Global Youth, Localism, & Implementing SDGs

Global Youth, Localism, & Implementing SDGs


By Raphael Obonyo

In September, 193 world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly in New York agreed to a new set of 17 global goals—the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)—which establishes the framework for joint global action on poverty, inequality, and climate change for the next 15 years. World leaders deserve some credit for the new 2015-2030 SDGs that build on the success of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the framework with eight targets that was adopted in 2000 to consolidate global efforts toward the reduction of extreme poverty within a 15-year timeframe.

However, now that the easy part (that of making promises) is done, the outstanding challenge is to ensure implementation and progress follow. Achieving these new ambitious global development goals will require tremendous efforts. First, there is need for a comprehensive awareness and education program to ensure that citizens own and support the implementation of the sustainable development goals. Such a program should target a diverse public, at different levels and in different spaces, including schools, places of worship, and villages. The single most important factor in the attainment of SDGs is bringing the information to the people—no one should be left out. To get people involved, they have to be well-informed. Here, the world can replicate what the U.N. has done successfully to advance gender equality. In this realm, immense gains have been made through massive awareness.

It was the late Nelson Mandela who once remarked, and rightfully so, “Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made, and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.” Citizens and especially the youth must be at the center of development programs, and all people should matter in the 2030 development agenda.

The new 2030 development agenda has further set 17 goals that are accompanied by 169 specific targets for action. It is estimated that it will cost between $3.3 trillion and $4.5 trillion per year to achieve the new targets, which provide a focal point to anchor development policies and programs. There is no doubt that if the global goals are properly implemented, they could transform the lives of billions of people living in poverty, much as the MDGs already have.

Empowering youth is a key component in ensuring the success of the SDGs. We need youth as volunteers, innovators, and leaders to realize the global goals. As World Bank President Jim Yong Kim recently noted at the annual Youth Summit, young people have the power to make a lasting impact on ending extreme poverty and addressing climate change. They have fresh ideas, positive attitudes, and opportunities to influence change.

But we must realize young people are also victims of poverty and unemployment, and they righteously expect the development goals to address their challenges. Crucially, therefore, countries must adopt policies and programs that support the youth and help realize the goals.

We must also acknowledge the need for global cooperation. No single country or agency can tackle global challenges like poverty, inequality, and climate change alone. Only together can governments and businesses end poverty in all its forms and achieve the ambitious 2030 goals. Governments, the private sector, civil society, and other actors must form strong coalitions at both the global and local levels in order to achieve optimal coherence and clarity of purpose in messaging.

Funding is key to the success of the 2030 development goals. We already know what the solutions for a more sustainable and equitable future are. The question is, where will the money come from? The Third International Conference of Financing for Development in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia proved critical in getting closer to answers. At the conference, world leaders resolved to strengthen international cooperation for sustainable development. Heads of states and governments also committed to allocating significant domestic public resources to supplement international assistance in efforts to achieve the SDGs.

Still, a lack of resources could fundamentally cripple progress. To ensure that SDGs do not foster false hope, especially to the world’s poor, developed countries must support needy countries, particularly in Africa where millions of people are still trapped below the poverty line. At least $3.3 trillion is needed annually to finance the resources for implementing the SDGs. These funds need to be vouchsafed from different actors, including those in the public and private sectors, transnational corporate actors, and development banks.

Even more importantly, governments should take it upon themselves to allocate sufficient resources toward the realization of the goals. One of the criticisms of the MDGs is that governments failed to allocate finances in their national budgets in pursuit of the goals. To anticipate this concern, governments must commit sufficient funds to the sustainable development agenda.

Lastly, to achieve great outcomes, governments should first localize the development goals and ensure that national development programs are aligned with the SDGs, and then assess the progress of these efforts regularly. The adoption of the goals in 2015 means that nations now have to adopt the global framework as per their domestic frameworks. If the sustainable development goals are properly implemented, many jobs for young people can be created. Better engagement of youth in the implementation of SDGs will improve young people’s positions and conditions, as well as hasten the attainment of the goals.



Raphael Obonyo is the Africa Representative to the World Bank’s Global Coordination Board of Youth Network. Email:

Reposted with permission from

[Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons]


Youth and the City session at Africities

On the 4th of December 2015 a Youth and the City session was held at the Africities Seven Summit, an event for Africa’s local authorities organized every three years by the United Cities and Local Governments of Africa (UCLG Africa). The Youth and the City session, hosted by the UN-Habitat Youth and Livelihood Unit and Cities Alliance, aimed to explore different models for youth-led empowerment and participation in urban governance and development processes in Africa.

