I recently spent a fun weekend with friends at a youth hostel just outside London. On the surface, that doesn’t sound too odd or abnormal. But there was actually something very unusual about it. Very special, in fact. When I arrived, I knew nobody, and had no idea what to expect. Two days later, I had gained a group of friends from all over the world, and together we had achieved something quite remarkable.
Sarah, Vera and Lewis working hard at youth post-2015 analysis weekend
We were making the most of an unprecedented opportunity to be part of a global conversation about the future of the world. In order to help design a new international framework beyond the Millennium Development Goals, the UN have been reaching out to consult people all over the globe about the challenges they face in improving their lives. This has never happened before.
Only a small proportion of the world’s population have even heard of the Millennium Development Goals, but that doesn’t matter. What does matter is that everyone has their own priorities for local, regional or international development, and everyone deserves the chance to make their opinions heard. And young people, who make up more than half of the world, are just as deserving of this chance to influence the next development framework.
After the MDGs: What Comes Next?
Recognizing this, the DfID CSO Youth Working Group initiated a project to consult young people on their priorities for development beyond 2015 (thanks to funding from EC Youth in Action). Between October 2012 and January 2013, a total of 346 young people participated in consultations in 12 different countries (Colombia, Croatia, Ghana, India, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, the Philippines, Romania, Sierra Leone, Tanzania and the UK).
A diverse group of ages, representing 64 ethnicities, and including young people with disabilities, HIV, refugee status, and historically marginalised communities, were ALL given the space to discuss the issues of importance to them. They were given the opportunity to articulate their visions for a better world. You can hear first-hand the experiences of those who ran the post-2015 youth consultations in Croatia, Kyrgyzstan and Romania in this excellent blog.
The 12 consultations created a wealth of information about the issues that young people want to be addressed by the post-2015 framework, and the solutions they propose. I was fortunate to join a team of 13 young people at a residential weekend facilitated by Restless Development, VSO and Y Care to collectively analyse the findings of these consultations.
We made an ambitious, motivated and diligent team, working tirelessly to accurately portray the views of young people all over the world. Our task was to digest the visions, principles, issues and solutions arising from the youth consultations, and summarise them in a useful way to be condensed into a flagship report aimed at decision-makers and policy-makers.
It wasn’t easy: we faced many challenges, such as being overwhelmed with data, yet still finding big gaps, and being tempted to synthesise, yet not wanting to dilute the richness of the raw material. It was good and important that we were a fairly diverse group (for example, one international participant had never left her home country before, whilst others had lived and studied abroad for many years), because our different perspectives helped us avoid making biased assumptions, and allowed us to maintain analytical rigour.
And we succeeded: the results of our two-day analysis workshop were used to produce this report, “Youth Voices on a Post-2015 World”, which was presented to the UN High Level Panel at their recent meeting in Bali.
It was a real pleasure to play a role in the analysis process, and I learnt a lot from my truly inspirational fellow participants – thank you Ana-Teodora Rizescu (Romania), Cosmin Obretin (Romania), Elen Meggy (UK), Gary Clayton (UK), Hrvoje Br?i? (Croatia), Kenneth Green (UK), Laura Williams (UK), Lewis Emmerton (UK), Margareta Delaš (Croatia), Oliver Day (UK), Pedro Telles (Brazil), Tabitha Ha (UK), and Vera Ado (Ghana).
We were all proud to co-operate in such an important undertaking, and I believe we parted with a renewed sense of hope for the future. For me, I came away convinced that young people are excellent agents for change, and determined to do what I can to continually engage my peers in the journey beyond 2015.
One thing is for sure: the young people of today will assume responsibility for the planet and the welfare of its citizens within the lifetime of whatever framework replaces the Millennium Development Goals. It is therefore not just our right, but also our responsibility, to actively participate in the design of such a framework.
We call for world leaders to continue to listen to us, respect us, and include us, because with less than 1000 days remaining until 2015, we will very soon inherit the consequences of the decisions made today. In return, we will continue to demonstrate our remarkable creativity, our community spirit, and our ceaseless commitment to the world we want.