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Sustainable Development Goals: Addressing the Role of Young People

By Sara Moore
Sustainable Development Goals

Hi, I’m Sara. I belong to Plan International’s Global Youth Advisory Panel. Currently, I’m in New York City preparing for a workshop called “Measuring Youth Engagement in Governance: Workshop on Youth-Focused Indicators for Goal 16 Governance Targets.” While the title seemed like a mouthful when I arrived a few days ago, I‘ve come to learn what it means. 

In 2000, the United Nations adopted the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), eight benchmarks to guide global development for the next 15 years. As the 15-year deadline for achieving the MDGs is approaching, countries have realized they are not on track for reaching the internationally agreed-upon goals. Therefore, an updated and more realistic framework has been proposed called the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs address 17 global challenges such as poverty, food security and nutrition, education, gender equality, the environment, and governance.

Each goal includes numerous targets, giving them more depth. There are also indicators to evaluate each target. For example, under Goal 16, there is a proposed target to significantly reducing violence everywhere. An indicator to measure the success of the target is the number of homicides per 100,000 people. 

While the goals and targets are nearly finalized, there is still space for civil society to influence the indicators. That’s where we come in! 

This workshop brings together young people with a background in governance and participatory accountability, UN agencies, and experts from civil society to discuss the role of young people in the decision-making processes addressed by the SDGs. 

There are 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24 years old. Partnering with young people to design the SDGs is necessary to ensure meaningfulness and effectiveness. As young people, we face many of the challenges addressed in the SDGs, and because the goals affect our future, we will be more invested in fulfilling them if they reflect our needs.

Governance is addressed within Goal 16, which calls for peaceful and inclusive societies for suitable development, access to justice, and effective and accountable institutions at all levels. Specifically, we are focusing on targets around accountable, transparent, participatory, and responsive decision-making processes. Young people must address Goal 16 to ensure the SDGs support youth-friendly decision-making, policy development, and implementation. 

From this preparatory training, I’ve become familiar with the SDGs, the meaning of targets and indicators, and how young people can belong to the SDG design, implementation, and evaluation. The training included young people from youth-focused advocacy groups in Jordan, Uganda, Nigeria, and South Africa, with facilitation support from Plan International UK and Restless Development.

We discussed our definition of governance, barriers to youth participation, and examples of indicators for measuring impact. We practiced defending our right to spaces in decision-making forums and envisioned what the future would be for young people under the SDGs.

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