4 August 2015: Children and young people will have a greater role in shaping the world’s future development as the final text of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) recognises their active participation.
After over 3 years of negotiation and consultation, States have agreed to a global commitment to end poverty in all its forms by 2030. The final agenda, adopted at the United Nations in New York on 2 August, carries commitments in areas such as human rights, social protection, and reaching the most vulnerable.
Plan International particularly welcomes strong language on commitments on critical issues facing girls and boys, such as quality education at all levels, ending child marriage, and birth registration.
“We are thrilled to see recognition of the positive power of girls, boys, young women, and young men as development actors in their own right,” said Plan International CEO Nigel Chapman. “This is a true game changer: from treating young people as passive recipients of development to active and powerful force for change in their communities and countries.”
Transforming commitments into action
Plan International has been strongly advocating for explicit recognition of the role girls, boys, and young people must play in the SDGs. It is calling for robust mechanisms to rigorously track implementation of the 17 SDGs if they are to transform the lives of millions of children as promised.
“Now that the Sustainable Development Goals are finalised, we have to make them a reality,” said Mr Chapman. “They are just words on paper unless we work with our partners in governments, civil society, communities and others to make sure they are transformed into action.”
Children and young people have a right to participate in decisions that affect them, and their insights and innovation are critical to success as plans to implement and monitor the SDGs are developed.
If girls, boys and young people are to inherit the benefits of the SDGs, they must be fully consulted and informed as they are in the best position to comment on their everyday experiences and challenges, as well as the specific impact of laws and policies.
Children, adolescents and youth can also be leaders in their communities, with innovative ideas and an eagerness for delivering change that can transform lives for the better.
Governments should commit to meaningfully engaging children and young people as they develop their national plans of action and undertake monitoring to ensure they are meeting commitments.
“Countries should commit to hold national reviews at least every 4 years, commit to meaningful participation of all sections of their population and undertake specifically to show how marginalised communities are faring,” said Mr Chapman.
“The quality of implementation and follow-up and review processes will be the determining factor if the SDGS are truly to deliver what they promise for the poor and marginalised.”
Leaving no one behind
The SDGs are far broader in scope than their predecessors, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and now include the economic, environmental and social aspects of development.
The core challenges of quality healthcare, quality education and gender equality are tackled more robustly in the SDGs than in the MDGs. Other important issues are included, such as ending violence against children, ending gender based violence; building peaceful, inclusive societies; decreasing inequality; and much more emphasis on environmental factors that affect global sustainability.
The SDGs repeatedly state the importance of “leaving no one behind”. For Plan International this is critical as we strive to ensure we reach the most excluded and marginalised girls, boys and young people.
Gender equality, and the importance of the empowerment and the human rights of girls and women, also play a key role in the goals.
Governments have still to agree robust global-level progress indicators in a negotiation process that will last until March 2016. It’s an important first step in ensuring the SDGs are truly transformative.
Strong indicators will drive improvement in priority areas for Plan International, such as the rights of adolescent girls. If sexual and reproductive health indicators only measure progress for women over 15, they are ignoring the significant and specific needs of adolescent girls aged 10-14 years old during this critical period.
Plan International continues to meet with UN member states and civil society coalitions to influence the indicators for the SDGs. We are also holding meetings with governments in the countries where we work to ensure the transformative potential of the SDGs is realised.
The SDGs are due to be officially adopted by world leaders at a summit in New York in September.