At the session, the Youth Unit and Cities Alliance presented and discussed findings and recommendations from a prior “Youth and the City” learning and exchange workshop held earlier this year in Johannesburg, South Africa. This workshop hosted youth leaders and NGOs from 13 African countries and focused on  identifying best practices and innovative methodologies on youth-led empowerment for sustainable urbanization with potential for replication and up-scaling. The outcomes of the workshop provided a set of policy recommendations as a base for a round-table discussion with local authority representatives. The panelists emphasized how cities and local authorities have to prioritize youth participation and how youth and youth-led organizations can be assets and work as catalysts for positive change, achieving inclusive and sustainable cities and human settlements.


The key issues at the round-table discussion dealt with urbanization and the approach of sustainable development. The panelists concluded that cities are the engines for economic growth and Africa’s rising urban population is an opportunity for growth and poverty eradication. The opportunities that the economies of agglomeration provide, can benefit youth in terms of employment opportunities and stimulate the accumulation of information and innovative ideas. National and local governments should seek methods to provide thriving and enabling environments at the city level to support urbanization.

In this process, youth can themselves be enablers and transform their challenges into ideas. As a best practice for replication to other city officials, the mayor of Paynesville, Liberia, Ms. Cyvette Gibson gave a positive example of how youth in her own locality have been engaged in policy and decision-making processes by enabling a youth representative of the city to sit in planning, execution, decision-making and policy meetings.

An interview with the Chief of the Youth and Livelihood Unit, Mr. Douglas Ragan.

A key outcome from the session showed local authority representatives that youth are their biggest assets—not liabilities—in the Agenda 2030 for sustainable development. With youth participation and inclusion, youth can become engines for the creation of the economic and social capital that is needed to jump-start development in many regions of the world.

The path towards a Security Council Resolution on Youth, Peace and Security


reprinted with permission from United Network of Young Peacebuilders (UNOY)

December 11th, 2015

At UNOY Peacebuilders, we have been advocating for a strengthened policy framework in the shape of a Security Council Resolution around youth, peace and security since 2012. With the adoption of UN Security Council resolution 2250, let’s take a look back over the process of the past years and tell the story of this journey.

In 2012, we restarted our Youth Advocacy Team with the support of Cordaid. The Youth Advocacy Team is made up of young peacebuilders from around the world, bringing youth voices on peace and security to high-level policy makers. It had previously been active in 2005-2007 successfully advocating for a Culture of Peace at the UN level but by 2012 the team had lain dormant for four years.

The Youth Advocacy Team noted that in the World Program of Action on Youth the UN General Assembly had recognized the importance of involving youth in peacebuilding, but also that this had not been implemented in reality. How could the international community be pushed to actually involve young people in peace and security?

After consultations with key partners, most notably Search For Common Ground, we decided to start pushing for this gap to be filled through the most relevant type of international policy document: A UN Security Council resolution, an idea originally proposed by the Finnish UN association.

Changing mindsets

The Youth Advocacy Team carried out its first mission to UN headquarters in July 2013 to meet with member states, hosted by World VisionThe goal of the meetings was to start to change the mindsets of policymakers: To stop seeing young people as a security threat, and to start seeing them as positive agents of change. During these meetings the team introduced the idea of a UN Security Council resolution to permanent missions. At the time, there was little support for the idea.


Policy change is not something you can achieve on your own. Resolution 2250 is more than anything the success of the joint efforts of a number of different actors working in partnership. During this first mission, we started building these partnerships by getting in touch with the IANYD Working Group on Youth and Peacebuilding, and met with Saji Prelis of Search for Common Ground and Ravi Karkara of UN Habitat to strategize for a strengthened policy framework on youth, peace and security. UNOY Peacebuilders is today one of the co-chairs of the Working Group along with the UN Peacebuilding Support Office and Search for Common Ground.

Building on these discussions, we wrote a report on Agreed UN Language on Youth, Peace and Security, to showcase the need for a strengthened policy framework on youth and peacebuilding. The team also built relations with the UN Youth Envoy, Ahmad Alhendawi, who has been an essential supporter of our work opening doors for youth voices in the UN system.

This first mission was followed up by a series of similar missions in 2013, 2014 and 2015, during which the team met with over 50 government representatives and UN officials and organised a series of side events in cooperation with a number of partners.

Jordanian leadership

The ball really got rolling in April 2015 when the UN Security Council, chaired by the Crown Prince of Jordan, debated the role of youth in countering violent extremism and building peace. In a briefing to the Council ahead of the debate, Scott Atran highlighted the work in Pakistan of Gulalai and Saba Ismail, who have been members of our Youth Advocacy Team and International Steering Group.

