Role of Youths and Students in Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals……….
“The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization tasked to promote international co-operation and to create and maintain international order.
The organization was established in the aftermath of World War II with the immediate mission of preventing such global destruction from reoccurring. Today the UN is a world-wide team of countries aiming to advance and develop the world in an efficient manner. The team has identified 17 major issues currently preventing many countries from developing. They have drafted strategies for attacking these issues and have phrased it, ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ (SDGs). According to the UN “The Sustainable Development Goals are the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.
They address the global challenges we face, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, and peace and justice” . The goals are arranged in chronological order and each goal is dependent on successful implementation of the previous goal. For example, to eliminate hunger we must first eliminate poverty. Similarly, to achieve gender equality we must first supply quality education on the importance and merits of female empowerment.
Now where do youths and students stand in this issue being generated by our elders? And furthermore, to get to the point of this essay, what role(s) do we play in achieving these 17 goals in our respective countries? as a doctor In my opinion, our role is the most important and very critical in completing such an ambitious project. We are literally the future of our countries and we determine the fate of the generations after us. As a result, I believe youths and students must become beacons of social change, pillars of innovation and steadfast bridges for their countries to ascend to the level of advancement required to achieve sustainable development.
Some of the wisest persons have said:
“I believe children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way. Show them all the beauty they possess inside.” (Whitney Houston), “Our greatest natural resource is in the minds of our children.” (Walter Disney),
“Our children are the rock on which our future will be built, our greatest asset as a nation.” (Nelson Mandela).
These are all quotes many of us are familiar with and sure they sound very pretty but are we aware of the responsibility we share in determining the future? To be quite frank, many of the 17 targeted issues such as poverty, hunger and poor sanitation applies to our countries and in many cases some of our countries suffer from all 17 issues. Therefore, it is time for us to wake up and open our minds. Specifically, open our minds to change which must first begin at the social level. The economy and the environment are directly dependent on the society. For it is the norms, beliefs and behaviors of people within society that influences the way we behave in the work place, in business practice and in the way we treat our environment.
There is a clever quote by Margaret Mead, a cultural anthropologist, that says “children must be taught how to think not what to think”. We should always keep this in mind. It is crucial in helping us open our minds to find our innovative abilities or as Mrs. Houston puts it “…the beauty [we] possess inside” outside of what our parents and society has taught us. This means we must be able to objectively assess and criticize the mistakes our parents, elders, teachers and other members of the past generations have made so that we do not repeat the same mistakes. Thereby furthering an anti-progressive mindset in future generations which would surely be unproductive. For example; it may be perfectly acceptable in society to simply drop garbage anywhere but education has taught us that most inappropriately dumped garbage ends up in our water supplies polluting rivers, oceans and wells. So how can one achieve and maintain clean water and proper sanitation without addressing this issue which stems from social norms? We must not be afraid to step outside of our cultural norms, religious beliefs and social norms. This does not mean we must relinquish them but rather it means we must be able to see, and more importantly rectify, the negative effects created by what we are accustomed to. Achieving sustainable development which means “…development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (Brundtland Report) is an enormous undertaking. Such a collective effort in such a short time period (13 years) has never been attempted before. Therefore, it will require us to apply tangible changes in our societies while understanding that there will be controversial changes that needs to be made. Much like Noble Peace Prize winners; Kenyan Wangari Maathai, Pakistani Malala Yousafzai and Indian Kailash Satyarthi did for their respective societies.
Every youth and student need to instill confidence and the belief that “Yes We Can!” (Barack Obama) into themselves. So that we will all be able to utilize ourselves as valuable human resources. We are the future entrepreneurs, doctors, engineers and teachers so we represent the possibility of diversifying our economies. Hence, we need to adapt a ‘woke’ mindset to think up innovative ways of doing so. As Barack Obama said, “Keep asking why. Don’t settle for what you already know. Never stop believing in the power of your ideas, your imagination, your hard work.” Take Tanzanian inventor, Bernard Kiwia for example, he has built bike-powered cell phone chargers for his rural community and continues to teach over 100 villagers how to develop labor-saving devices. Or Kenyan artist, Cyrus Kabiru, who collects bottle caps from the roadside and uses them to build sculptures. Both young men were rewarded for their efforts. Bernard receives funding from international organizations while Cyrus has been invited to art shows in Sweden and USA. Lastly, youths and students should act as steadfast bridges for the generations to come. We should understand that there will come a time when we have to pass the torch and let others lead. Therefore, we should build firm bridges of support, trust and opportunities between ourselves and the future generations so that we can secure all progress made and ensure progress continues.
In conclusion, youths and students are vital for achieving the SDGs. It is essential for us to be aware of the importance of sustainable development. “Education, if it means anything, should not take people away from land, but instill in them respect for it, because educated people are in a position to understand what is being lost. The future of the planet concerns all of us, and we should do what we can to protect it.” (Wangari Maathai – Unbowed). Surely embodying the roles outlined in this essay may prove overwhelming but as Vince Lombardi said, “Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile.” And sustainable development is worthwhile because the reality is either adopt it or be left behind.
by Dr.mustafe ibrahim (uurdoox).