A little over a month ago, over 900 youth leaders descended upon Bali, Indonesia for the first ever United Nations Global Youth Forum,which involved young people in defining future development goals. I had the opportunity to review the Staying Healthy thematic paper and give a ten minute speech on the importance of focusing on young people’s health and engagement. Below are some of my thoughts on the entire process and implications for the future.
Youth today make up 43 percent of the world’s population, and the decisions we make today will affect the planet for generations to come. It is essential that young people are given the space to speak for themselves because they are experts based on their own experiences. Young people must be fully and meaningfully engaged and accepted and respected as equal partners in the development of our local, national and global communities in order for the policies put in place to be successful. This includes meaningful interactions at every level of decision-making—from design to implementation to evaluation—in all policies and programs, not just when it’s convenient or politically correct to do so.
How can we propel this idea forward? When I mentioned these ideas in my speech an interviews after my time in Bali, I thought they were realistic goals for the future of development. However, I haven’t seen much progress lately or any information on moving forward. How can policy makers and leaders reach out to engage young people on a global level? We need a continuation of the conversation that started in Bali to ensure that we put our words into action.