15 September 2023, New York. – Co-Creating the Future: Youth-led Localization of the SDGs conference took place at the United Nations Headquarters as a lead up to the UN General Assembly SDG Summit. The conference focused on harnessing the power of youth and digital innovation to advance the SDGs. The conference aims to showcase innovative approaches by young entrepreneurs and the role of digital innovation in achieving local and global SDGs, with the goal of a youth local Pact for the Future that builds on the Global Youth DeclarAction on Urban Sustainability adopted at the World Urban Forum, and will fed into the local Pacts committed to by the UN.
The conference commenced with a session featuring a welcome and introduction by Ali Mustafa from AFS, one of the coordinating partners of the exhbitionm, setting the tone for the days to come. Among those who spoke were Miroslav Polzer, coordinator of IAAI GloCha, who presented a vision for global change. His insights resonated with the audience, emphasizing the urgency of youth-led localization of the SDGs through digital innovation.
Complementing these was the contribution of Esther Muiruri, Founder of the Gold Ribbon Initiative a member of the UN Local2030 Coalition, emphasizing the equal partnership of young people in accelerating SDG localization. She noted their unique advantage in terms of creativity, technology access, and innovation, providing a promising avenue for recalibrating efforts toward achieving the Global Goals by 2030. These diverse voices, united in their commitment to the SDGs, serve as the driving force behind this conference, inspiring collaborative action and progress.
This session brought forth a panel of experts, each contributing a unique perspective on youth engagement and the localization of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Daniel Obst, CEO of AFS, underscored the imperative of empowering young individuals with the tools and knowledge essential for driving meaningful action. He asserted, “We must prepare young people to take action and ensure that they have the tools to take action,” emphasizing the pivotal role of education and resources in fostering youth-led change.
Nena Dokuzov is a coordinator of the Strategy of digital transformation of economy at the Ministry of the Economy, Tourism and Sport in Slovenia. She discussed the powerful intersection of digital innovation and climate action, underscoring the potential of blockchain technology in addressing global challenges. Oscar Wendel, a forward-thinker representing Dubai World Trade Center, delved into the vast possibilities offered by blockchain technology and its potential to reshape industries and enhance sustainability.
Trang Fernandez Leenknecht passionately expressed her belief in the capacity of human capital and innovation to catalyze tangible and sustainable action towards a brighter future. She affirmed, “Personally, I believe in human capital and innovation that brings action,” showcasing the critical role of creativity and innovation in driving progress.
Raphael Obonyo, a journalist from Kenya, suggested that the conference was very important for youth and sustainable urbanization.
“Youth possess the essential ingredients necessary for societal progress. Whenever we exclude young people, our society suffers as we miss out on these crucial elements. They are the true game changers, and to engage them effectively, we must empower and enable them,” stated Obonyo.
Obonyo’s words emphasized the irreplaceable role of youth in advancing societal development. He highlighted that meaningful engagement and empowerment of young individuals are vital steps toward harnessing their potential as catalysts for positive change, aligning with the core objectives of the event focused on youth-led localization of the SDGs through digital innovation.
The final speaker, Lenin Zambrano, a Kechwa lawyer from Ecuador, is both a UN-Habitat Youth Advisory Board representive and a coordinator of the Otavalango of the Integr-Habitat / One Stop Youth Resource Centre, an organization deeply committed to preserving indigenous culture and traditions of the Kichwa Otavalo people. Otavalango actively engages youth in initiatives that promote the localization of the SDGs such as Youth 2030 Cities. Otavalango’s role is pivotal in empowering indigenous voices and engaging them in local government. The organization’s efforts not only aim to safeguard cultural heritage but also address local challenges related to the SDGs, fostering inclusivity, and nurturing a better future for their community. Through Otavalo DeclarAction on Sustainable Urbanization, they collaborate with local authorities, bridging the gap between indigenous communities and global development agendas.
In conclusion, the Co-Creating the Future: Youth-led Localization of the SDGs conference held at the United Nations Headquarters provided a platform for diverse voices and perspectives to converge in the spirit of advancing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The event, characterized by informative sessions and expert insights, underlined the critical role of youth, digital innovation, and localization in achieving these global objectives.
Speakers like Miroslav Polzer, Esther Muiruri, Daniel Obst, Nena Dokuzov, Oscar Wendel, Trang Fernandez Leenknecht, Raphael Obonyo, and Lenin Zambrano collectively emphasized the significance of youth empowerment, innovation, and meaningful engagement. Their pragmatic insights and shared commitment to SDG localization underscored the conference’s core objectives.
The event served as a catalyst for youth-led initiatives and collaboration, fostering a sense of urgency and agency among young leaders to drive change at the local and global levels. It highlighted the importance of embracing innovation, harnessing technology, and creating inclusive spaces for dialogue to realize the SDGs effectively.
One important outcome of the conference was the establishment of the Pact for the Future, a collaborative effort that builds upon the Global Youth DeclarAction on Urban Sustainability adopted at the World Urban Forum. This pact signifies a commitment by local governments to work alongside youth in addressing the challenges related to the SDGs. It represents a tangible step towards empowering tomorrow and ushering in a brighter, more sustainable future.
Ultimately, the Co-Creating the Future conference showcased the potential of youth-led localization through digital innovation and exemplified the spirit of collective action necessary to create a more sustainable and equitable world. These diverse voices illuminated the path forward, reinforcing the conference’s mission to empower tomorrow and create a better future for all.