Today marks the international day for the elimination of violence against women. How sad, that we have a special date set to mark a fact that atrocities against women and girls still happen, frequently.
More than 700 million women alive today were married before their 18th birthday. 1 in 3 women have experienced physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives. At least 200 million women and girls alive today have undergone female genital mutilation/cutting in 30 countries.
To have girls grow up in a world where their safety in all its forms is not guaranteed, is terrifying.
“The statistics almost defy belief. What is even harder to understand is why: why men prey on women and girls; why societies shame the victims, why governments fail to punish deadly crimes, why the world denies itself the fruits of women’s full participation,” – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
Efforts have not ceased to combat such violence and claim women’s rights as they are; human rights. United Nations Women have released a global ’16 days of activism against Gender-Based Violence’ campaign starting today to the 10th of December in an attempt to Orange the World to raise money to end violence against women and girls.
They’ve called for individuals to share pictures, videos, and messages under the #16Days and #orangetheworld hashtags and in turn released an official document of Call to Action.
The protection of women and girls is a responsibility and an obligation for everyone to secure a safer and more peaceful world. Committing to Sustainable Development Goal #5, Gender Equality, isn’t just grabbing a sign and taking a picture. It’s a commitment that demands a big fight. This orange, pink, purple revolution goes beyond painting our social media walls, its a about surviving the daily battles where women and girls are beaten, trafficked, harassed, violated, and killed.
If sympathy and the will to protect only comes by putting the label of a mother, daughter, sister, or friend, then we’re not really protecting. Because all women and girls deserve the right to be treated with basic human dignity.
As young people, we have the incredible opportunity to shape the future and influence a world we want this year. To get there, we must understand what’s already happening that will shape our future. 2015 is an important year. Why? 2015 is a year where the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) will be adopted by the United Nations, governments of the world, and act as a set of commitments that will define the next 15 years of global development.
Youth is a major priority for the United Nations. We need to realize that unless we take it in our hands nothing will change. It is on us to push leaders across governments to businesses to include young people in the decision-making process and to participate in creating a society that meets the needs of young people — 1.8 billion of us.
The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon said recently, “My Youth Envoy, Ahmad Alhendawi, says that young people drive change, but they are not in the driver’s seat. I agree – and I call for giving them the “licence” to steer our future.”
The history behind young people as a priority is guided by the World Program for Action for Youth (WPAY), a landmark agreement that was adopted by the United nations General Assembly in 1995 to provide a policy framework and practical guidelines for national actions and international support to improve the situation of young people worldwide. It covers fifteen youth priority areas and contains proposals for action in each of these areas.
To make this a success and push for further investments in youth and the implementation of WPAY, requires young people to actively participate in the decision-making and advocacy to help make the goals a reality.
This is where you, I, AIESEC and young people come into the picture.
In May, AIESEC is partnering with the Office of the United Nations Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth to bring your voices into the conversation for the #YouthNow campaign month of advocacy. #YouthNow is a global digital and in-person campaign launched by the Secretary-General of the United Nations to elevate conversations around investment in youth development. We firmly believe that young people need to be at the center of the global development process. That means including your opinions in the discussion through initiatives like the global YouthSpeak Survey that seek to understand what the challenges young people face across the education to employment journey, raising awareness on the youth opinion, and how the SDG’s fit into your everyday life and shape the world around you. Every voice and every opinion counts.
Engaging young people with world issues is at the core of what we do, and at the beginning of the year 2014 we wanted to ensure that young people are informed and aware of what happens in decision-making spaces like the United Nations — aligning what we do with what the world needs.
We believe that it is our role as young people to take some of these issues and lead the change we want to see — that’s why we want to hear from you and engage with you for the #YouthNow campaign.
It’s been 20 years since the WPAY was launched. The #YouthNow Campaign aims to leverage social engagement coinciding with the High-Level Event of the President of the General Assembly marking the 20th Anniversary of the World Programme of Action for Youth on May 29, 2015 to reinforce and raise awareness of the importance of youth engagement in these issues, and to advocate for additional investments made by Member States for youth development.
YouthSpeak aims to enable young people to speak their opinions directly on issues that are affecting young people today. We are proud to partner with the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth to take your voices and those of youth around the world to the United Nations and to Member States for #YouthNow.
We see a very clear link between both movements–therefore we decided to use the YouthSpeak platform to make #YouthNow be heard.
We are happy to launch a video contest aimed at finding the BEST youth video on “Why youth development is critical for global development.”. Click the link below to learn more about the contest and how you can join!
