Recent estimates for global poverty show that 689 million people in the world live on $1.90 per day (in extreme poverty). According to United Nations, 59 million children in sub-Saharan Africa work instead of going to school. Recently, Nigeria was declared as the poverty capital of the world with the major reason being endemic corruption. Apparently, many of our fellow humans live in abject poverty, polluted environments and fear of loss of life and property. For these causes, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted by United Nations in September 2015 to end extreme poverty, protect the planet and guarantee the security of lives and property by 2030.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as the Global Goals, refer to the 17-point agenda of United Nations to recreate a world where the basic needs of the present generations are met without compromising the needs of the future generations. 88% of African countries have fully accepted the SDGs while 76% of countries have launched a formal process of actualizing it. According to the SDGs dashboard, Nigeria ranks 43rd in Africa and 160th in the world in implementing the SDGs. This ought not to be so seeing as the nation has the largest economy in Africa. However, there is hope for the nation if she can harness her most abundant and powerful resource – youths!
Nigeria is home to one of the largest populations of youths in the world today. The median age of Nigerians is 17.9 years. This means that most of the population are physically strong and mentally malleable, that is, open to new ideas, methods and processes. The Nigerian youths can play a significant role in the implementation of the global goals as well as holding their government accountable. As leaders of tomorrow, it is pivotal that youths are informed and engaged with the global vision for the future. They can lead Nigeria into development if their talents are honed and their minds are sharpened. Leaving young people out of development would be detrimental because, over the next 15 years, youths will not only experience the outcome (or lack of one) of SDGs but will also be the drivers for the successful implementation of the SDGs.
Youths are the torchbearers of the 2030 Global Goals for multiple reasons. One. Youths are critical thinkers. Because of their inquisitiveness and strength, they have the capacity to identify systemic flaws and challenge the status quo. Two. Youths are change-makers. They can mobilize people for causes they believe in. Youth activism is trending in the world today. A timeless example is the organized protests of Nigerian youths to #EndPoliceBrutality and #EndSARSNow! Their voices were raised for the wellbeing of the present and future generations.
Three. Youths are creative about communicating their ideas. This is bolstered by broader connectivity through social media. Imagine how they can partner in communicating the global goals to their peers, communities and nations? Four. Youths bring a fresh perspective to solving problems. They are in tune with now-issues. Five. Youth-led networks also contribute to the development of civic leadership skills among young people, especially marginalized youths. These are a few reasons why youths are germane channels to achieve the SDGs.
So, how can a youth get involved in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals?
- Get engaged in local politics: When young people participate in local politics, they raise awareness of problems that are beyond the scope of the older generation. They also learn from the mistakes of their predecessors and develop leadership patterns for the new age. It helps them develop a heart for the people. After all, the youths are Not Too Young To Run.
- Get involved in peace-keeping missions and NGOs: The engagement of youths in community development projects enlightens their understanding of underlying issues in their polity. This helps them develop empathy and competencies that are required to pursue goals that are bigger than themselves.
The youths are the greatest treasure of the land. Without harnessing the value within them, it is safe to conclude that sustainable development cannot be actualized. Therefore, youths are encouraged to actively advocate for the implementation of the SDGs and get involved in organizations which actively strive towards making the world a better place. Taking on such responsibilities polishes character, increases competencies, develops a nation and preserves the wellbeing of the present and future generations. Everybody most definitely wins!