As a Project Coordinator at the Environmental Club of the University of Nairobi, we were involved in many activities around campus – projects which were and still are, run entirely by proactive students. An NGO approached our club patron and suggested an ‘Environmental Journalism’ project.
Well, the name was ours and we knew that the success of the project would heavily rely on our efforts and so we had to get involved in every phase of developing it. It was a lengthy process – from proposal writing, consultations with the administration, hosting, the day-to-day running of the project, acquiring equipment, looking for partnerships, accounting and monitoring the project. We were the project.
We knew what was working, and what wasn’t. We wrote reports and made recommendations so that the project could benefit even more people. Our hands-on involvement made us stakeholders in it and we ensured that we managed it accordingly. This in turn contributed significantly to making sure that accountability was maintained in the Environmental Journalism Project.
In 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were drawn up with an objective of achieving Sustainability in all aspects of the world: They have been described as ‘transformative and universal’. As a new agenda which will combine the social, the economic and the environmentally sustainable for global development. The goals, said to have a multi- dimensional approach to development, resulted in 17 pointers that seek to end poverty, provide basic amenities to a larger population and ensure environmental protection for the benefit of all.
With a total of 167 targets, the success or failure of the SDGs depends on the inclusion of the stakeholders, which happens to be all of us, to see it through. I’m talking about government, NGOs, community elders, women, the youth and special groups. Running a project of my own has helped me realize that inclusion is an effective means to the success of a project.
Now that the goals have been set, how can young people strengthen accountability of the global SDGs?
An in-depth look at the SDGs in order to find out what role the youth are meant to play in Agenda 2030 reveals that youth participation, investment in the youth and the rights of youth, are NOT outrightly addressed in the document.
Naturally then, the question that lingers is – is this development agenda meant for us if we are not in it? Well, there are two ways to look at it: either with a pessimistic glance and assume that we have been completely neglected by it, or with an optimist pair of eyes realizing we are a generation that cannot be defined, simply because we are constantly evolving in our ideas and innovation.
As such, we should participate in all levels of the implementation of the sustainable development goals. We have the energy to be the foot soldiers, engaging people at grassroots level and communicating with the wider society. We can educate the masses on the relevance of the SDGs, how it affects all of our lives and how we all can be part of it. Initiating community projects using locally available materials in line with the SDGs targets which seek to end poverty and promote better, sustainable livelihoods is also another means which comes to mind. You get it. The general idea is simply getting everybody on board. The importance of public participation in the success of projects cannot be overlooked and as youth, we can deliver it.
Individual countries have also set up National Councils for Sustainable Development which aim at promoting co-management of accountability platforms which youth can take part in. This could be through regular forums and action-planning meetings to access and give input on social projects. Such means could be the conduit to putting pressure on elected officials to implement the set goals in a manner that is fair and benefits all. Think about official roles for the youth at all levels where participation is progressive and encourages addition of actionable input.
Accountability for Transparency
For accountability to be achieved there needs to be transparency. Government agencies and officials should encourage open dialogue with the citizens (a right enshrined in the constitution). Youth organizations on their part should build the capacity of others so as to engage them in various works of secretariats or parliamentary reviews, and the overall SDG implementation process. Participation in such forums allows the youth to hold leaders accountable by questioning their actions and offering ideas.
In case there is absolutely no space in government for participation, we can take to social development through activism and social movements; holding of peaceful demonstrations and calling leaders out on their ineffective development agendas in public barazas. To effectively hold the government accountable, we need space to participate in policy implementation, monitoring and review.
In conclusion, we need mechanisms to push conversations about young peoples’ role in accountability for the SDGs, beyond rhetoric. For sure, the role of the youth wasn’t clearly defined when the SDGs were prepared, but that doesn’t mean we do not have a task. We can ask for recognition, we can ask for inclusion, which may or may not be given to us.
One thing is certain; that which is given is easily taken away. Therefore, we must fight to earn our rightful place in the implementation of these goals. The SDGs have a direct impact on our lives – we deserve to be heard and included and it is only when we realize that our collective future is at stake, that we shall rise to defend our rights. Our role has not been defined because we cannot be contained – with our potential and our limitless imagination. In a world of digital integration, we must realize that we are one world and we are in this together. It’s our duty as youth, to ensure there is accountability for the Global Goals to our benefit.
| The article has been written by Michael Musyoka