The following blog post is a speech made by Anastasia Kostomarova at the AIESEC #YouthSpeak Conference in Poland on 17 August 2016
Good afternoon delegates!
Thank you for having me here.
My name is Anastasia. I am a Research and Policy Officer with SDSN Youth; one of the leading global networks in sustainable development.
Our network was launched by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in 2012 to mobilise expertise around the SDGs and to serve as an advisory body to governments on solving the most pressing challenges of our time. The network is led by Professor Jeffrey Sachs - the UN Secretary General’s Envoy on the SDGs, who has always been a fierce advocate of youth and sustainable development.
The mission of SDSN Youth is simple: we are empowering young people globally to create sustainable development solutions.
One of the ways we are doing that is through sharing stories of young people's success with the world’s most powerful men and women.
Young people around the world are doing fantastic work -- except nobody knows about them. And they have no means to getting the world’s attention.
Achievements of young people are hardly shared in the media - if at all. And they are often portrayed as passive victims, or worse --- as troublemakers and rebels in our society.
We need to change this image -- and one way to do that would be through stories of their success.
Because maybe, just maybe, by sharing these stories we can convince governments and businesses to invest in these brilliant young people and their breakthrough ideas.
For the SDGs to become a reality we need three things. First we need ambition, second - we need public support and third - we need a social transformation.
As I said, we need to be ambitious - but too often I come across resolute scepticism -- people who say that the SDGs will not amount to much, they will end up being just another failed attempt.
Also, to fulfill the promise of the SDGs to leave no-one behind - we need ownership and we need everyone to care - that won’t happen if billions of people remain unaware of these goals and their significance. How will we do that if our governments are primarily occupied with the next election?
For a true transformation, above all, we need transformative thinking -- and new ideas. But at forums and conferences, we see the same old ideas. And here comes the final question - how would we fix our problems with the same thinking that started them?
Well, we think we have some answers to that.
Firstly, young people are known to be optimists and idealists - and in case of the SDGs...we will need that! We will need YOUR optimism and YOUR enthusiasm to live up to that ambition.
Secondly, half the world’s population is under the age of 30 - that number is going to matter. Let’s not underestimate the power of 3.5 billion determined individuals with an infinite capacity for activism. We believe that young people are the ones who can take this agenda into national conversations and get the public to care - just as they have done with the climate change movement.
Finally, if we truly wish to transform our societies, we must invest in the creativity of youth. We need to show the world what their imaginations can do - especially if is matched with the experience, the expertise and power of older generations.
This is EXACTLY what the Youth Solutions Report will do.
The Youth Solutions Report celebrates young people all over the world who DESERVE TO BE KNOWN ----- and whose innovative ideas need to be supported and scaled.
It is incredible to see the exchange of ideas and excitement in this place, which is exactly why we need to celebrate your work and tell YOUR stories, stories of of young people, at the highest political levels. Whether it is in the halls of the United Nations, at the Climate Change Conference, High Level Political Forum or other forums - we will be there and we will share those stories.
And today I am very proud to announce that we are partnering with AIESEC International - to recognize, support and scale the solutions created by young people across the world. This collaboration will allow us to make sure that we reach millions of young people so that they, too, have their chance to be known. I am also happy to announce that one of the solutions that the [ the action space ] teams put so much effort in will be featured in our first report.
And before I invite the president of AIESEC to the stage, I’d like to conclude with a quote very dear to my heart that I think captures the message we all need to take home.
“Let us not be the product of our future, let us make the future be the product of us and our ideas.” - Siamak Sam Loni
Anastasiya Kostomarova is a Project Officer for Research and Policy at SDSN Youth. All opinions expressed on the blog are the opinion of the authors and not of SDSN Youth.