How Can We Unleash The Youth Power To Further The Mission Of Sustainable Development?

By now we’ve all heard of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations that were adopted by 193 of its member states. Be it the UN or the world leaders, the dream is one- to build a sustainable world that’ll be able to nourish all of its denizens. But the important question is, who will realize this dream and how? No matter how many organizations and leaders are working for this cause, the goal of building a sustainable world can never be achieved unless the youth are mobilized to action.

We live in a world where economies are unstable, societies are complex and the problems are ever increasing. In such a challenging environment, old ways and approaches to solving the problems that trouble our world won’t work anymore. What we need now is groundbreaking ideas, novel approaches, innovative thinking and the capability to disrupt the existing norms to pave way for a better world. And who can be more befitting here if not the youth! Young people are the resource of untapped potential. They have always been the driving force behind the social movements that have transformed the course of human history. Young people, that is,  those between the age group of 18 – 30, are usually the ones who are full of enthusiasm and vigor, having the capability of creating wonders.

Young people are essentially the leaders of tomorrow. Given the proper mentorship and guidance, they can lead us towards a better future. But the thing is that a large percentage of the youth remain in the background, unrecognized and struggling to make ends meet. With increasing population, the incidence of youth unemployment and illiteracy are rising at an alarming rate. For instance, the condition in Africa and Nigeria is pitiable because the youth here don’t have access to quality education, adequate economic facilities, and proper job opportunities.

So how do we help young people overcome these barriers and encourage them to find solutions to tackle the pressing problem of the world?

The youth are often faced with a large number of challenges but when connected to the right platforms, mentors, skill-building opportunities, and funding, they can go a long way in bringing about real changes in the world. These few steps can  help young and emerging aspirants of social change to extend their impact:

#1 Recognition

It’s time to recognize the potential of the young people and respect them for what they are. Adult allies, organizations, and mentors – everyone should open up their minds and engage in active dialogues with the youth to better understand their mindset and guide them in the right direction. Instead of branding the youth as ‘rash’, ‘impulsive’, ‘idealistic’, and ‘reckless’, one should value their opinions and desires. The better the bonding, the greater the chances of young people getting motivated to act.

#2 Representation

It is essential that the youth are represented by influential individuals and platforms. The areas where young people take an active part in, such as social movements, social innovation, and social entrepreneurship, should be brought to the limelight through meaningful campaigns. Better opportunities and platforms should be created for young activists where they can share their success stories and influence their fellow men to take heart and act to make a difference.

#3 Meaningful Conversations

Indulging in conversations with young people about power systems, oppression, social change, and liberation can be very fruitful. Consumerism, individualism, capitalism, patriarchy, all such things are interlinked and deeply impact the lives of young people. Instead of imposing a particular viewpoint on them, actively engaging with them in discussions on these topics will encourage them to do better. Together, youth and adults can bring forth alternative narratives like unity, equity, diversity, respect, inclusion, bravery, and connected fate.

#4 Technology

Ermal Vila, Chair of the Partnership and Events of the YouthtoYouth initiative of the World Bank Group stated: “With the digital revolution, we are transcending the limitations of our minds and more than ever we are closer to actualize our human imagination. Technology with its exponential nature has moved from the linear and now we are presented with boundless possibilities.” While it may be true that young people mostly have a certain comfort level with information and communication technologies (ICTs) compared to adults, the youth digital media literacy is radically unequal, structured by lines of class, race, gender, and geography. Hence, it is very important to reduce this inequality and work towards an inclusive strategy through which a large part of the youth can be brought in the canvas of access to smart technologies.

#5 Engagement

The youth today are not just advocates for their own generation, but also for the generations to come. They stand for all those who are marginalized. They are increasingly taking charge of existing systems and also envisioning a radical future. The youth is the force that pushes the existing governments to be accountable. It matters to them to be heard, valued and considered as allies in development, for the decisions made now impact them in every possible way. More efforts should be put into getting the young people engaged in fruitful and developmental activities. Only then can we move towards the sustainable world we wish to create.

Now, more than ever is the time that the big organizations such as the United Nations, the World Bank Group and the like should take on the responsibility of mobilizing the greatest asset that we have now- the youth. They need to be trusted and included in the big plans because they have the potential to bring about the change that we long to see. As for the young leaders, they need to be strong and fearless in their ventures, they need to speak up for themselves and show the world what they are capable of.