Youth Voices on Global Goals panel aimed to introduce the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

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Youth Voices on Global Goals panel aimed to introduce the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

[November 20, 2018 – New York] On the occasion of the Universal Children’s Day, youth representatives from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Abuja in Nigeria raised awareness on pressing global challenges, discussed the UN Global Goals 2030, and offered alternative ways to find solutions to the social, economic, and environmental problems in our global world. The Youth Voices on Global Goals panel aimed to introduce the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to the students to think globally and act locally.

In his opening speech, Mehmet Kilic, Director of the Young Peace Ambassadors Academy (YPAA) stated that the Universal Children’s Day is celebrated to promote and protect the rights of the children all around the world. The United Nations first adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1959, and later in 1989, all UN member states signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Committee on the Rights of The Child are mandated to monitor, report, and protect the rights of the children. However, it is a shared responsibility for educators, professionals, community leaders as well as the youth to advocate, promote, and protect the rights of the children through discussions, seminars, workshops, and interactive dialogues. Hence, today’s Youth Voices panel aimed to raise awareness on the UN SDGs, engage youth in interactive dialogues for innovative ideas, and promote global citizenship. Some of the topics included: Ensuring Quality Education for All, Ending Poverty and Hunger, Fighting Inequality and Injustice, Protecting Human Rights, and Climate Change and Environmental Sustainability.

In his opening remarks, Ambassador Carlos Garcia congratulated the youth for taking initiatives to stand up and think about what youth can do to solve the problems in our local communities as well as in our global world from the perspective of the sustainable development goals. Ambassador Garcia reminded that the SDGs create an opportunity for everyone to be involved. What differs SDGs from the MDGs is that it is not only the governments and global institutions, but also individuals and youth can offer solutions to solve global problems and make a positive change around the world. Ambassador Carlos Garcia moderated the youth panel with amazing speakers not only from New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut but also from Abuja in Nigeria. He said that the panelists are hardworking, motivated, and dedicated young people who want to make a positive change in the lives of people in our world and protect our planet.

Tuana Sari from James Madison High School focused on youth’s impact in building a hate-free society. Sari shared statistics about the rise of hate groups from 917 to  953 in the past two years that are operating in the United States. She said that these hate groups attack people from different ethnic, racial, or religious groups through physical or verbal assaults. The United Nations SDGs Goal #16 promotes peaceful and cohesive societies that ensure human rights, liberties, the rule of law, peace and security for sustainable development. More than 603 million women face violence and discrimination, more than 10 million people are stateless or denied national citizenship and rights, and in every minute 20 people are displaced as a result of conflict or persecution.

Eliminating the destructive power of hate is not easy when hating something is so popular; however, if everyone recognizes as a responsibility, primarily, the youth as the backbone of society, achieving a hate-free environment is not impossible. To create a tolerant, diverse, and peaceful society in the future, today’s young people need to acknowledge their own power of impact and start taking action now. Youth is more than capable to make a difference in this world; yet, while it’s on young people to realize their capacity, it’s society’s responsibility to support them until the end. Young people need to be listened, encouraged, and assisted wisely when necessary. Every great change starts from one place with one idea yet with determination, patience, and dignity it creates an enormous impact.

Tuana ended her speech with her final remarks: “Last year, we came up together as six friends with one thing in common. We were all terrified to see how hate was spreading all around the world and especially in the US. As the youth, we had to take immediate action and created DoNotHate, a non-profit organization that is entirely student-run. Over the past year, we reached out to leaders of different communities, churches, temples, LGBT groups, and many more.”

Michael Lipken from Hartford University in Connecticut stressed the importance of the right to education that is one of the fundamental rights based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Education is not only a right, but it is also crucial for economic and sustainable development. In order to achieve quality education for all, the United Nations need to work with people from the business sectors, civil society organizations, and governments to ensure access to education. If the SDGs Goal #4, Ensuring Quality Education for All, is not achieved in developing countries, people will emigrate from the developing countries to the developed countries to seek for better opportunities and quality of life. For example, the U.S. educational institutions have more than doubled in enrollment, and this is due to the large influx of immigrants who are pursuing higher degrees.

It is important to understand why education is failing in developing countries. The UN SDGs can help the nations to achieve quality education and reverse migration by 2030.  SDGs Goal #4 includes “ensuring all boys and girls get quality “primary and secondary education,” ensuring children are prepared for pre-primary education.” Vocational education can help students gain valuable skills and eventually boost economic development in developing countries. Target 10.3 aims to reduce and eliminate barriers to education based on discriminatory laws against people from different racial, ethnic, religious, and cultural backgrounds.

