Building towards a Sustainable Future using Synergies with, and among, Youth
Young people have potential and an increasingly important role to play through advocacy and intervention for achieving meaningful change and progress in educational, scientific, social and cultural avenues, as change-makers and leaders of tomorrow, as there is an urgent need to create more space and opportunities for them to contribute to decision-making through non-tokenistic leadership roles and global youth mobilization, within NGOs and beyond.
The United Nations adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015 to call for ending poverty, protecting the planet, and ensuring that people across the world enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030 [1-6]. To achieve these goals, young people not only have the right to a voice but also disparate platforms to advocate for causes they believe in and network with individuals they relate to [7-10]. The world in its present circumstances faces new challenges that are emerging, even as we find that old ones are changing in their forms, to thereby present difficulties over and above any mitigation strategies utilized against them. These challenges vary from climate change, resource depletion, poverty, and malnutrition to illiteracy, deculturalization, conflict, changing disease patterns, as well as gender, racial and ethnical inequalities.
Non-governmental organizations have played a pivotal role in not only supplementing the governmental responses to these challenges, but in also taking the initiative in eradicating these challenges based on their capacities and involvement at the grassroots [11-13]. Within such organizations, youth participation has become imperative to initiate policies and programs for sustainable change. However, there is still a lot to be done to encourage and increase youth mobilization and involvement in the work and decision-making of NGOs and social movements for positive change in the world. The United Nations defines ‘youth’ as individuals aged between 15 and 24, although this definition is flexible. ‘Youth’ is a rather fluid category, with the experience of being young varying substantially across the world, between regions and nations, and therefore, context is always an important element in one’s definition of youth. This contextual approach to engaging with, and encouraging, youth participation and mobilization is important.
In the past, access to opportunities and leadership positions and experiences for the youth in various non-governmental organizations and social movements have been limited. Young leaders can help in building on their individual and organizational values and processes, and establish effective modes of contributing to the operations of their organization(s). Furthermore, it is commonly seen that top-tier leaderships are not always connected with the youth members in the organization in a regular and systematic manner. It is pertinent to address this communication gap, and facilitate intergenerational dialogue, mentoring and capacity building exercises in order to facilitate youth contribution to activities and decision-making within the organization in an informed and comprehensive way. Addressing the needs and interests of the youth, which constitutes a community in itself and must be regarded as such, requires us to realize that ours is a world that is increasingly recognizing and respecting the diversity of individuals, within and across generations.
When young people are given the opportunity to stand for what they believe in and understand that their voices can foster positive change in the world, especially when equipped with knowledge, opportunities, and tools to undertake proactive initiatives to address challenges faced by our world, they can stand for their beliefs and causes with courage, pride and ability. Youth have the ingenuity, the potential, and the capacity to make meaningful change happen – for themselves, for their communities, and for the world at large. We believe that we must encourage engagement of youth in NGOs’ actions from design and strategy to implementation and follow-up, with the creation of spaces for youth within organizations, in their communities by scaling up youth-led initiatives, by promoting partnerships and in policies by integrating youth concerns, issues and interests.
As youth-representatives associated with a myriad of NGOs and movements around the world, we posit and propose points of interest and relevance to promote youth participation and leadership for meaningful change in educational, scientific, social, and cultural directions. We believe that:
Académie internationale de la Céramique
Associated Country Women of the World
Association francophone d’amitie et de liaison
Association Mains sur le coeur
CID International Dance Council
CIOMS (Council for International Organizations of Medical Sciences)
Federation for Education in Europe (FEDE)
Friends of Waldorf Education
Hibiscus Foundation for Social Welfare
Indian Heritage Cities Network Foundation
Institut de la Culture Afro-européenne à Paris - ICAEP
International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience, association sans but lucrative - IAESTE
International Baccalaureate Organization
International Council for Open and Distance Education
International Council of Associations for Science Education (ICASE)
International Music Council
Jeunesses Musicales International
Joy Cometh Care Foundation (JCCF)
New Humanity NGO
Observatory of Cultural Policies in Africa
Pakistan Youth Parliament for Water
Pax Christi International
South Asia Foundation
The Coordinating Committee for International Voluntary Service (CCIVS)
UNESCO Etxea - UNESCO Centre of the Basque Country
Union of Mongolian Artists
United Bible Societies
World Committee for Life Long Learning
World Crafts Council AISBL (International)
World Federation of Scientiific Workers
World Futures Studies Federation (WFSF)
YOU Foundation - Education for Children in Need