NEW YORK, April 27: The UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network - Youth Initiative (SDSN Youth) has selected its inaugural class of the Local Pathways Fellows – sixty young innovators, urban planners, architects, advocates and sustainability leaders that will “champion local pathways for sustainable development” in more than 52 cities across the world.

Intended to build on the momentum around the adoption of the New Urban Agenda at the UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) last year in Quito, the Local Pathways Fellowship is the first global training program aimed at empowering youth to advance progress on the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development within cities and human settlements.

The program equips the fellows with the knowledge, resources and platform to guide and inform their advocacy and outreach work, and to support their efforts in promoting local understanding, dialogue and problem solving in cities and local communities.

The fellowship was officially kicked off in April, bringing together a group of 60 young people who represent a broad spectrum of backgrounds – young municipal leaders, urban planners, architects, sustainability advocates, researchers and entrepreneurs – and experiences living in different urban settings – from Dhaka, Jakarta and Mumbai, to New York, Mexico City and Buenos Aires.

The fellowship utilizes two of SDSN’s flagship products: the SDG Cities Guide, which had served as a foundation of the training program design, and the SDG Academy’s Sustainable Cities MOOC, integrated as the core component of the curriculum.

A practically-oriented training program is designed to provide a guiding framework for action, and connect fellows with leading development experts and practitioners in the field. The program will take fellows on a 12-month journey, throughout which they will explore the practical steps, strategies and solutions their cities may put in place to ‘localize’ the globally adopted goals and targets.

The process of learning and exploration is intended to amplify the impact fellows are already making through their various endeavors and help them become “local SDG advocates”, working to promote public policy dialogue around concrete strategies and initiatives their city needs to adopt to build a better future for its citizens.

Towards the conclusion of the 12-month training program, the fellows will develop an idea for a local initiative aimed at solving one of the pressing problems facing their city (a ‘project concept note’). The results of the fellowship will be presented at the World Urban Forum in February 2018 and the High Level Political Forum in July 2018.

The fellowship is being led by SDSN Youth in partnership with the United Nations Human Settlements Program (UN Habitat), the City of Milan (Milan Urban Food Policy Pact) and a range of stakeholders.

Professor Jeffrey Sachs, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Advisor on the SDGs and Director of the Sustainable Development Centre at Columbia University, has supported the initiative, saying that the aim of the Fellowship is to “guide the fellows to be the creators of smart, fair and sustainable cities”. This means cities that are “economically prosperous, equitably fair in the benefits that they offer and environmentally sustainable”.

Aromar Revi, the Sustainable Cities MOOC lead author, Director of the Indian Institute for Human Settlements and world’s leading advocate for putting cities at the forefront of global policy debates, has also supported the initiative, emphasizing that “young people are the key agents of change, the bridge between the past and the future, the local and the global”.

Siamak Sam Loni, Global Coordinator of SDSN Youth, says that young people must be seen as key stakeholders in the localization of the Sustainable Development Goals.

"To create communities that offer hope instead of desperation, cities must promote a sense of belonging and treat young people as equal and capable partners. If local authorities harness the qualities of youth and work closely with them to plan, design and manage cities, we could see more livable communities"

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Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of 17 goals included in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which was launched at UN Headquarters in September 2015 and adopted by 193 member countries of the UN. The SDGs, which are relevant to all countries, aim to achieve social inclusion, economic prosperity and environmental sustainability.

SDSN was launched by UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, in 2012 to mobilize global scientific and technological expertise to promote practical problem solving for sustainable development, including the design and implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

SDSN Youth is the youth initiative of UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, focused on empowering youth globally to create sustainable development solutions. SDSN Youth educates young people about the challenges of sustainable development and creates opportunities for them to use their creativity and knowledge to pioneer innovative solutions for the SDGs.