Liann Aris-Henry from Brooklyn Amity School stated that individuals deserve to broaden their knowledge and to enroll in an educational institution despite their age, gender, ethnicity, disability, religion or status. Unfortunately, with 57 million uneducated children out of 775 million people around the world who are illiterate, that is not the case. In some instances, the quality of education is inadequate due to the lack of an effective teaching style and irrelevant classroom material. However, some civilians are simply denied their educational rights. It is mostly among females worldwide and is a setback to global society. Nevertheless, significant action is necessary to overcome the various obstacles preventing several deserving civilians of academic excellence.

Statistics reveal that girls are 1.5 times more likely than boys to be denied education and that 63% of illiterate adults worldwide are women. These numbers are strikingly high and raise the question as to how the numbers have accumulated. The two main barriers that prevent females from attending school are child marriages and cultural discrimination. Governments should make no exceptions when enforcing legislation, plans, and policies that encourage gender-neutral education. Education should be mandatory for every pupil regardless of their gender. Gender roles and binaries are deleterious due to the gender bias and ideas they create; therefore, they should be omitted from textbooks and curriculum.

Many will agree that education defined who they are and impacted their roles as functioning members of society. Education has the power to eliminate social injustices and economic crises. However, we are failing as a society when it comes to providing the proper education where it is necessary.

Judy Al-Midani from Pioneer Academy said that poverty and hunger, are a worldwide issue, and unfortunately, they affect the lives of many around the world. Going back centuries, poverty and hunger have played a huge role in how the world works and how it has changed. Poverty and hunger have laid their hands on almost every country in the world ending lives as the days go on.

Nearly half of the world’s population which is over 3 billion people live off of less than $2.50 each day. Around 1.3 billion people experience extreme poverty and have to live off of less than $1.50, and some have nothing to live off. An estimated amount of 1 billion children live in poverty, and 22,000 of those billion kids die each day due to poverty. 750 million people lack clean water, and about 2,300 people die daily because of this. Back in 2011, 165 million children around the world, under the age of 5, were stunted due to malnutrition. As of 2013, 21.8 billion children under the age of 1 haven’t gotten proper vaccines against diseases. Approximately 1.6 billion people live without electricity. Finally, hunger is the number one cause of deaths globally.

The simple solution, an estimated 60 billion dollars annually, is needed to end extreme global poverty.  This number is less than a fourth of the income of the 100 richest people on Earth. This small number can help save the lives of many. This number is what can instantly make that little kid who dreams of becoming a doctor healthy. 60 billion dollars is a small amount that anyone with a soft spot should be able to give. If we are waiting on the 100 richest people to provide us with that amount, simple answer, they won’t.

Britney Obas from Brooklyn Amity School underlined that fact that we are all a mix of wonderful different cultures and religions that should be celebrated and appreciated. Despite these differences, we are equal. December 10, 1948, the General Assembly created an international set of guidelines to promote peace and prevent atrocities like ones endured previously such as the Holocaust. This international document is now known as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, there are 30 rights that we are all born with, and that must be upheld. We are all entitled to this set of human rights, and they cannot be infringed upon. These include freedom, equality, and the right to seek asylum. Unfortunately, many countries and individuals alike unfairly rob people of these human rights. It is extremely hard to protect these, but the first step is worldwide recognition of our equality despite our differences. As soon as this is accepted, we will already be so much closer to protecting human rights.

People must also be able to have more input in the government of a country. So if an organization arises with valid claims and proof of corruption within the government, that government will be subject to investigation. If an investigation proves that the government is indeed corrupt, the corruption should be taken care of as quickly and efficiently as possible. If the investigation reveals there is no corruption present, then the government will not be tampered with. By giving people more say in their government, it will be harder for their human rights to be violated. They know how they want to be governed and what principles and ideals they want to be governed upon. The fact that this is still a problem is disappointing. In the age of significant progress in science, math, and technology, this should not even be an issue. 

Leyla Yurt from Pioneer Academy focused on climate change and sustainable development. Many people have been debating whether Earth’s climate is really changing, or whether climate change is just a hoax. Rising temperature, heavy downpours, and sea level rise are all evidence that climate change is occurring. However, how do we tackle this problem? To find solutions, first, we need to identify the causes. The Carbon Capture and Storage Association (CCSA) states “The overwhelming majority of the world’s climate scientists – and governments – agree that climate change is occurring and that the main cause is human use of fossil fuels.” Great use of fossil fuels causes high levels of greenhouse gasses (like carbon dioxide) in the atmosphere which result in an increase in the amount of heat on the Earth’s surface. It is because they trap the heat obtained from sunlight, a process known as the greenhouse effect. So our main solution is to decrease the use of fossil fuels; the most commonly used being coal, oil and, natural gas. In order to do this, it is important to encourage businesses and individuals to reduce their usage.

