We as young people find ourselves at a juncture. We find ourselves in an era of angst and tension, where global leaders are looking the other way. We find ourselves in a world that is fraught with a humanitarian crisis, corrupt institutions, environmental degradation and a rise in populist, anti-globalization sentiment. Essentially, we as young people, find ourselves in the midst of a crisis of values.

In Vatican City October 14-15 2017, 50 young leaders from 30 different countries convened to address this crisis. Together in solidarity and in true partnership, we reaffirmed our commitment to ending poverty and hunger, to protecting the planet from degradation, to ensuring that human beings can enjoy prosperous and fulfilling lives. Together, we reaffirmed our commitment to peace; a commitment that has over time lost direction at the hands of those driving nationalistic and divisive agendas.

The Vatican Youth Symposium served as a forum for intellectual and innovative discussion, on universal inequality, and the critical shift that is not only required but one that must be pragmatically driven by young people. Rather than mere symbolism and idealistic commentary, challenges within local contexts were considered, solutions were posed and action commenced. Further in line with this call for tangible action, was the assignment issued to the entire cohort by SDG Architect, and Director of the UNSDSN, Professor Jeffrey Sachs. Working together and using any and all resources available, we were tasked with bringing practical actions to the table before the close of VYS17.

It was inspiring to witness colleagues from all over the world, many of which had only known each other for a matter of hours, sitting in the beautiful grounds of Casina Pio IV bonded together with a common purpose. In an attempt to achieve this highly ambitious and extensive agenda, we commenced sharing best practices, collating resources, distributing communication materials and imparting technical expertise on our respective interests.

Together, a network of individuals representing various organizations and local communities was built, naturally and fluidly, all in the name of sustainable development.

Remarkably, the VYS17 cohort banded together, many of which worked all hours of the night in their hotel, to return back to Professor Sachs on the final day with clear commitments and tangible actions, bringing us one step closer to achieving the SDGs.

This reaffirmed to me personally, the collaborative nature of young people, and the willingness we as a generation have to assist others in pursuit of common goals.

However, despite this determination to collaborate, we find ourselves unable to overcome some hurdles, many of which could be surpassed with access to greater funding.  In response to this call, Dr Betsee Parker, Baroness of Locheil, and long-time supporter of young people working for change, graciously committed USD$100,000 to this particular network of individuals working to combat global inequality and environmental degradation.

Collectively through #VYS17, young people spoke and the world listened. In two days, the Symposium had millions of impressions on Twitter alone, and viewers from all over the world tuned in to the live stream; raising awareness for the Sustainable Development Goals and inspiring other young people to drive critical change.


View the Livestream of Day 1 here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pZqybXui_bw
View the Livestream of Day 2 here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nlxHe7szUYs
More information on PAS: http://www.casinapioiv.va/content/accademia/en.html
More information on SDSN Youth: http://sdsnyouth.org
More information on Youth Solutions to SDGs: http://www.youthsolutions.report

The SDSN Youth team at the Vatican Youth Symposium 2017

The SDSN Youth team at the Vatican Youth Symposium 2017


John Farrugia holds a Bachelor of Arts (International) from Monash University as well as a Masters of International Relations, specializing in International Diplomacy and Trade, also from Monash University.

Currently, he is working as a Projects and Policy Analyst for the Australian APEC Study Centre, RMIT University where he is responsible for the development and implementation of conferences, dialogues and capacity building workshops within the Asia Pacific Region. 

John also leads the Networks team at the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network – Youth, a global team dedicated to securing, building and maintaining effective relationships with key stakeholders in order to drive collaboration and achieve the organization’s strategic goals. 

John has successfully organized several international and national forums discussing social and economic policy, including the Vatican Youth Symposium and the Australian National Youth Summit on the Sustainable Development Goals.