In an interview, Tari Bowling discussed the critical importance of engaging youth in developing and implementing solutions for achieving the SDGs. This article explores the key elements that emerged from her discussions during the SDG Conference in Sydney, including a presentation by Siamak Sam Loni outlining what he is intending to achieve in this regard.
Sustainable development goals aim to improve the world for the future. What better participants in the process than the young people who will, and are, becoming world leaders?
“There really is a need for governments and organizations to be encouraging the youth of the world to have much more of say and more of a role in decision making,” says WASH expert Tari Bowling.
Bowling says youth need to be engaged in considering how we are going to globally improve, not just in the short term, but centuries from now. Having diversity represented as a part of decision-making – people of all ages, backgrounds, disciplines, and experiences — is critical to finding sustainable solutions to complex problems, including the MDGs.
Why engage young people?
One of the key reasons young people are important as partners, says Bowling, is their creativity.
“From the youth in our society, often come the most creative, the most out of the box, the most daring approaches to problems, and that is what the SDGs really need,” she says. “If we are going to come close to achieving them, we need creativity. We need people who aren’t going to shy away, who are going to take risks, who aren’t afraid of failing.”
Combining the experience that senior-level people bring to the table with the innovative ideas and approaches that emerging professionals are inspired by can lead to truly creative and insightful solutions to meet the multitude of challenges presented by the SDGs.
Tools like the SDG Youth Action Mapper allow young people to easily find their role in the SDG process. It uses the technology that youth are already regularly accessing to generate interest in the SDGs and provide opportunities to get involved in an accessible, understandable way. This is just one example of the creative solutions that have come from engaging with youth, and this in itself should drive more creative collaboration.
Young people will inherit both the SDGs and the world impacted by how well these goals have been implemented. It is their right, and their responsibility, to be involved.
Real-world leader: Siamak Sam Loni
Siamak Sam Loni is the global coordinator of the SDSN (UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network) Youth. Loni is also an officer with MSDI’s Sustainable Development Program. Loni serves as a member of the SDSN Global Leadership Council, an executive member of SDSN Australia/Pacific Regional Centre, and an advisor of the Alpbach-Laxenburg Group (ALG) in the development of the World in 2050 project.
Loni’s thinking toward SDGs echoes Bowling’s. He says there are three qualities young people possess that are important for achieving the SDGs: enthusiasm, idealism, and creativity. Enthusiasm, he says, puts public energy behind the goals. Idealism generates the optimism needed to work toward such ambitious goals. Creativity provides the innovation needed to find new solutions to old problems.
Young people can contribute through informing their communities of the SDGs, using social media and new technology, says Loni. They can also keep government accountable, insist on the integration of youth, and again, use their creativity to generate new solutions, enterprises, and ways of interpreting research.