We’ve been talking a lot about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) or the “global goals,” in 2015, and we’ve taken information from sources like the United Nations and The Guardian to help you summarize the SDG’s briefly.
The sustainable development goals (SDGs) are a new, universal set of goals, targets and indicators that UN member states will be expected to use to frame their agendas and political policies over the next 15 years. The SDGs follow, and expand on, the millennium development goals (MDGs), which were agreed by governments in 2000, and are due to expire at the end of this year.
What are the proposed 17 goals?
1) End poverty in all its forms everywhere
2) End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture
3) Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages
4) Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
5) Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
6) Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
7) Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
8) Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all
9) Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation, and foster innovation
10) Reduce inequality within and among countries
11) Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
12) Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
13) Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
14) Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
15) Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification and halt and reverse land degradation, and halt biodiversity loss
16) Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
17) Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development
Within the goals are a proposed 169 targets, to put a bit of meat on the bones. Proposed targets under goal one, for example, include reducing by at least half the number of people living in poverty by 2030, and eradicating extreme poverty (people living on less than $1.25 a day). Under goal five, there’s a proposed target on eliminating violence against women. Under goal 16 sits a target to promote the rule of law and equal access to justice.
How were the goals chosen?
Unlike the MDGs, which were drawn up by a group of men in the basement of UN headquarters (or so the legend goes), the UN has conducted the largest consultation programme in its history to gauge opinion on what the SDGs should include.
Establishing post-2015 goals was an outcome of the Rio+20 summit in 2012, which mandated the creation of an open working group to come up with a draft set.
The open working group, with representatives from 70 countries, had its first meeting in March 2013 and published its final draft, with its 17 suggestions, in July 2014. The draft was presented to the UN general assembly in September.
Alongside the open working group, the UN conducted a series of “global conversations”, which included 11 thematic and 83 national consultations, and door-to-door surveys. It also launched an online My World survey asking people to prioritise the areas they’d like to see addressed in the goals. The results of the consultations should have fed into the the working group’s discussions.
Is the number of goals expected to change?
Those who have been involved in the process say no, although they do expect fewer targets. Many of the proposed targets are more political statement than measurable achievement at the moment.
In his synthesis report on the SDGs in December, UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon gave no hint that he would like to see the number of goals reduced. In a bid to help governments to frame the goals, Ban clustered them into six “essential elements”: dignity, prosperity, justice, partnership, planet, people.
Amina Mohammed, the UN secretary general’s special adviser on post-2015 development planning, said it had been a hard fight to get the number of goals down to 17, so there would be strong resistance to reduce them further.
Member states will begin formal discussions on the content of the SDGs on 19 January, and are expected to meet each month until September. Any serious faultlines should be evident over the next three to four months.
How will the goals be funded?
That’s the trillion-dollar question. Rough calculations from the intergovernmental committee of experts on sustainable development financing have put the cost of providing a social safety net to eradicate extreme poverty at about $66bn a year, while annual investments in improving infrastructure (water, agriculture, transport, power) could be up to a total of $7t trillion globally.
In its report last year, the committee said public finance and aid would be central to support the implementation of the SDGs. But it insisted that money generated from the private sector, through tax reforms, and through a crackdown on illicit financial flows and corruption was also vital.
When will the new goals come into force?
If member states agree the draft set of 17 SDGs at a UN summit in New York in September, they will become applicable from January 2016. The expected deadline for the SDGS is 2030.
What is AIESEC doing about this?
Young people will be the people who implement and carry these goals over the next 15 years, and this is why we need to engage them on these issues today. At the same time, we need to help decision makers understand what the global youth opinion is, and how we can work together to address these issues. Young people must understand the depth of these goals and how they will impact our lives and our common future.
In response of this youth focus around the post-2015 process, we recognised that more useful youth data was missing to help decision makers. So we launched YouthSpeak, a global youth movement and insight survey to help address some of the biggest challenges our generation is facing today. Global youth employment and education is a major topic, it is also two of the top three issues in the United Nations MyWorld survey answered by over 7 million youth. We are trying to answer how we can improve and address the education to employment journey and will include topics such as the future of education, transforming the workplace, entrepreneurship, and generation Y & Z. These insights will be collected from over 50,000 respondents across 100 countries and territories to help shape the youth opinions of youth around the age of 18-25 on their hopes and challenges in reaching their potential.
