Our world is changing very fast, and quite often we find that we do not have time to react. From climate change to the migrant crisis, from the threat of terrorism to internal conflicts, the globalized world faces many challenges. Due to our growing interconnection, what happens in the global South will directly or indirectly affect the global North, and vice-versa. This is part of the globalization process, that we youth have been born in. Travelling in the time of our parents and grandparents was something difficult, now we can travel more easily and faster than ever. The same goes for the today’s world problems. And that is why we should be ready to face those problems by creating sustainable solutions, that could minimize the consequences of the problem (or even prevent them from happening).
In the same line, the liberal democracies, that characterize the globalized world, have also been challenged. The rise of populism and the lack of people's interest in elections have shown that liberal democracies are facing challenges from inside. But also external factors, such as the economic and migrant crisis, have shown that liberal democracies are struggling to keep its liberal values. In 1997, Zakaria claimed that the world was facing a rise of a “disturbing phenomenon”, what he called illiberal democracies. With the post-Cold War order democracies are on rising. However, democracies are divided between liberal and illiberal, and a global, or even regional, a consensus is hard to achieve. It is in this disagreements between liberal and illiberal democracies that youth should act, in order to protect our future.
A typical example is climate change. Climate change affects global North or South, liberal or illiberal democracies. Common consensus and common solutions need to be found despite all our differences. We have seen that climate change is real, and if we do not act now it could be too late, but we tend to look to terrorism as the major threat to our societies. Climate change is one of biggest challenges that we have to face, but overpopulation is another challenge that our globalized world is facing. The population has been growing too fast since the industrial revolution and will keep rising until around 10 billion people by the end of the century as some UN projections estimate. All these people will need food, for that we need resources such as water. The problem is that with climate change and land overuse, droughts will tend to be more extreme and soils will need more fertilizers to keep high levels of production, which will lead us to more pollution.
There is only one way that 10 billion people can coexist with the planet Earth: Sustainability. As the current liberal world order faces challenges, I believe that sustainability will have to be the new world order. The Human Rights and the Sustainable Development Goals should be what bring us together in order to face the today’s challenges. We need to put our differences aside and work together for a better world. For common problems we need joint actions, cooperation between the global North and South, between liberal and illiberal democracies, is needed if we want to preserve the planet Earth for our next generations. More cooperation will create fewer conflicts, fewer fluxes of migration, less poverty, more equality, more quality of life, and many other.
Even with our differences, I believe that we can find solutions for our challenges if we work together. Different perspectives working together under the same goal will only create better solutions for a sustainable development. NGOs also have an important role to play as United Nations is not able to reach all individuals due to its lack of effectiveness. Making States agree with something is not easy, but they understand that our actions have to change now and UN initiatives, such as the Sustainable Development Goals or the Paris agreement, have the goals and tools to create a more sustainable world. For a more sustainable world, world leaders need to hear the voice of the youth. Youth are part of the solution, and their ideas and ambitions need to be helped. The UN SDSN Youth is an example of how youth with different backgrounds and from all over the world can work together with the same goal of creating a more sustainable world, where the Human Rights can be respected. By “empowering youth globally to create sustainable solutions”, the UN SDSN Youth creates a better world for all, and our generation will be better prepared to face the consequences of today’s problems.
Fábio Lopes Paulos is OneEurope Ambassador to Portugal and SDSN Youth Campus Coordinator. He refers to himself as a world citizen that believes that “our globalized world needs more cooperation, we need to grow sustainable for a greener future and our societies need to be more tolerant and respect our differences, as we are now more globally interconnected”. Fábio holds a bachelor in International Relations and is now enrolled in a Global Studies Master’s Programme.