The following call to action is issued by SDSN Youth Australia, New Zealand & Pacific to the Australian Government.
Young people and youth-led organisations are starkly aware of the urgency of the challenges that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) seek to address, and we are eager to harness our skills and capabilities to achieve them. In this call to action, we call on the Australian Government to advance the implementation of the SDGs, and support the leadership, agency and participation of youth in making them a reality.
Our generation has an enormous stake in the SDGs, and will be heavily affected by the decisions made and actions taken in response to it. The goals appeal to our sense of justice, equality and responsibility towards the planet and align closely with many of the issues that disproportionately affect us, such as quality education, unemployment, and housing affordability. As we will be around to witness the lasting impacts of what occurs in the present, we are heavily invested in and accountable for generating the best possible outcomes for our future.
Since the adoption of the SDGs in September 2015, the youth sector has proactively taken ownership and made strides in tackling the most pressing issues through avenues such as activism, entrepreneurship, educational initiatives and civic participation. Within our organisations, we have integrated the SDGs into our strategies and core activities, and have developed innovative ways to engage and empower our stakeholders to take action. If provided with the tools and support to scale our efforts, and access to decision-making spaces, we can have a much greater impact.
Given that the performance of the SDGs will hugely impact the lives of young people, our influence and contributions will be crucial to successfully securing a sustainable, prosperous and peaceful future. There is enormous capacity for all levels of government, particularly federal, to take measures to better represent the interests of young people and invest in building their knowledge and capacity. For this reason, we make the following calls to action:
We urge the Australian Government uphold its commitment to the SDGs and take necessary steps to advance their implementation, including through the recommendations of the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee’s report “United Nations Sustainable Development Goals”. We strongly encourage the Government to follow the Senate Committee’s recommendations to strengthen means of implementation.
We call for the re-establishment of the Ministry for Youth Affairs at the Federal level, to present young people with opportunities to directly inform the decisions that affect their lives, and reflect their best interests in the planning of programs and policies. A voice within the government that caters to youth-based concerns will ensure that the Government is adequately responding to issues that deeply impact young people, such as high youth unemployment, mental illness, rise in youth homelessness and housing affordability. Furthermore, the Ministry can support the youth sector in achieving the SDGs by mobilising resources towards programs that align with SDG-oriented objectives.
We endorse the establishment of an Independent Youth Commission to provide a platform for assessing and evaluating policies with a youth focus, and ensuring the accountability of ministerial portfolios. This independent statutory body will inject a much-needed youth perspective in legislative processes, provide oversight for the execution of federal legislations, and ensure accountability in initiatives across all levels of government.*
We strongly advocate for the Federal Government to conduct regular data collection, measuring, monitoring and reporting on Australia’s performance on the SDGs, in consultation with all sectors, including youth. As young people face unique challenges and are disproportionately affected by many social and economic issues, we encourage the reporting of SDG progress to include a focus on the youth lens, examining the concerns of young people and how they fare in relation to the rest of the population.
There is an urgent need for public awareness campaigns to address the lack of SDG awareness amongst the Australian population. Governments at every level, given their considerable reach and influence, are in the best position to drive awareness and education around the SDGs. Furthermore, we believe educational institutions are instrumental mediums to deliver SDG knowledge and we support any efforts by federal, state and local governments to implement SDG education in schools and higher education institutions.
As young people, we are purpose-driven and possess crucial characteristics to achieve sustainable development – creativity, idealism, ambition. If the Australian Government invests in its youth population and cultivates their competence to drive positive change, our nation will benefit from a highly skilled generation that is equipped to deliver strategies to solve the challenges we face as a nation and as a planet. We urge the Government to consider these recommendations and take steps towards advancing the SDGs and bring young people to the forefront in making them reality.
This call to action was prepared by SDSN Youth Australia, New Zealand & Pacific (AusNZPac) with input from representatives of the following organisations that attended the ‘Youth at the Forefront of SDG Implementation’ Forum held in Melbourne on February 12, 2019:
AIESEC in Australia, AIESEC in Melbourne, AIESEC Monash, Asia-Pacific Youth Organisation (APYO), Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience, Australian Medical Students Association (AMSA), BorrowCup, Cognizant, Foundation for Young Australians (FYA), Global Schools Program, Marco Polo Project, Monash SEED, Oaktree, Rethink Plastic, RMIT University Student Union, SDG Students Program and UN Youth Australia.
* The following recommendation was submitted by Oaktree in their report, ‘The case for an Independent Commissioner for Future Generations’.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of SDSN Youth, and do not necessarily reflect the positions taken by any other entity, unless stated otherwise.