Through 2015, we will be attending high-level United Nations events, representing young people to employers and leaders, and inspiring millions of young people on pressing global issues and giving them a global platform to tackle them through our programmes like Global Citizen and Global Talent. We will take all the 50,000 opinions and consolidate it into a global youth opinion report in July and utilize it to inform decision makers, leaders and young people on where we are today and where we need to go. The General Assembly in September isn’t too far, and this is why we you to take action now, we cannot wait for another generation to create this change.
Let your voice be heard and ensure that your youth opinion will be heard by decision makers. Take the YouthSpeak survey here.
To learn more about the SDG’s, you can view an interactive map here
Youth opinion is a priority for the United Nations, and we as young leaders have an incredible opportunity to be a part of this change.
Below is the information you will need to submit your video for the #YouthNow challenge and be a part of the Global Youth Voice.
Join the contest for a chance to have your video formally featured as part of the digital surge leading up to and during the High-Level Event of the General Assembly hosted at the United Nations headquarters in New York City (more about the High Level Event: www.un.org/pga/youth-wpay). The event will be attended by over 1,000 people from around the world, including Ministers and youth leaders! Your video can help inform the online conversation and will be tweeted formally from the UN Youth Envoy account.
What you need to answer in a short video [3 minutes maximum]:
1) What are the most critical issues for youth in 2015?
2) Why is youth development central to the global development agenda?
3) What you think a solution(s) could be?
Post your video on any social media platform using the hashtag #YouthNow. The video can also include your personal action(s) or a project(s) to make a positive change for #YouthNow.
- Answer all three questions
- Videos can be made using a camera phone.
- Videos do not need to be professionally made.
- Limit is 3 minutes, however your video can be shorter.
- Videos if shared on Facebook, videos must have security featured set to “public” so we can track them.
All videos must be received by May 26, 2015
What winners get?
- A chance to influence a global conversation on youth development! The video will be featured on social media platforms leading up to and during the High-Level Event of the General Assembly at the United Nations headquarters in New York on 29 May 2015.
- Video will be featured across UN Youth Envoy and AIESEC websites, including social media channels of the UN and AIESEC.
Winners will be selected based upon
- Strong message
- Original and creative
- Ability to inspire others and are action oriented
What’s the process and reward? A selection committee containing representatives from AIESEC and the Office of the United Nations Envoy on Youth will review all videos and pick the top 3 submissions.
Submit videos by May 26, 2015 on Twitter, Facebook or YouTube with hashtag #YouthNow and submit your video here
#YouthNow campaign: www.un.org/pga/youth
High-Level Event of the General Assembly: www.un.org/pga/youth-wpay
AIESEC YouthSpeak movement: youthspeak.aiesec.org
AIESEC and United Nations relationship: here
Here at AIESEC, we are no stranger to the belief that youth have the power to change the world. We are in the business of changing lives and giving young people the opportunity to become ethical leaders—all while moving towards our vision: peace and fulfillment of humankind’s potential.
Earlier in the month, AIESEC took part in the UN ECOSOC Youth Forum, with Karolina Piotrowska, AIESEC International’s VP PR, speaking on behalf of UN Major Group on Children and Youth .
The topic of the forum was: Youth Engagement in the Transition from MDGs to SDGs.
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were established following the Millennium Summit of the UN in 2000, and consist of eight international development goals to achieve by 2015, ranging from eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, to promoting gender equality, to ensuring environmental sustainability.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) refer to the development and proposal of a set of future international development goals beyond 2015. They are to be integrated into the Post-2015 Development Agenda.
The Post-2015 Agenda, then, is a process led by the UN which will aim to help define the future global development framework, in order to review the progress of the MDGs and advance the development agenda beyond 2015.
Of course, these are all very relevant global initiatives to enact change to better the planet. But where do youth come in? Rather, how can young people become involved with such lofty international agendas?
During the Youth Forum, youth leaders came into dialogue with Member States, in order to contribute to policy formulation. They were also given the opportunity to offer their own perspective on specific issues relevant to youth, as well as the broader role of young people in enabling and promoting sustainable development.
The question the forum sought to answer was: how can youth become meaningfully involved in the implementation of the Agenda, though every step of the way? How can we engage youth—that is, the 1.8 billion young people making up a quarter of the earth’s population—in changing and shaping the world into a better place?
