Global Youth, Localism, & Implementing SDGs

By Raphael Obonyo

By Raphael Obonyo
In September, 193 world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly in New York agreed to a new set of 17 global goals—the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)—which establishes the framework for joint global action on poverty, inequality, and climate change for the next 15 years. World leaders deserve some credit for the new 2015-2030 SDGs that build on the success of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the framework with eight targets that was adopted in 2000 to consolidate global efforts toward the reduction of extreme poverty within a 15-year timeframe.
However, now that the easy part (that of making promises) is done, the outstanding challenge is to ensure implementation and progress follow. Achieving these new ambitious global development goals will require tremendous efforts. First, there is need for a comprehensive awareness and education program to ensure that citizens own and support the implementation of the sustainable development goals. Such a program should target a diverse public, at different levels and in different spaces, including schools, places of worship, and villages. The single most important factor in the attainment of SDGs is bringing the information to the people—no one should be left out. To get people involved, they have to be well-informed. Here, the world can replicate what the U.N. has done successfully to advance gender equality. In this realm, immense gains have been made through massive awareness.
It was the late Nelson Mandela who once remarked, and rightfully so, “Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made, and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.” Citizens and especially the youth must be at the center of development programs, and all people should matter in the 2030 development agenda.
The new 2030 development agenda has further set 17 goals that are accompanied by 169 specific targets for action. It is estimated that it will cost between $3.3 trillion and $4.5 trillion per year to achieve the new targets, which provide a focal point to anchor development policies and programs. There is no doubt that if the global goals are properly implemented, they could transform the lives of billions of people living in poverty, much as the MDGs already have.
Empowering youth is a key component in ensuring the success of the SDGs. We need youth as volunteers, innovators, and leaders to realize the global goals. As World Bank President Jim Yong Kim recently noted at the annual Youth Summit, young people have the power to make a lasting impact on ending extreme poverty and addressing climate change. They have fresh ideas, positive attitudes, and opportunities to influence change.
But we must realize young people are also victims of poverty and unemployment, and they righteously expect the development goals to address their challenges. Crucially, therefore, countries must adopt policies and programs that support the youth and help realize the goals.
We must also acknowledge the need for global cooperation. No single country or agency can tackle global challenges like poverty, inequality, and climate change alone. Only together can governments and businesses end poverty in all its forms and achieve the ambitious 2030 goals. Governments, the private sector, civil society, and other actors must form strong coalitions at both the global and local levels in order to achieve optimal coherence and clarity of purpose in messaging.
Funding is key to the success of the 2030 development goals. We already know what the solutions for a more sustainable and equitable future are. The question is, where will the money come from? The Third International Conference of Financing for Development in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia proved critical in getting closer to answers. At the conference, world leaders resolved to strengthen international cooperation for sustainable development. Heads of states and governments also committed to allocating significant domestic public resources to supplement international assistance in efforts to achieve the SDGs.
Still, a lack of resources could fundamentally cripple progress. To ensure that SDGs do not foster false hope, especially to the world’s poor, developed countries must support needy countries, particularly in Africa where millions of people are still trapped below the poverty line. At least $3.3 trillion is needed annually to finance the resources for implementing the SDGs. These funds need to be vouchsafed from different actors, including those in the public and private sectors, transnational corporate actors, and development banks.
Even more importantly, governments should take it upon themselves to allocate sufficient resources toward the realization of the goals. One of the criticisms of the MDGs is that governments failed to allocate finances in their national budgets in pursuit of the goals. To anticipate this concern, governments must commit sufficient funds to the sustainable development agenda.
Lastly, to achieve great outcomes, governments should first localize the development goals and ensure that national development programs are aligned with the SDGs, and then assess the progress of these efforts regularly. The adoption of the goals in 2015 means that nations now have to adopt the global framework as per their domestic frameworks. If the sustainable development goals are properly implemented, many jobs for young people can be created. Better engagement of youth in the implementation of SDGs will improve young people’s positions and conditions, as well as hasten the attainment of the goals.



Raphael Obonyo is the Africa Representative to the World Bank’s Global Coordination Board of Youth Network. Email:
[Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons]


More Posts