The annual United Nations Department of Public Information’s NGO Youth-Led Briefing brought hundreds of youth, from all over the world, to the UN Headquarters in New York to discuss Sustainable Development Goals 1, 4 and 16. A panel of experts talked about how targeting poverty and education can help advance peace. The panel consisted of Mitchell Toomey, Director of SDG Action Campaign at the UNDP; Pilar Harris, an NYU Student and Urban Practice Fellow; Austin Schiano, Partnerships Director for the Give Me 5 Campaign; and Umazi Mvurya, a Development Fellow for the African Leadership Foundation. Many of the panelists, speakers, and moderators featured in the event were young people.
Before the briefing, the DPI Non-Governmental Organizations polled the internet to find out which of the SDG’s were most important for youth. As a result, SDG 1 (No Poverty), 4 (Quality Education), and 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions) were selected.
The Sustainable Development Goals requires advocates to raise awareness for the targeted areas of change. Panelist Sering Falu Njie discussed how if 1 in 1000 people across the world can become an advocate for the SDG’s, achieving the goals will become much easier.
Secretary General Ban Ki Moon recently noted that, “Until now, young people were generally seen as good enough to fight wars – but not to negotiate peace.” With this in mind, the Youth-Led Briefing aimed to inspire young delegates to advocate for peace. The panelists and moderators recommended using social media as a tool to do this.
Jeffery Brez, Chief of DPI NGO Relations, Advocacy and Special Events, in his opening remarks, emphasized the role of youth in bringing about change.
In addition to talking about three of the seventeen SDG’s, the panel discussed the 169 targets described in the SDG’s. During an interactive activity, the audience was asked to match targets to their respective SDG. Those that answered the questions correctly were asked to tweet their answer sheet along with the hashtags, to be selected as one of nine winners.
Special guest Frances Simpson Allen, from the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, said that “The SDG’s will only be achieved when the youth are at the forefront.”
Juan Pablo Celis Garcia, a Youth Representative from UNA New York closed the briefing by encouraging the delegates to go out into their communities and take action. He said, “When we are unified as young people, we are being heard because we are loud and our work will go farther than we ever could have imagined.”
Youth delegates are encouraged to engage with their UN Mission to have a youth representative at the United Nations. There are 35 countries that currently participate in this program; however the UN is working on promoting more youth involvement in the organization.