Start from the Bottom
The grassroots level is “crucially important”. Change happens from the bottom-up, which means it is impossible to ignore the local level because here is exactly where the change detailed in the MDGs/SDGs is supposed to happen. Governments, then, should create opportunities for youth to participate in events that will allow their voice to be heard in decision-making processes. For example, Youth Forums, peer-to-peer training, and capacity building at the grassroots level will empower youth to realize the scope of their potential impact. International knowledge, such as about the SDGs, should also be introduced and embedded into education systems worldwide. There should be no reason for youth to suffer in ignorance of the impact they can be making.
Collaboration on all Fronts
With the SDGs, multi-stakeholder and cross-sector collaboration are also hugely important for implementation. Everyone should come together as a whole to make change happen. This would require a keen knowledge and awareness of differing power dynamics and varying interests of each stakeholder, and being mindful thereof. This would include being aware of cultural differences, of course, but also working with human differences in order to become more influential overall, and together. Furthermore, we should create more opportunities for youth representation and participation by allowing collaboration with youth and including them as stakeholders. For example, reducing formal restrictions on minimum age and setting quotas for companies and governments to employ young people would help achieve this.
Accountability via Transparency
The world today is interconnected a thousand times over via information and communications technology (ICT). The question of the matter now, is how to utilize these channels in a smart, efficient way to engage youth–to raise awareness and education people about the goals. There are various channels of online and offline media that will allow significant reach towards youth, and have the SDGs embedded into their daily lives. However, we also cannot forget the people who do not have the privilege of access to online resources; therefore, offline channels and traditional media should also be used, such as mobile phones and radios, in order to involve community leaders, local organizations, and NGOs.
Awareness & Education
What these all boil down to, is the importance of raising awareness and educating people about these goals. Individuals themselves become very important stakeholders in these global promises once they realize what the SDGs are and what they can do to further the goals. The same rule applies to the private sector; once we have raised awareness and given companies a reason as to why they should be paying attention to cross-sector partnerships and supporting the accomplishment of the SDGs, we will have created a common destination.
Furthermore, awareness is what will also allow the people to hold their governments accountable. By raising awareness, we will increase the visibility of the common vision, and simplify the communication to build partnerships that will facilitate capacity-building. This will then allow all the stakeholders involved to come together and not only implement but accomplish these goals, changing the world for the better.
In summary, the importance of youth engagement is critical at a time where the United Nations will launch a series of goals that will require the youth today to carry on the legacy tomorrow. The answer is clear. Young people need to carry the torch and our current leaders need to ensure that young people are engaged and feel a sense of ownership towards these long-term initiatives if we are to see success.
For more information on the ECOSOC Youth Forum, check out their website here. You can also find out more about the MDGs here and an overview on the Post-2015 Agenda and the Action 2015 initiative here.
“We are not the leaders of tomorrow, we are the leaders of today”
– Opening remarks by Jayathma Wickramanayake, Sri Lanka’s first Youth Delegate to the UN
Last week Sri Lanka hosted the World Conference on Youth. Over 1,500 young people representing 169 different countries gathered in the capital city of Colombo for this conference which has been held all over the world every few years since 1936. The United Nations is currently in the process of drafting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the replacement for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which expire in 2015. The biggest problem with the MDGs was that there was little to no youth participation, even though youth were the ones who were responsible for carrying them out. The young people at this conference and around the world are determined to make sure their inputs are considered this time around.
The purpose of the conference was to gather youth input from all over the world to produce a joint outcome document between the government representatives in attendance and the global representation of youth, officially called the “Colombo Declaration on Youth.” This document will be taken back to the UN headquarters in New York City to be considered in the negotiations of the SDGs.
Participants came from all over the world and were fully funded by the government of Sri Lanka. Delegates included youth from marginalized backgrounds, youth leaders and experts, Sri Lankan youth delegates, national youth delegates representing 200 nations, and youth from international youth-led organizations—including AIESEC. Cassandra Ruggiero, Global VP of Public Relations for AIESEC International, and myself as the AIESEC Representative to the United Nations, who represented AIESEC at the conference. There were roughly 20 other AIESECers in attendance from Sri Lanka and the rest of the world.
The biggest testament to the strength of the AIESEC network was that anyone you asked about AIESEC had either participated in a program or definitely knew all about it. Whether or not they were formally a part of our organisation, everyone had the mindset of an AIESECer: determined to make the world a better place through youth leadership.
Cassandra was able to step in for a missing speaker on the Globalization and Youth-led Development panel to share these values with an audience of nearly one hundred people. She was given only 5 minutes to prepare after being asked to speak on the panel, a tribute to the ability of AIESECers to adapt under pressure to any situation. After speaking on the panel, we ran a side event on “Becoming the Leader the World Needs” to help delegates reflect on their leadership journeys so that they can take the excitement of the conference back home and make an impact in their countries.
