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UNGA76: ‘Time for Youth to Take the Wheel’

Adeze Ojukwu

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
The global campaign for youths to mount the leadership seats in governments and corporate institutions has intensified.

This movement received tremendous impetus at the second annual SDG Moment. The pristine occasion was aimed to “punctuate a ‘Decade of Action’ with messages about the transformative change” required to realize the SDGs.

Heads of State or Government made speeches alongside moderated sessions on COVID-19 response and recovery, connectivity and narrowing the digital divide, gender equality, youth shaping the future, localized responses to the SDGs, and effective institutions for justice, equality, and trust.

The UN Secretary-General, Dr. Antonio Guterres convened the second annual SDG Moment, a high-level event to punctuate a ‘Dec e of Action’ with strong messages ‘about the transformative change” required to realize the SDGs, as explained by the Earth Negotiations Bulletin(ENB).’ At the end of the day, UN officials echoed the desire for youth to take the wheel on the SDGs.

The 2021 edition convened virtually on 20 September, according to highlights of the day, ‘business as usual was confronted with the urgency of the pandemic and the impatience of youth.’
The ENB report said The SDGs, Decade of Action launched in 2020 will now need to be a ‘Decade of Recovery’.

‘UN chief Guterres drew participants’ attention to a plan he had released the previous week, ‘Our Common Agenda,’ on resuscitating multilateralism and rebooting the UN itself.’

‘He made five calls for urgent action: end the pandemic including with a global vaccination plan to vaccinate 70 percent of the world’s population by mid-2022; invest in sustainable and equitable recovery; ensure equal rights for women and girls; end the war on our planet by committing to net zero emissions by 2050, ending new coal-fired power plants, and mobilizing USD100 billion per year for climate action; and put people first in budgets and recovery plans,’ to the report.

The President of the 76th UNGA, Abdulla Shahid, said the SDGs Decade of Action launched in 2020 will now need to be a ‘Decade of Recovery.’ Shahid linked the SDGs to the “five rays of hope” he has outlined for his Presidency:

• Recovering from COVID-19: SDG 3 (good health and wellbeing)
• Rebuilding sustainably: SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth)
• Responding to the needs of the planet: SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy); SDG 13 (climate action); SDG 14 (life below water), and others
• Human Rights: cross-cutting and underpinning all SDGs
• UN Revitalization: cross-cutting and underpinning all SDGs

The President of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Collen Vixen Kelapile, said the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over and has undone progress towards the SDGs, including by worsening inequality and poverty. Only through “unprecedented global cooperation and global solidarity” can countries recover sustainably from the pandemic and make new progress towards the SDGs, he stressed.

Looking ahead to the 2022 session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), Kelapile encouraged countries that have not yet conducted a Voluntary National Review (VNR) to do so. For countries presenting second or third VNRs, he pointed to its opportunity for “deeper reflection” on SDG implementation. The 2022 HLPF will convene from 5-15 July on the theme of ‘Building Back Better from COVID-19 while Advancing the Full Implementation of the 2030 Agenda.’

Youth leaders also addressed participants during the SDG Moment. Vladislav Kaim, a member of the UN Secretary-General’s Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change, stressed that young people are “not the future but the present.” He shone a different light on celebrating young people’s leadership on climate change: this role is often “forced upon them” by failure by political leaders, and it can take a toll on young people to work without adequate resources. Yande Banda, Chair of Transform Education, called on young people to advocate for positions of power and full and systematic integration into leadership roles free from patriarchy.

The ENB also observed that the SDG Moment was marked by warnings: of the risk of another “lost decade” for Africa, the impact of a new debt crisis, and an embarrassingly uneven response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Heads of State or Government made speeches alongside moderated sessions on: leveraging the COVID-19 response and recovery to accelerate SDG implementation, connectivity and narrowing the digital divide, gender equality and women powering the economic recovery, youth shaping the future, localized responses to the SDGs, and effective institutions for justice, equality, and trust.

‘The homage to … youthful optimism’ was embodied most clearly when the South Korean President Moon Jae-in arrived at the Hall accompanied by his Special Envoy for Future Generations and Culture, the global pop and social media influencers BTS.

Closing the second annual SDG Moment, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed and Jeffrey Sachs, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the SDGs, noted the power of the youth demands to ‘take over the steering wheel” of leadership on the SDGs, and wondered how that intergenerational transition can be delivered sooner rather than later.

The related events at the Second SDG Moment of the Decade of Action include other SDGS highlighted below.
1. NO POVERTY
2. ZERO HUNGER
3. GOOD HEALTH & WELL-BEING
4. QUALITY EDUCATION
5. GENDER EQUALITY
6. CLEAN WATER & SANITATION
7. AFFORDABLE & CLEAN ENERGY
8. DECENT WORK & ECONOMIC GROWTH
9. INDUSTRY, INNOVATION & INFRASTRUCTURE
10. REDUCED INEQUALITIES
11. SUSTAINABLE CITIES & COMMUNITIES
12. RESPONSIBLE CONSUMPTION & PRODUCTION
13. CLIMATE ACTION
14. LIFE BELOW WATER
15. LIFE ON LAND
16. PEACE, JUSTICE & STRONG INSTITUTIONS
17. PARTNERSHIPS FOR THE GOALS
ISSUES
Governance, Stakeholder Participation, Follow-Up and Review
ACTORS
UN Intergovernmental Body
ACTIONS
Meeting, ENB
TAGS
Youth

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