanda and Sri Lanka, the government of the United Kingdom, the Office of the Secretary General's Envoy on Youth, UNDP and the NGO Restless Development, created an inspiring atmosphere and urged once more to ensure that young people are seen as equal partners in the implementation and monitoring of the sustainable development agenda.