While many side events focused on presenting information on different thematic areas, AIESEC’s event stuck to a youthful vibe that allowed delegates to learn from their past experiences in leadership and start to figure out what they feel their strengths are. This was just a taste of AIESEC’s leadership development program that runs for each of their members around the world.
“By figuring out how to be the best version of yourself, you can be a better leader for the world, and have more impact in whichever path you choose.”
The Millennium Development Goals have done a lot over the last 14 years to change the world we live in, but take a moment to think about how your leadership can shape the world post-2015. There are many avenues within the United Nations to express your vision for the future, including the MyWorld Survey, but the most important thing for you to do is think about your own community/village/town/city/country/world and figure out how you can make an impact, starting today.
To read more about the outcomes of the World Conference on Youth, head to their blog.
Day One of the IANYD conference proved to be a long and informative one. Learning more about the Youth-SWAP, and how the United Nations wants to move forward with making sure it is implemented is quite an intense discussion.
I spent a large part of the day with one of AIESEC’s New York based representatives Eliane, and she helped bring me up to speed with the youth initiative and what AIESEC’s role could possibly be.
There was a lot of emphasis on what the role of youth is with the UN. The Director of the United Nations Population Fund, Babatunde Osotimehin described it nicely by saying it is now the time that the UN is talking with and not talking to Youth.
In the afternoon we split into working groups to come up with recommendations for the UN on how to take action on their commitments. I joined the working group on employment and entrepreneurship, because I thought AIESEC had a lot to contribute in that discussion.
The conversations with the people at the table were great, but for some reason they left me wanting to hear more- not necessarily more around SWAP, but more around action. As AIESECers, we are very used to having one year to make an impact; we have to move quickly, and start implementing right away or we risk doing nothing with the one year term we have. Sometimes this leads us to have the “legacy syndrome”, where we do anything to leave our mark, sometimes reinventing the wheel when we don’t have to. But overall, it teaches us that we must move fast to make an impact.
Youth-SWAP was released in 2012, and a year and a half later, it seems it is still not clear on the actions it wants it’s member states to take. If the UN really wants to make an impact in the area of Youth, which I feel it genuinely does, it needs to figure out how to work more swiftly and smart to start taking actions that improve the lives of young people now.
I will be talking a lot more with some of the other youth organisations, but also Ahmad Alhendawi, the UN Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth, whom is so passionate around making sure that the Action plan on Youth works! I hope that we can not only identify ways that we can make sure the commitments for employment and entrepreneurship are met, but also the role that AIESEC can play in these plans.
My question to you, and I hope you participate in this discussion:
If the overall goal of the employment and entrepreneurship focus area is to ensure greater opportunities for youth to secure decent work and income, what do you think the first actions need to be? And how can the UN and Youth organisations make this happen?
Hello from New York City!
As AIESEC International, we made it a priority this year to really understand the role AIESEC is playing as the largest youth-led organisation in the world with the United Nations, as well as with the Secretary-General’s focus on Youth.
In January 2012, the Secretary General laid out his five-year Action Agenda which laid out five generational imperatives to be addressed by the United Nations requiring the mobilization of all the human, financial and political resources available to the Organisation. Working with and for young people is one of these imperatives.
AIESEC is attending the Inter-Agency Network on Youth Development’s (IANYD) Open Meeting from the 18-20 of September with other Youth-led Organisations and Networks to understand the System-Wide Action Plan on Youth (Youth-SWAP), contribute to discussions on creating concrete proposals for partnerships between these organisations and the United Nations entities, and establish mechanisms for accountability and increased participation in implementing the strategies.
The UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth Ahmad Alhendawi with be participating in the week events to provide more information but to gain our ideas and support for the mandates he has taken by the United Nations for the Youth Agenda.
I will be live-blogging from the conference to give you an update on conversations, but also to gain your insight and questions so I can share it with the group of experts that are here to listen to our ideas and concerns, and use them to improve the strategies and programmes for Youth-SWAP.
Check out some information about the System-Wide Action Plan on Youth HERE
If you have any questions or comments, you can tweet them to the conference by using the tags: @UN4Youth #openmeeting or tag @AIESEC or me @cassruggiero
I will keep updating you as the week goes!
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AIESEC is a non-governmental not-for-profit organisation in consultative status with the United Nations Economic
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