#SDGglobalFest: 6 Messages from Young Leaders Driving SDG Action

“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!




#SDGglobalFest: 10 Best Moments of the Opening Plenary

The Global Festival of Action for Sustainable Development just kicked off today at the World Conference Centre Bonn – and it’s not the usual (boring) kind of conference you’d expect. In the words of Dr. Ingolf Dietrich, Director of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the Festival is “colourful” and “unconventional” which is “exactly what we need [to achieve the SDGs].”

If you are not in town for the Festival, or missed out the webcast earlier, here are the best moments at the opening plenary for you to get a taste of the Festival:

1/ Mitchell Toomey, Director of the UN SDG Action Campaign, opened the Plenary with an overview of what the Festival is like: it’s action-oriented, co-created by participants on-site and behind the screen.

2/ We received a lot of love from Amina J Mohammed, Deputy Secretary General of United Nations! In the video message, she invited all “doers and drivers” at the Festival “to overcome barriers and create systemic change – together.”

3/ Climate change is related to all 17 SDGs, which is why we had Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), to encourage every one to get on board for Agenda 2030.

4/ H.E. Princess Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire from Nigeria also called for more collaboration and inclusive action. This concluded the high-level speeches – read on to learn the fun stuff at the Plenary!

5/ The mobile phone is not only a tool to share our stories, but also a powerful agent of change. Yusuf Omar, Co-Founder of Hashtag Our Stories, gave us a quick tutorial on how to create impactful mobile stories, while actually demonstrating it on stage – it’s just that easy!

6/ How can we take a global agenda like the SDGs, translate it to a local policy, and make real impact on people’s lives?  María Fernanda Olvera Cabrera, General Director of Youth Institute INJUVE, shared the success story of the MYWorld Mexico project:

7/ Youth leaders are rocking the stage! Aya Chebbi, Founder and Chair of Afrika Youth Movement shared with us that “our voice, our power, and our solidarity” are the secrets to the success of any global action!

8/ Need to get focused before a long day of talks and workshops? The Plenary had you covered – with Renata Faria, Coordinator of Medita Na Rua leading a group meditation to kick start the day.

9/ Who would have expected the Plenary was “rapped-up” with a beatboxing performance by Y? and Kaila Mullady from BEATGlobal?! Turn on the audio to rap along!

10/ Think the Plenary would end with the conventional, everyone-waving-at-the-camera group photo? Think again! The main goal of the Festival is to foster partnerships and networks to accelerate action for the SDGs – that’s why we were given ribbons to pass around – and formed a colourful network that connected us all!

Follow #SDGglobalFest for more live-updates of the Festival!