Young people call for concerted action on climate, sustainable development and peace
“Putting youth in the seat of change is needed now more than ever. Even with the ongoing challenges and uncertainties that the world is facing, we see them shining and leading the change.”
With these words the Generation17 Dialogue was started by Nadine Khaouli, a 26-year-old activist from Lebanon fighting to end poverty, and a mobilizer of civic action in response to the Beirut blast in 2020. Nadine and Oğuz Ergen, a young advocate from Turkey who rallies NGOs, academia and government together to address the climate crisis and protect the coastal Aegean region, were masters of ceremony of the virtual Generation17 Dialogue.
At this very moment and across the globe — young people, like Nadine and Oğuz, are taking action for sustainable development and leveraging technology and innovation. While working in different countries and territories and on a broad range of development issues, young people and their organizations voice a common vision: a better world. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) present a blueprint, and young leaders are rallying their generation to act on these global goals and calling on world leaders to live up to the ambition outlined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Young people gathered online for the Generation17 Dialogue, titled ‘Amplifying the voices, stories and ingenuity of young leaders helping achieve the Global Goals’, 29–30 June 2022, which brought together youth networks with development partners.
With more than 400 people registered, the Dialogue provided a space for young leaders from across the world to connect and exchange on how they are taking action in their communities: from climate action in Turkey for the protection of coastal areas to using digital platforms for education on sustainable development in Saudi Arabia, and from promoting young women’s leadership in Mali to seeking justice and equal opportunities through supporting women refugees in Indonesia and marginalized communities in Brazil.
“The world needs the stubborn, determined optimism of youth,” Walid Badawi, Deputy Director of UNDP’s Bureau of External Relations and Advocacy, said at the Dialogue.
He added: “I experienced the power of youth firsthand in Kenya, where we created a ‘youth sounding board’ for them to be at the centre of development work and for UNDP to co-create every programme and project with youth. This also inspired other partners to increase youth engagement.”
Through intergenerational dialogue, development partners listened to young people’s innovative ideas and discussed joint solutions to the development challenges of today’s world. Participants included: Katyna Argueta, UNDP Resident Representative in Brazil; Beniam Gebrezghi, UNDP youth and civil society specialist in the Bangkok Hub; and Isabelle Legare, Programme on Youth Unit, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA); as well as youth-led and youth-serving networks such as Khaled Emam, Major Group for Children and Youth (MGCY) and Inés Yábar, Restless Development and UN Foundation.
During the dialogue, young participants set forward development priorities and a vision for the future. The Generation17 young leaders led conversations around climate action and ambition, inclusive, just and peaceful societies, and technology and innovation for sustainable development.
“We’re in the decade of action, and it doesn’t seem like that,” said Kristian Kampmann (Denmark) from Generation17, who leads UNLEASH, an innovation lab that sparks creative and inclusive solutions towards a more equitable and sustainable future.
Green technology and tackling the digital divide were among the priorities identified by participants at the Dialogue. Other development priorities raised by young participants were youth-inclusive decision-making processes, education for climate action, accountability mechanisms, information integrity and tackling the impact of climate change in rural communities, among others.
“We try to create a global platform where we can learn from each other’s practices and struggles and be like a family,” Shomy Chowdhury, Generation17 young leader from Bangladesh, said in a pre-recorded statement on mobilizing a movement through the youth-led organization Awareness 360.
During the dialogue, it was clear that partnerships with youth organizations, movements and networks are critical for sustainable development and can connect initiatives at the local level with global agendas. Partnerships with the private sector, the United Nations, women’s groups and community actors can be enabling for youth efforts towards progress on the Global Goals.
“I saw young people from all over the world working for the SDGs. We are in different organizations having different purposes and coming from different countries, but we all work for the same goals,” said Oğuz Ergen, the Generation17 young leader from Turkey.
Young people are often perceived as beneficiaries of development instead of as decision-makers and agents of change. At the dialogue, they asked for the mere recognition of their efforts and support from development partners to amplify their voices and actions.
“Young people are our best hope for the 2030 Agenda. They speak truth to power, mobilize, take responsibility, meaningfully support other young people through agile and peer-to-peer networks and seek impact for them and their communities. And, they often do so with limited resources and in the most challenging environment,” said Noella Richard, UNDP youth global programme manager.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is promoting youth empowerment in more than 100 countries and territories. Through the Youth Global Programme for Sustainable Development and Peace, UNDP partners with youth organizations, movements and networks and supports platforms for action.
A partnership between Samsung and UNDP, the Generation17 initiative supports a group of inspiring young leaders aged 18 to 32 dedicated to innovating for humanity and mobilizing global communities. To learn more about this initiative and meet the Generation17 young leaders, visit undp.org/generation17.
This story was written by UNDP on the basis of the Generation17 Dialogue, which was co-created with the Generation17 young leaders.