The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) constitute a shared international framework of development priorities to 2030 which aims to bring an end to extreme poverty, promote prosperity and wellbeing for all, protect the environment, address climate change, and encourage good governance and peace at global scale. They apply to all countries, including those in Africa. The core essence of the SDGs is to Leave No One Behind (LNOB) and therefore Africa like all other continents must endeavor to Leave No One Behind in the quest for achieving the SDGs and related targets.
The youth of Africa have a critical stake in ensuring the SDGs are achieved and a vital role to play in contributing towards their achievement. Gifted with innovation, imagination, energy and optimism, they are the key drivers of sustainable development at the local, national and global level. As the present and future inheritors of this planet, young people have the right as well as responsibilities to spearhead the sustainable development agenda and build synergy for a new system of development founded on knowledge sharing, cooperating and the prioritization of issues such as extreme poverty, climate change, increasing inequality, and a growing complexity of governance. Whilst the SDG 2030 Agenda requires African States to develop and implement policies and programmes to meet the challenges confronting Africa’s youth, it is important for the youth to recognize they themselves have an active and integral role to play in their own development.
Therefore, the focus of the African Youth SDGs Summit is on the Youth of Africa and the SDGs. Youth development and engagement are cross-cutting issues in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The World Programme of Action for Youth (WPAY) by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) identified 86 indicators, among the 232 of the SDGs, which are relevant and provide information on the development of youth. The Security Council Resolutions 2250 (2015) and 2419 (2018), acknowledging that young people play an important and positive role in the realization of sustainable development, in the prevention of crises and in the advancement of peace.
The priority areas of this strategy for the youth included Engagement, Participation and Advocacy; Informed and Healthy Foundations; Economic Empowerment through Decent Work; Youth and Human Rights and, Peace and Resilience Building. Similarly, the vision of UN Youth Strategy is a world in which the human rights of every young person are realized; that ensures every young person is empowered to achieve their full potential; and that recognizes young people’s agency, resilience and their positive contributions as agents of change. The strategy is based on the fact young people are critical assets for now and in the future and it is crucial to invest in them. The youth are connected to each other and contribute to the development of their countries through innovative solutions, inspiring and driving social and political change.
The African Union Agenda 2063 provides a coordinated framework for the socio-economic transformation of the continent over the next 50 years. It is built on and seeks to accelerate the implementation of past and existing continental initiatives for growth and sustainable development. The strategy has seven (7) major sections identified as “Aspirations”. The Sixth Aspiration provides the framework for the development of youth in Africa. Sections 50 to 58 provide specifics on how the strategy intends to create space for youth engagement and development in the affairs of the AU. It is worth noting that Article 11 of the African Youth Charter of AU also provides framework for countries to create space for youth engagement in all activities of the country. It is imperative that countries in Africa comply with the tenets of both SDG 2030 and AU Agenda 2063 as far as the development of youth is concerned.
It is therefore crucial that the youth mobilize themselves to engage with their leaders on appropriate strategies to benefit the youth. The youth must demand from their leaders, as duty bearers, a place at the table where critical decisions are made. To achieve this requires capacity development for the youth, including access to information and skills to enable their engagement. With about 11 years to 2030, it is important for all stakeholders working within the SDG framework to accelerate their efforts, including strengthening the capacity of the youth to ensure that No One is Left Behind. This essential agenda will form the focus of the Summit.