At a time in which the world faces some of its biggest challenges such as poverty, hunger, inequality and climate change, among many others, the 47 young people from all over the world that were selected to take part of the Vatican Youth Symposium represent our best hope for our present and future. They are willing to change our reality towards the implementation of the 2030 Agenda through innovative solutions in the fields of technology, health, education, and arts among many others. All of them brought their experience and passion to this forum and shared their current projects as well as plans for achieving the SDGs.

The event started with the Global Village Dinner, an occasion to celebrate the diversity of the Symposium, to which the delegates brought an element of their cultures or were dressed in their traditional national attires. An opportunity for their interaction, building bridges among different perspectives and uniting them towards their common objectives. This opening celebration, as well as the following sessions of the Symposium, took place at the Casina Pio IV at the Vatican Gardens, a masterpiece of the XVI century architecture built by Pirro Ligorio.

The Dinner started with the words of H.E. Msgr. Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences followed by Dr. Betsee Parker, thanks to whose support this Symposium was possible, Gabriella Marino from the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Gabriela Sampaio (SDSN Youth), and Isabel Pérez Dobarro (SDSN Youth) who presented SDSN Youth's project Twenty Thirty, which uses arts to raise awareness about the SDGs and foster their implementation. Concert cellist Francesco Marini reflected the values of this initiative through his playing.

On October 30, 2016, took place the first session of the Vatican Youth Symposium. This opening session was preceded by a musical performance by concert pianist Isabel Pérez Dobarro and concert cellist Francesco Marini representing SDSN Youth´s initiative Twenty Thirty again. The first meeting started with H. E. Msgr. Sánchez Sorondo discussing the Encyclic Laudato Si´.

Dr. Betsee Parker followed, encouraging the delegates to act in these difficult times. Prof. Jeffrey Sachs also inspired the youth to take action for what was right following the motto “learn one, do one, teach one.” Learn then apply that learning and then share it with the ones that surround you. Also, he emphasized that young people are the entrepreneurs of sustainable development and their efforts should continue.

To close this session, SDSN Youth global coordinator, Siamak Sam Loni, shared his moving experience against human trafficking and encouraged the participants to take advantage of the extraordinary opportunity that the Vatican Youth Symposium represented.

After the opening sessions, the delegates’ presentations started. Educational curricula to raise awareness about human trafficking, a program to help students from developing countries to apply to and attend Western Universities, a theater company that promotes ethical and aesthetical education through theater plays were some of the 47 projects selected to participate in this Symposium. Before the presentations were over, the Symposium’s participants had the honor of meeting His Holiness Pope Francis. It was a truly exceptional moment that both SDSN Youth team members and the delegates lived with great emotion.

After the meeting, the presentations continued during the afternoon and evening.

To end this first day of the Symposium, the panel of judges formed by Dr. Betsee Parker, H. E. Msgr. Sánchez Sorondo, Prof. Jeffrey Sachs, as well as SDSN Council members, gave some general comments and suggestions to the delegates.

The second day of the Symposium started with three moving and brave statements by victims of human trafficking. By sharing their stories, the participants learned about the cruelty of this form of slavery and possible ways of taking action.

After this exercise, the SDSN Youth team asked the delegates to change their initiatives with the lessons learned and elaborate an elevator pitch of each of them, to help them develop clarity and concision in presenting their ideas. Once they finished presenting an amended version of their proposals, the delegates voted for their ten preferred solutions. The panel of judges then selected two of these solutions to be part of SDSN Youth Solutions Report and the COP22 in Marrakech. The winners were Malav Sanghavi for his initiative “LifeCraddle” and Jordan Imahori for his project “Evaporative Cooling Vests.” The Symposium concluded afterward with a dinner in which the delegates received their certificates of participation.

The Vatican Youth Symposium was an extraordinary opportunity for young people around the world to connect, share ideas, and collaborate to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. SDSN Youth was proud to partner with the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in the organization of such an incredible event and looks forward to keeping the support to young people around the planet to make the SDGs a reality and build a better world.