What Katie Did

We’re banging on the door of development, please let us in: Youth Engagement and the Post-2015 agenda

Today, the UN High Level Panel met with the private sector, the civil sector and young people to discuss the post-Millennium Development Goal agenda.

As discussed in my post yesterday, the UN High Level Panel is governing the worlds process in developing a global framework which will build on the successes and failures of the Millennium Development Goals. The November 2012 London meeting is one of the first steps in this process.

Along with 23 other young leaders, I was invited to engage with the UN High Level Panel as a youth participant representing Plan UK. With the risk of sounding melodramatic – I am not ashamed to say that it was one of the most inspirational and empowering experiences I am yet to have. Not because of the ’eminent’ and influential people who make up the High Level Panel but because I have never felt prouder to be part of this “restless” generation and other young people I was working with.

This type of High Level youth consultation is the first of its kind and without doubt, I think we can conclude that we made our collective youth voice heard and can only hope that more consultations like this will shortly follow.

During the session, I sat between HM Queen Rania al Abdullah of Jordan and USA Representative John Podesta whilst sharing the table with youth representative Edith from Nigeria, Andrew from the USA, and Ravi from India. The youth session was also attended by Graça Machal, Gunilla Carlsson, Amina Az-Zubar, and more. To our great disappointment David Cameron, who is not only the UK Prime Minister but also the co-chair of the UN High Level Panel, failed to attend the youth session. However, in his absence, he was represented by Michael Anderson.

Through the sharing of youth interventions and personal experiences, we debated with the UN High Level Panel on why the post-2015 framework needs to include a dimension of youth-led development and how to ensure young people can be consulted and further included in the process of developing the agenda.

The full outcomes and recommendations of our discussion are going to be drawn into  a paper by Restless Development and will exist as an appendix to the UN High Level Panel’s final report which is due to be delivered in May 2013. However, to summarise, the UN High Level Panel concluded the following:

  1. Young people should and need to be included in all post-2015 agenda-setting discussions.
  2. A need for emphasis of the potential of youth and the facilitation of a space for youth to make valuable contributions
  3. Young people want to bear the burden of development; we want to be held accountable so decisions need to be made about the most effective way to foster this.
  4. Young people are in control of their own destiny and therefore should be at the heart of the post-2015 framework
  5. We need to breakdown the stereotypes and stigma around youth representing social-unrest. We need to build up the idea and reality of youth being the solution.
  6. If youth participation in the post-2015 agenda is to be valued and non-tokenistic, world leaders and young people both need to commit for the long run.

*Please note that this is only a summary of the conclusions from our discussions today and does not directly represent the opinion of individual UN High Level Panel Members present. 

To finish the day, all panel members and participants were invited to take part in a “Town Hall Meeting” which was an opportunity for a less structured discussion about what the post-Millennium Development Goals framework should look like. Although this was very informative, I felt that it was quite unproductive. Once taking the floor, most representatives  just took the opportunity to describe their organisation’s work and the issues they focus on or relay a list of statistics. The High Level Panel would then just respond with the high impact words and emotive statements which they thought we all wanted to hear.

Maybe I am wrong but I feel it would have been much more beneficial to participate in a debate focussing on how we are going to address the successes and failures of the Millennium Development Goals and the how we are going to tackle the issues acting as a barrier to global development.

The most refreshing contribution of the discussion came from the youth representatives who avoided statistics by replacing them with real experiences from their own lives and who instead of spending time describing the issues, told the High Panel what they wanted them to do about it.

I want to conclude with a comment made by one of our High Level Panel members, regarding the strength and importance of youth participation and inclusion in the development of the post-2015 framework:

“Youth are too plentiful and powerful to be excluded…in terms of population, there is China…then there is India…and then there is Facebook…you are the third biggest country and therefore a reason not to be ignored”.

Preparing for the roundtable discussion pre-arrival of UN High Level Panel

What Katie Did

Reactive, Revolutionary, and Realistic: Youth Engagement and the Post-2015 Agenda

During the next two days, London will be host to 26 world leaders meeting to represent the UN High Level Panel on the Post-2015 agenda. This meeting is first of many in shaping how we move on from the successes and failures of the Millennium Development Goals. The panel will be chaired by David Cameron, the President of Liberia – Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and the President of Indonesia, Sisilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

As part of the meeting, the panel will be meeting with 3 different groups of people who they think can offer a different perspective on the post-2015 agenda: the private sector, the civil sector, and young people. Along with 23 other young leaders from across the world, I will be participating in the latter discussion representing Plan UK.

Whilst the UN High Level Panel were beginning their initial discussion today, we also began our discussion at the Girl HUB in preparation for presenting to the panel tomorrow. We had an incredibly productive day full of learning and innovative conversation focused around our diverse range of experiences.

The overarching theme of tomorrow is Household Poverty which focuses on the issues of Education, Health and Employment.

We believe our aim of participating in this event is to demonstrate to the panel how important it is to involve young people in all stages of decision making, especially when the decisions being made directly affect our lives and development. Young people represent 3.5 billion of the global population and deserve to take the steering wheel in setting the objectives which will shape our future. However, we want to avoid talking about youth engagement in only abstract, idealistic terms and show the panel real examples from our lives of how innovative and revolutionary a youth led approach to development can really be.

Our session will be opened by CEO of Restless Development, Nik Hartley and will include examples of youth-led programmes in Education, Health and Employment from Ben from Zambia, Michelle from the Philippines and Ravi from India. We will lead lead into 2 round table discussions, one of which I will be facilitating, where we will discuss, face-to-face with the UN High Level Panel, our objectives for the post-2015 agenda and what we can learn from the examples we have shared.

As one of my peers commented today, “youth-led development is infectious” and I hope we can successfully show the importance and pertinence including young people in the process of moving on from the Millennium Development Goals and shaping our future.