In multiple occasions, you may have heard phrases like “Young people are the future,” “It is important to include young people,” “The innovation, optimism and energy of young people is the gearshift.” It turns out to be a very recurrent issue that has been repeated so many times and in so many different ways that slowly its significance began to empty itself of meaning and to evoke more and more values.
Speaking of youth has become maybe a cliche or even a fashion. “Do not forget to name young people!,” “Include some young person so there are no claims,” “We also must to talk about the importance of youth.” This doesn’t mean that youth is not really important, the problem lies in those scenarios when it does not go beyond a saying, a slogan or empty words.
You may wonder which is the link with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Needless to say that humanity is currently facing the biggest challenge in history: a strong environmental, economic and social crisis able to reach a point of no return. And those who will suffer the consequences the most are young people, because they are the ones who inherit the Earth. It is because of them that the SUSTAINABILITY principle is born, which is satisfying the needs and aspirations of the current generation without compromising those of the future generations.
And it is at this point where the fundamental role of the young person lies, of taking an active role in decisions, because it is their own future that is at stake. Then they make constant claims against the world are receiving, which does not mean ungratefulness, but it does show disagreement, because they know the world is not as good as it could be. What they want is to transform it to make it better and better. In the words of Salvador Allende, “Being young and not being a revolutionary is a biological contradiction”.
This energy, optimism and creativity so present in young people are invaluable resources, sources of transformation and constant creation. Nevertheless, when they are not taken into practice, all those resources are wasted and remain as a simple ornament in some much applauded speech.
How can we take advantage of those resources? How can we assess the importance of young people through concrete actions? Firstly, believe in them, open doors for them to participate, comment, learn, share, teach and provide their own perspective. Then, give them credit to what they say and do, let them develop their ideas and create networks. Thirdly, it is necessary to consider it will be also those who want to take advantage of them, because of their impulse to change the world, they can be easily cheated by ill-intentioned people. Thus the third point is to foster critical thinking. Sowing critical thinking in young people today is harvesting the fruits of a more prosperous and more mature future generation.
The UN SDSN network, created as an initiative of the United Nations to enhance solutions towards the 2030 agenda, worked on this issue, locating young people in a role of exemplary importance. Other cases that show this line are organizations and networks such as AIESEC, the Junior Enterprise Mouvement and JCI, that foster more and more spaces for young people to participate in decision making.
So, are there more reasons to distrust the capacity of young people? Normally, in the generations that are currently ruling the world, there is a fear to lose what they have against the change that young people propose. The previous generations tend to perpetuate an image and a series of values of the world they know when they were young, but that world no longer exists. And it is young people who bring the new world’s perspectives. As centuries pass, the generation that holds the power confronts that which aspires to transformation.
But today we have a possibility, we can break these chains. Today more than ever, humanity has come to a point of interconnection and maturity that can end this century-old cycle in which one generation fights to death against the other. There is incredible potential to become one of the first generations that REALLY collaborates to achieve a common goal and reach a same purpose. Are you up for the challenge?
Cecilia Buffa: Biomedical Engineer from the University of Córdoba. Co-founder and former Institutional President of the Junior Enterprise Atlas J.E. in 2015. Co-creator of the National Confederation of Junior Companies in Argentina in 2017. Selected as one of the 300 green leaders in the Green Economy Summit organized in Córdoba Capital. Invited to the first meeting of members of SDSN Andes at UNASUR headquarters - Quito - Ecuador, and organizer of introductory talks to the SDGs and the SDSN network at the UNC (National University of Córdoba).
Franco Maestri: Biomedical Engineer from the UNC (National University of Córdoba). Co-founder and former Operational President of the Junior Enterprise Atlas J.E. in 2015. Speaker at the third Youth Symposium in the Vatican in 2016. Co-creator of the National Confederation of Junior Enterprises in 2017.