How can businesses decrease their use of fossil fuels? There are many ways, but the most effective ways are to manage and reduce emissions, to increase energy efficiency, and to buy renewable energy. Improving energy efficiency not only reduces the use of fossil fuels, but it is also good for a corporation’s bottom line. By developing and implementing an effective corporate energy management program allows companies to use the least amount of energy while getting the maximum done— so it’s a win-win. Finally, businesses can help reduce their environmental impact by using eco-friendly or renewable energy. In order to this, they can purchase and use renewable energy sources—for example, solar energy, wind power, and hydroelectricity.

It’s not only important to encourage businesses but to also encourage individuals to reduce their usage of fossil fuels. Individuals can do this by conserving energy and minimizing miles. Air pollution from energy production contributes to the release of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, so it is important to conserve energy in order to prevent that. This can be done by turning off lights, computers, televisions, video games, and other electrical equipment when they’re not being used. Another way is to buy equipment that uses less electricity—including lights, air conditioners, heaters, refrigerators, and washing machines. For example, Energy Star-certified products and buildings use at least ten less energy than standard models. Cars and trucks also produce massive amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. To restrict this, individuals can consolidate driving trips, carpool or take public transportation, such as buses and trains. If and when possible, individuals can consider walking or biking instead of driving.

Zainab Umar Ahmad from Val de Mauris Academy joined the panel discussion from Abuja, Nigeria via Skype. She talked about the importance of quality education for all. Quality Education and lifelong learning opportunities for all are central to ensuring a full and productive life for all individuals and the realization of sustainable development. Quality education is hampered by the lack of trained teachers and adequate school facilities. Achieving this goal will require intensified effort particularly in Nigeria.

Education is a process of teaching, training, and learning. Early childhood is a critical period for a child’s cognitive development. Education is classified into two categories which are formal and informal education. Formal education is the type of education a person receives in a formal setting, example primary school, secondary school, and the university. Informal education is the education a person receives from the family, peer group, worship centers, etc.

Education is really necessary because it enables people to know their rights as citizens. It also helps people to be better citizens because an educated person knows about law and order of the country, as a result of that educated people can help in the progress of the country. Education has so many advantages. It enhances the development of thinking. It also impacts innovation, production and institutional deficiency. Education helps in boosting the economy of the country. It also makes people more civilized. Due to the presence of civilization it makes people aware of the socio-economic vices, e.g., crime, breaking down of law and order. There will be acceptable decorum of the country if education is ensured. Civilization will reign. Education also helps in awareness creation.

It is really important for a child to start school at an early age. Organized learning before the official start of primary school has been shown to boost a child’s social, emotional and intellectual development and support readiness for primary education and early learning. Pre-primary education is in fact considered an important part of a holistic and robust educational system. Achieving the goal quality education for all will require intensified efforts, particularly in Nigeria, targeted to vulnerable populations, specifically persons with disabilities, indigenous people, refugees and the rural poor.

Mariam Kabiru Bakari from Val de Mauris Academy in Abuja, Nigeria also joined the discussion via Skype. She focused on poverty and hunger which the SDGs Goals #1 and Goal #2. Poverty is the lack of material, goods or service. This simply means the state of being extremely poor. There are different types of poverty: situational, urban, absolute, rural, generational and relative poverties. Poverty makes you powerless to provide for your basic needs for food, clothing, and housing; you will lack money. If you don’t have money-making skills or due to the shortage of jobs. To change this situation, get a skill and solve the problem for others.

Countries must accelerate inclusive and equitable economic growth, and sustainable development that will not leave behind vulnerable populations such as women and youth, the United Nations Deputy Chief told the commission for social development which opened its annual session on Monday.

Hunger is the feeling of discomfort or weakness caused by lack of food, coupled with the desire to eat. Hunger is unacceptable and underscores the challenge we face in upholding our promise to leave no one behind. Like the Deputy Secretary said, the UN is encouraged to emphasize the imperative of accelerating inclusive and equitable economic growth and sustainable development, including full, productive employment and decent work for all.

Poverty and Hunger are synonymous. Millions of people live with hunger and malnourishment because they simply cannot afford to buy enough food, cannot afford nutritious foods or cannot afford the farming supplies they need to grow enough good food of their own cause they are too poor to afford it. Hunger comes up when there is poverty because they are too poor to buy food and clothing.


What are 10 Things Youth Can Do to Help Accomplish the SDGs?

The Youth Voices panel was followed by an interactive group discussion with active participation of the youth in the audience. Youth plays a crucial role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, and youth engagement is the first step to find sustainable solutions to global challenges. Therefore, the Youth Voices on Global Goals panel aimed to give youth voice to deliver innovative ideas, share personal experiences, and offer multiple perspectives. Students formed groups of four to five individuals, brainstormed on the Global Goals, shared personal experiences, reflected on multiple perspectives, and finally wrote down 10 things that youth (individuals) can do to help achieve the SDGs.

Photos from the Event