On 12 February 2019 SDSN Youth in Australia, New Zealand & Pacific hosted a forum titled ‘Youth at the Forefront of SDG Implementation’. The forum brought together university students and representatives from leading youth-led and youth-focused organisations in Australia to explore the critical role that young people play in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
Youth-led and youth-focused organisations and young individuals across Australia are already making significant contributions to the SDGs, but their assets and unique capabilities are still yet to be recognised, both within the sector and externally. The SDGs need a significant boost of momentum in Australia, and given the creativity, innovative thinking, energy and risk-taking abilities possessed by young people, the potential for youth leadership for the SDGs requires much-needed exploration.
With support from the Foundation for Young Australians and the Monash Sustainable Development Institute, the forum offered a space for participants to explore why the SDGs are important to young people, why they need to engage with them, and how the sector can deepen their contribution to the SDGs and bring more visibility to the critical role they play in the achievement of the SDGs.
The forum commenced with an introduction by Siamak Loni, Global Coordinator of SDSN Youth and Partnerships Manager for the SDG Financing Initiative, followed by a panel discussion. The panel, which explored youth participation in the SDGs, featured Gaurav Jethwani from AISEC in Australia; Kareem El-Ansary the newly appointed Australian Youth Representative to the United Nations; Kieu Gavin of the Oaktree Foundation; and Michelle Huang from SDSN Youth Australia, New Zealand & Pacific. The panellists drew from the experiences of their respective organisations to demonstrate how youth organisations are interacting with the SDGs, and identified how they can engage more meaningfully with the agenda.
Participants then worked in groups to address key questions including:
In the concluding remarks of the forum, participants acknowledged that there is a need to raise the profile of youth in Australia, and articulate the value they add to the 2030 Agenda, and make the case to government and the community that young people are capable leaders, partners and solution-makers.
The forum sought to encourage dialogue within the youth sector, promote engagement with other sectors, and facilitate greater youth participation in the delivery of the SDGs. Inputs gathered from the discussions will be used to develop further resources that call attention to the significance of youth in SDG implementation, and identifies key areas where they can engage more closely with other actors to maximise their impact.