By Yusuf Ishaku Goje
Annually for the past sixteen years, the 12th of August has been set aside globally to commemorate the International Youth Day. The commemoration is the creation of the United Nations and was first celebrated on the 12th August 2000; after the UN General Assembly passed a resolution accepting the recommendations made by the World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth in Lisbon in 1998. The celebration is used annually by the UN to attract public attention to the problems, issues and contributions of young people.
This year 2016 is no different; it is coming with a theme that is not just significant but also timely; coinciding with the kickoff of the Sustainable Development Agenda that succeeded the Millennium Development Goals which ended in 2015. This year’s theme is titled – The Road to 2030: Eradicating Poverty and Achieving Sustainable Consumption and Production. This is aimed at highlighting the leading role expected of young people in poverty eradication and attaining sustainable development through sustainable consumption and production.
Few issues globally deserve more attention than the pressing issues of poverty eradication, sustainable development and the role of young people in achieving both. Poverty is a canker worm that has persistently eaten deep into the fabric of every society on the globe from time immemorial. Jeffrey Sachs (Special Advisor to former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan) captures this reality more succinctly when he stated that; “currently, more than eight million people around the world die each year because they are too poor to stay alive”. He further stated that; “all told, the extreme poor (at around 1 billion) and the poor (another 1.5 billion) make up around 40 percent of humanity”.
Just like the Millennium Development Goals, the Sustainable Development Agenda calls for special attention towards multi-stakeholders collaborative approach and action against poverty among other goals. It further focuses on sustainable production and consumption of products and services by communities, in a bid to protect the needs of future generations. For the first time the term sustainable development was used in 1987 inside the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development report titled “Our Common Future”. This was in an attempt to address growing concerns about the increased deterioration of the human environment and natural resources, and its negative impact on economic and social development.
In ensuring that development meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs; the role of young people cannot be overemphasized or overlooked. This is more so because they remain the most reliable source of energy, creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship towards poverty eradication and sustainable development. Contrary to the widespread notion that young people are our future; we continue to play leading and transformational roles in the present.
It is estimated that about 1.8billion young people inhabit the earth with different pattern of productive activities and consumption habits. We possess the power to influence sustainable development. Many of us have found ourselves within the poverty trap especially as a result of the high global unemployment rate.
Some of these challenges have brought out the best of young people; we are actually taking over the driving seat in sustainable development due to our power of innovation in the area of zero waste production mainly as start-ups. Our generation is motivated to create an impact in our various societies and leave a heritage of improved environmental and social conditions. It is worthy to note that over the past years global attention has been focused more on big corporations and the degradation they inflict on our environment. It is only recently that more attention globally is being redirected towards small scale production and consumption habits; with the young people as the major actors and drivers.
This has led to the realization that the future of sustainable development is in the hands of passionate individuals (young people) driven to create environmental, social and economic value. These are the individuals who will create the innovative technologies and business models of tomorrow (Create Impact Handbook for Sustainable Entrepreneurship, 2011). Therefore, the call for more involvement of young people in the process of designing, developing and implementing solutions to sustainable problems is apt and timely.
Millions of uncelebrated young people are presently influencing the global pattern of production, consumption, behavior, communication and technology in an innovative and sustainable way. To achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, young people must be encouraged to pilot and fully participate in building a safer and sustainable future for themselves and generations unborn. To buttress this fact, the Secretary General of the United Nations, rightly posited that “the youth should be given a chance to take an active part in decision-making at local, national and global level.
Narrowing it down to Nigeria, as we celebrate this year’s International Youth Day, issues that have continuously crippled the effort to increase the participation of young people in achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda must be urgently and decisively addressed. This has to do with expanding the participatory space for more young people to actively and meaningfully engage in the leadership selection and decision-making processes.
Traditional attitudes that allow young people to only be seen but not heard must be challenged and redressed. A situation whereby the voices of young people are not taken seriously even when amplified and their societal roles not recognized; only to be used and dumped as political machineries or target statistics for siphoning money. Youth initiatives in sustainable production should be encouraged, supported and celebrated by key stakeholders to attract many more.
A massive reorientation needs to be carried-out alongside young people to impress on our enterprising youth to think sustainability in their production enterprises and consumption habits. They should be encouraged to champion the renewed vision of zero waste consumption and production to address the challenge of climate change, safeguard our environment, boost employment generation and enhance shared prosperity in their various societies and the globe at large.
Here is wishing all young people globally and particularly in Nigeria a thought-provoking and hitch-free 2016 International Youth Day celebration as we take the lead on the road to 2030; by collaboratively striving to eradicate Poverty and achieve Sustainable Consumption and Production.
Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija
Yusuf Ishaku Goje
Coalition of Associations for Leadership, Peace, Empowerment & Development (CALPED).
email: [email protected]