International Youth Day
12 August 2017

Ahead of International Youth Day, celebrated on 12 August, the United Nations in India visited Bhubaneswar in Odisha State to discuss the importance of youth in reaching the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with students at three of the city’s proud educational institutions: The Kalinga Institute for Science and Technology (KIIT), The Kalinga Institute for Social Sciences (KISS) and the SAI International School.

SAI International School organized a three-day Model UN, with hundreds of Indian and international students participating, under the theme “One World, One Family” – the ancient Indian principle that all people and issues are inter-connected – that could well have been the motto reflecting the spirit of the SDGs.

The 17 SDGs and 169 targets are part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by 193 Member States at the UN General Assembly Summit in September 2015. These goals are the result of an unprecedented consultative process that brought national governments and millions of citizens from across the globe together to negotiate and adopt the global path to sustainable development for the next 15 years. The SDGs cover important issues such as poverty, hunger, education, health and education, gender equality, water and sanitation, economic growth and decent work, reducing inequalities, sustainable cities, climate action, ecosystems and peace and justice.

The current generation of youth is the largest young generation the world has ever seen. And as the Agenda 2030 is essentially a vision for their future, young people have an important role to play in making it a reality.

“I count on you to make this universal agenda your own – this is your agenda. Your actions will determine what your future will look like,” Derk Segaar, Director of the UN Information Centre in Delhi, told the student at SAI International School.

But the challenges facing today’s youth are daunting. Despite the global unemployment rate falling from 6.1 percent in 2010 to 5.7 percent in 2016, according to the recently released UN SDG progress report, youth were nearly three times more likely than adults to be without a job. And in India, the government targets to train 400 million people by 2022 under the National Policy for Skill Development.

Meanwhile at the Kalinga Institute for Industrial Technology in Bhubaneswar, 25,000 tuition-paying students help another 25,000 students with a tribal background receive free education, accommodation and food at the Kalinga Institute for Social Sciences. It is an inspiring real-life example of the interconnectedness of SDGs and the principle of Leave no One Behind.

Founded by Achyuta Samanta, the KISS free education programme for tribal communities addresses most SDGs: reducing poverty and inequality, improving health, nutrition, gender equality, youth empowerment and education, providing decent work and opportunities for marginalized communities, helping to build peaceful societies by providing opportunities for youth in local unrest-affected areas, building environmental awareness and combatting climate change through a myriad of environmental projects on campus (which runs on solar energy).

“We have demonstrated though our programmes that children can be agents of change for their families and their community”, Samanta said.

The Government of India is strongly committed to the 2030 Agenda as evidenced by the statements of the Prime Minister and other senior Ministers at national and international meetings. For 14 out of 17 SDGs, large-scale national programmes already existed in India, even before the adoption of the SDGs.

At the core of this global agenda for 2030 is the principle of ‘Leave No One Behind’ or reaching those furthest behind, first. Development in all its dimensions must be inclusive of all people, everywhere, and should be built through the participation of everyone, with special efforts made to reach the most vulnerable and marginalised.

During his inaugural address on 25 July 2017, Indian President Kovind alluded to these principles by stating: “Each Indian is a nation builder. The key to India’s success is its diversity”. He added that “India should focus on its ability to enhance access and opportunity for the last person and the last girl-child from an underprivileged family in the last house in the last village.”

Under SDG 10, Reduced Inequalities, the principle of Leave No One Behind is translated in the concrete target to increase and sustain income growth of the bottom 40% of the population in a country at a rate which is higher than the national average.

On 26 July, Odisha State announced its own targeted efforts to leave no one behind, establishing special development councils in nine tribal-dominated districts.

Addressing around 7,000 young students at KISS, Mr. Segaar encouraged in particular the young girls to take their studies seriously. “To solve the world’s most challenging problems, we need your brain power, your creativity, your ideas and your leadership,” he said.

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