This debate was essential in bringing high-level attention to one of our key messages, and one of the key ideas underlying UN Security Council resolution 2250: That young people are central actors in building peace, and that their work needs recognition and support.  

Jordan’s leadership continued when it hosted the Global Forum on Youth, Peace and Security, co-organised by UNOY Peacebuilders, Search for Common Ground, the UN Peacebuilding Support Office, the UN Envoy on Youth’s office,UNFPA and UNDP. The key outcome of the forum was the Amman Youth Declaration on Youth, Peace and Security, which was coordinated by UNOY Peacebuilders and brought together the voices of over 10.000 young people. Importantly, the declaration calls for an international policy framework – preferably a Security Council Resolution – to be adopted. At the forum, we publically handed over the declaration to the Foreign Minister of Jordan, who promised to bring the declaration to the Security Council.

Quiet heroes

The passing UN Security Council resolution 2250 is a huge victory for thunsc passes resolution 2250ousands of young peacebuilders globally, actively building peace in their communities from the ground up. Some of them have participated directly in the advocacy efforts for resolution 2250 in conversations with international policy makers, others have been highlighting the work of their peers locally, and others still contributed to the Amman Youth Declaration. These quiet heroes are the people who made UN Security Council Resolution 2250.

Resolution 2250 is the result of persistent and strategic youth-led advocacy, and of a close partnership with key allies – including the UN Envoy on Youth, Search for Common Ground, UN Peacebuilding Support Office, UNFPA, UNDP and World Vision, and of course the strong leadership by the Jordanian government on the issue.

Finally, we would not be where we are without the great support Cordaid has provided to our advocacy program, investing in bringing youth voices to the global conversation on peace and security.

Read the full text of UN SCR 2250 here and take part in the conversation through#Youth4Peace and #scr2250 on Twitter or following us on Facebook.

For more information, contact Matilda Flemming ( or Sölvi Karlsson (

Urban Youth have to be recognized in any sustainable climate agreement

Good partnerships are worth their weight in gold – and in that sense UN-Habitat´s Youth Unit is a millionaire. For COP21, UN-Habitat has partnered up with two brilliant youth-led partners; the YMCA and the Climate Tracker Initiative. The YMCA is organizing Camp Climate © and UN-Habitat´s Youth Unit is proud to partner with one of the largest youth organizations in the world with more than 58 millions members globally and programs on the ground in more than 118 countries around the world. During COP21, YMCA has been a home away from home for close to 400 youth activists from 43 different countries. There they have been trained on both the issues at stake in the negotiations as well trained on how to influence policy makers and the decision-makers present in Paris. For more information on the work YMCA is doing in Paris, going here would be a good starting point!

So inspired by @unhabitatyouth and @KFUKKFUMGlobal. You are thoughtful and smart, and you will change the world!

Climate Trackers are a ever growing group of young communicators who blog, sketch, design and create communication materials on what is happening at COP. Currently they’ve done upward of 400 articles globally. If you are interested, you can follow some of them on twitter   .

There is no lack of young people participating at the 21st Conference of Parties of the UN´s Framework Convention on climate change (UNFCCC) – popularly known as the COP21 taking place these two weeks in Paris, France. Yet, walking around in the Climate Generation Areas of the COP21 venue seeing all the engaged young people, it is hard not to ask the question whether or not the perspectives of urban youth really impacts the governments negotiating their future. It is the youth in cities who´s going to inherit the planet and sort out the mess left behind by today´s decision-makers.

One thing is clear: cities and local governments hold the key to a sustainable future, and the people who´s going to implement it are the youth. It is hard to see these two stakeholder groups around the table where the agreement is drafted.

To put things in perspective[1]; every second, the total population of world cities grows by two people. Every year, about 6 million people join the other 828 million already living in slums. More than 3 million people in cities die each year of air pollution – that is more than HIV/Aids, malaria and flu combined. And if nothing is done, half of the homes in 21 US cities will be under water by 2100.

Youth and Climate Change

Luckily for this planet, the youth community is not going to sit quietly and idle watching this go by. UN-Habitat is millionaires in two ways – first, we have the coolest mandate of all the UN agencies and secondly, we have the best partners. As the UN agency for sustainable cities and urbanization, we partner with local authorities and cities all over the world enabling them to be safe, inclusive, resilient for all urban citizens. At the same time, we know that in developing countries as much as 50% of the urban population is below the age of 30. That is why youth and youth-led organizations are part of the “gold” we are saving up on. To imagine a sustainable urbanization and a sustainable future without true and meaningful participation of youth-led organizations is, in lack of better words in the middle of December, to believe in Santa Claus.