“Young people are the leaders of tomorrow” is a cliche that is so often used, yet so disconnected with the real world. What’s actually happening around the globe is that young people are no longer just sitting and waiting to be leaders. They are already driving change for the better, today, or as Aya Chebbi, Founder and Chair of Afrika Youth Movement, reminded us at the Opening Plenary, “Youths are drivers, not subjects, of development.”

On the second day of the Global Festival of Action for Sustainable Development, 6 young advocates who are leading SDG campaigns and platforms came together to share their experience in driving youth action, participation and engagement for the goals. Here are their messages to their fellow (and older) peers:

“We’re half the world’s population – half of the world’s population is under 30. When we start moving, we will move the world,” said Henrietta Flodell, Swedish UN Youth Delegate. She also made a call-to-action for young people, “to look beyond what we think of as the SDGs. I know we talk about them in all these international meetings, but to me it’s really about taking action at a local level.”

The importance of bottom-up action was echoed throughout the session. In the words of Ashan Perera, Founder of Road to Rights and winner of the People’s Choice Award at the #SDGAwards Ceremony, “As young people we need to understand and share what we do at a global level. But it’s also about truly making an impact to the ground, bringing the result to the policy- and decision-makers at their tables. Then we can actually get the commitment of our leaders today. Otherwise we would work hard, but at the end of the day, the situation is still the same.”

Karol Arambula, Founder and Director of MY World Mexico, also called for more local action – as well as conversation about how to do so: “We often talk about creating impact and taking action…But we barely talk about the mechanisms of how we knock the doors of our governors, our municipalities, our president.”

Taking action at the local level also means that people working for the SDGs – young and old alike – have to step out of their own “bubble,” because “…everyone here [at the Festival] are already passionate about the SDGs. We need to make sure we have impact on the people outside. We need to make sure we are using interesting ways to approach these people,” said Alex Wang, Director of Youthink Center China.

Breaking down silos can be a daunting task, but more and more young people are ready to shoulder the leading role in bringing together different stakeholders of all ages, as Chaimae Bourjij, Vice President of the Sustainable Development Youth’s Association, put it, “We are ready to share our concept notes, we are ready to share our ideas, we are ready to share our contacts to make the world a better place, to make the world a place where we can achieve the Agenda 2030, by building partnerships, by breaking the barriers between youth and international institutions, governmental institutions and NGOs.”

Changing the world sounds too intimidating? Yi Jun Mock, Project Leader Networks of SDSN Youth quoted a saying which goes “it only takes a spark to get the fire going.”

“None of us are going to change the world individually, but as long as each of us starts a spark somewhere in the world, we can change the world together,” he concluded.

Catch up on the full conversation if you haven’t already!




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