Youth engagement in achieving the SDGs

Engaging young people in development programmes can pave the way for attaining their empowerment, personal development and their capability


About half of the population of the world are youth. It has already been proven that a sustainable outcome of any development projects could not be sustained scientifically without ensuring the reflection of that development to every people of a country. Therefore, the desire of huge engagement of our youth in achieving the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) is now questionable to us. Are visionary insights and learning of our young generations implied, or considered adequately in the design and implementation of every project? Are they being engaged actively in our every development phase to support the program towards sustainable? Are they going throughthe self-development process ofbuilding their capacity to lead the current achievements of SDGs towards making sustainable in the future? However, we should know all of these questions in respect to our youth generation if wereally want to achieve the SDGs by 2030 and make them sustainable.

Engaging young people in development programs has a very exciting and impactful agenda for attaining their empowerment, personal development, and their capability, that ultimately tend them to think about the country’s challenges and opportunities for the betterment of achieving the SDGs. The other potential impact of the youth engagement in the SDGs, that we appreciatively could find the actual project outcomes and the beneficiaries in the development process. In engaging the youth leadership in our diverse programs, the innovativeness of project outcome could be completely different in approach with making our development sustainable. It means that the youth activities can provide a different shape to project reflecting upon their dynamic thinking, openness, impartial approach, and moreover ebullient characteristics of work. The youth usually be the good planner in seeking for ‘why, what and how’ with the programming; and if something does not work well, they are to be very willful to change it.

In the recent study of ADB (Asian Development Bank) on the issue, the findings provide us an inspiring level of evidence for the policy making and future practices with regard to young men and women’s contributions in achieving the SDGs. The learnings notify us with significant insights that could support us in many ways to design and implementation of youth programming.

However, we understand the first step like effectively listening to the young women and men’s voices that what they want to accept and cultivate in life. We have to give them much space as well as flexible infrastructure to make contributions to the society, and draw upon acknowledgement of them as much as possible for their positive thoughts, initiative, vision and knowledge etc. We see young women and men generally wish to be peer educators, which process is very important for us to project evaluation and monitoring. In this regard, we have observed many cases of youth contributions at the field level, where they created a condition to make engagement of many young populations in national or global crisis moment; or made leaders bound to be engaged in changing their negative social norms and values in various aspects. For example, we can mention the recent youth engagement in climate action, road safety, emergency response of pre and post disaster, violence against women and children etc.

The youth don’t want inequality or social differences within their territory broadly, so that we, the parents, community leaders, project staff and governments often get fear of youth’s tendency to control over our activities. This means that their authoritativeness to explore themselves at any initiative might contribute our society to achieve SDGs over the stipulated timeframe.

So, we can realize over the discussion that we must engage a great portion of our population ‘’young people’’ in our development agenda as – what and how they can contribute in achieving the SDGs. In the process of youth engagement, some groups of people like young people, parents, corporate private sectors, non-governmental organisation (NGO) staff, government officials, and decision makers should understand the concept of “value” and possible use of the concept in several ways. The process may be sometimes dependable and overlapping. Many important contributions of young people are yet to be acknowledged, or valued across towards achieving the SDGs. In addition to this tasks in different sectors, some “added value”, considering the absence of systematic methods to first recognize and then track scale up and direction of change. We can find out the following areas which are already being contributed by our young women and men and required tracking:

1.     Tracking of youth contribution in different sectors or programs which are responsive and need to be adjusted to their real needs and benefits in terms of our specific goals and indicators of the SDGs. We have to progress much more to track and monitor this, where the purposive and designed comparative studies may be adopted to identify hidden assets and value addition of the youth contributions.

2.     The relevant studies found that the ability of young people often seeks for partnerships, network and kind of alliances, both within and between different generations. The youth can act as “mobilisers”— in person, online, public and private spheres. They can actively be able to hold the communicating messages of SDGs and control over the many progresses of SDG goals. The big message for SDG 17 on Partnerships – “Leave no one behind” corresponds to the agenda of youth engagement in SDGs.

3.     The abilities of the youth should be identified to influence their parents, communities, local, national government, or sometimes to the international arena. Young people can be highly effective educators, managers, advisors across generations. For example, in respect to the SDG 3 on health, SDG 5 on Gender and SDG 13 on climate action, young people have already played their dynamic role globally to achieve these goals and, with their views they have been influencing their parents, teachers, wider community, and decision makers of the government. But these several issues are yet to be tracked and acknowledged always.

4.     The youth’s imagination power needs to be more capitalized to contribute towards development legislations or policies, which could also achieve of all 17 SDGs – envisioning how local or national policy development and implementation might be framed and tracked out effectively.

5.     As co-designers of all initiatives conducted by public and private development projects, the youth can play a vital role in various groups or committees across all 17 SDGs, but especially with such activities to help them in growing with ethical education, gender equity and decent employment manner.

Over the discussion, the several evidencesmay guide us with what-why-how the youth engagement might be implemented in the development agenda, so that the country’s SDGs mission could receive a robust and youthful energy towards getting the achievements more directly, visibly and respectfully. So, this is the proper time for the investment of governments and development partners to optimize the youth “dividend” in every sector. Finally, we realize that some prioritized area in our development path should be integrated with the youth engagement to accelerate the desired achievement of the SDGs – innovation, creativity and risk taking opportunity (quality education process); build evidence based outcome from the youth learning and implementation; empower young people in a driving seat for influencing others, mostly seniors; enhance and strengthen programs by youth as a shadow safeguard policy and keep our institutional good governance and accountability up to the mark.



The Independent. Bangladesh. 01-01-2020

The writer is Senior Researcher and Sustainability Professional.;