It’s Time for Today’s Youth to Speak up for Post-2015

By Henry Mark

The countdown is on. In 806 days the 8 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), formulated at the turn of the 21st century will come to an end.

The MDGs have had their highs and lows. It is difficult to argue against the fact that they have united governments, public, private, non-governmental and civil society organisations, all with the aim of meeting the needs of the world’s poorest individuals. There certainly seems to have been some successes. While some people laud the achievements of the MDGs it must also be noted that there has been a certain amount of criticism; namely scepticism around the ability to measure their success, and global challenges that have simply been left neglected. One thing is sure though, come 2016 we will embark upon a new global development agenda. An agenda that is forming as you read this post.

The aim of writing this blog entry is not to provide an additional voice to the debate around the success and failures of the MDGs or what should be included in the post-2015 agenda. My aim here is to suggest why, and more importantly how you, today’s youth, can engage and be a vital part of this process.

Post 2015: Where we are?

In May 2013, the High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda released a report titled “A new global partnership: eradicate poverty and transform economies through sustainable development’’. The panel announced by the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, in July 2012 is composed of 27 persons, including leaders from government, civil society and the private sector. The report suggests that 5 major transformative shifts are required in the post-2015 agenda to ensure we capitalised on the successes of the MDGs, while other emerging and neglected challenges are addressed.

The panel provided 12 universal goals with at least 4 targets designated for monitoring each of the goals. They suggest that a certain number of these targets be set at the national level, with the tag line ‘Universal goals, National targets’.

Post 2015 goals

While these 12 goals and their targets are by no means the finished article, they do provide an insight into how the post-2015 agenda is developing. I’m sure each individual reading the report will be heartened by the certain elements and concerned by others.

Challenges, risks and opportunities

Forming a global development agenda is no easy task.  We all know there are many complex and varied challenges. Within the health field the challenges are vast; from the ongoing burden of communicable, maternal, perinatal and nutritional conditions, to the rapidly increasing burden of non-communicable diseases, to mention a few. Outside of the health sector equally important and complex issues, such as climate change, corruption and security are of equal concern. Not to mention, all of this is before you start trying to address the cross cutting themes of equity, good governance, and accountability.

It seems fair to say that forming any global development agendais a balancing act. Certain challenges need to be prioritised to ensure that the rallying call to address them is taken seriously.  Including too many goals and targets could lead to a devaluating effect. While at the same time neglecting important issues could be catastrophic, especially given the 15-year time span of the agenda.

How do we get it right?

I believe the only way for us to deliver an ambitious agenda that everybody can unite behind and aspire to achieve is by engaging in full and open discourse. Yes many discussions have already taken place, but there is still time for people to engage.  Students and young professionals must be part of the post-2015 discussions, for no lesser reason than they will be at the forefront of striving to achieve this agenda over the 15-year duration and beyond.

The news is positive. On the 18th of July this year 2 members of the post-2015 High Level Panel; Center for American Progress Chair, John Podesta, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Tawakkol Karman, held a Google hang-out with youth representatives from Africa, Asia and Latin America. John Podesta opened the chat with an optimistic comment on how the post-2015 process has been a far more open one, compared to the closed-door environment in which the MDGs were born. One of the suggestions made during this talk was the formation of a post-2015 Youth High Level Panel (YHLP) to ensure that the issues and views of the youth continue to be heard in the ongoing post-2015 debate. Following this in August Podesta and Karman sent an open letter to the UN Secretary General strongly suggesting that the YHLP be formally established.

This is where you come in!

It really doesn’t matter if your interest lies in health, politics, economics, engineering or any other discipline. Nor if you are in high school, a bachelors programme, graduate school or a young professional. The fact is that no one person has the answers to the largest global challenges.  We need more open discussion on these issues; from what should be included in the agenda and how it should be measured, to how to ensure accountability and good governance across the board. The youth can bring an enthusiasm and optimism to this process,and a refreshing honesty, which in itself can help bring about varied and open discussion.

The cynics out there may question if there is any point. How much influence can we really have? Well the answer is none, unless we try.

What can you do?

Whether you have followed the post-2015 process closely or have only just heard about it, I urge you to get involved and have your say. Get online to follow and engage some of the many people and organisations tweeting about post-2015. Read the HLP report and see if you agree with what is included, or are important issues missing.  Then tell people what you think. Write a letter, write a song, or do a dance, and share it. Whatever you do just do it now, and be heard.

The countdown is on!

Thanks for reading!

Henry Mark

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