Friday, 12 May 2017

Youth Seek Seat at the Table on SDGs

By: Niken Larasati, Child Protection Officer
Ms. Hulshof, (center rear) joins the UNICEF team and youth participants for a photo following the forum.
©Raditya Henrile / UNICEF /2017

“People often discuss what should be done for people with disabilities, but they don’t often include us in their discussions,” Panji Surya Sahetapy of the Indonesian Association for Welfare of the Deaf said through an interpreter.

His message, delivered during a youth forum on the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda was clear – in conversations about disability rights, people with disability need to be heard.


His statement was a reminder, said UNICEF East Asia Pacific Regional Director Karin Hulshof, who was present at the forum during her visit to the country, of UNICEF’s mission to protect the most vulnerable children– not only the materially disadvantaged, but those marginalized on account of their gender, age, sexual orientation, HIV status, ethnicity, and ability.
 
Panji Sahetapy represented the deaf community at the youth SDG forum in Jakarta
©Raditya Henrile / UNICEF /2017
 
Although a philosophy of inclusive development underlies the vision of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) -- a global agenda that seeks to end poverty and improve wellbeing, among other objectives -- many groups are left out of the conversation for how best to implement them.

Among the most overlooked voices are those belonging to youth.

In the forum, entitled “Young People’s Consultation [LP1] [CR2] on the SDGs”, the Youth Network on Violence against Children (YNVAC) forged a partnership with 2030 Youth Force (YF), a youth group encourages young Jakartans to contribute to the SDG agenda.

“In this forum we want to hear from young people on how they might assist implementation of the SDGs,” said Ravio Patra, a meeting facilitator. The 25 youth participants, representing youth organizations on education, health, economic, social and environmental issues, were selected from over 250 applicants. 

Young people hunker down for a brainstorming session
© Niken Larasati / UNICEF /2017

Three objectives were laid out in the meeting: one, to identify the most pressing issues for youth; two, to identify the most effective and efficient advocacy methods for addressing those challenges; and three, to identify concrete tools for empowering young people to tackle them.

Regional Director Hulshof said persistence and a collaborative spirit were key.

“[Protecting] the environment for example, is a pressing issue that needs to be tackled by all members of society, both civilians and government officials. We need to care for our environment, which is in line with the fulfilment of several SDGs targets,” she stated.

Ibu Woro Srihastuti Sulistyaningrum (Lisa), Director of Family, Women, Children, Youth and Sports at the National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas), was also present at the meeting. Ibu Lisa expressed the Government’s support for the 25 young people and their organizations, pledging to be an ally. “Now is the era of young people taking action,” she said. “When like-minded people get together, great things happen.”
 
Ibu Lisa of Bappenas accepts the recommendations from youth leaders
© Niken Larasati / UNICEF /2017

 
By the end of the day, the group of young people had distilled their aspirations down to three action points: First, they expressed the desire for Government to help youth groups conduct ‘reality checks’ and policy reviews regarding the SDGs. A ‘reality check’ invites young people to provide qualitative support in the field for data-backed findings. These are are then used to help the Government produce policy on SDG implementation.  

Second, the forum asked that the Government and UN agencies ramp up advocacy and allow them to assist in the formulation of SDG reports. Third, the forum expressed the hope that all relevant parties, including Government, UN agencies and NGOs, would provide capacity-building for network members to ensure that the forum led to real action.

The recommendations were handed over to UNICEF, represented by Ms. Hulshof, and the Indonesian Government, represented by Ibu Lisa, who said the government was excited to lend its support.

Ending the meeting, UNICEF Indonesia Representative Gunilla Olsson promised, “We will always open our door to determined agents of change by supporting the inclusion of young people in the implementation of the SDGs in Indonesia.” Two more forums on youth-driven SDG implementation, she said, would be held in the near future.

Inspired, the 25 young people have already begun planning ways to play a bigger role in the SDG push.

“UNICEF can’t do this ourselves. We need your help to reach the most marginalised and out-of-reach children across Indonesia,” said Ali Aulia, Child Protection specialist. “We have to ensure our work benefits and protects children everywhere and youth play an instrumental role in that mission.”

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