Sustainable development needs young people

Sustainable development needs young people

January 17, 2018

Sustainable development needs young people

With their energy and creativity, young people are the key resource for achieving the sustainable development goals and bringing about the transformation towards a better future for mankind and the environment. 

In 2015, the representatives of 193 countries adopted what is in all respects the most important and pressing agenda of the century: the 17 sustainable development goals promoted by the United Nations. These were widely discussed from different perspectives during the eighth edition of the BCFN Forum on Food and Nutrition, in which young people, as is invariably the case with BCFN projects, took center stage. And young people are the key to achieving the environmental and social sustainability goals set for 2030, according to Siamak Sam Loni, Global Coordinator of SDSN Youth – an initiative that forms part of the broader project known as Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) developed by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Loni's engagement on sustainability is also reflected in his role within the Executive Committee of SDSN Australia/Pacific, based at the Monash Sustainable Development Institute in Australia, and in his work as a tutor to numerous students tackling a variety of topics, including international diplomacy, sustainable development and climate change


What, in your view, are the most important challenges included within the 17 sustainable development goals?

All the goals are important if we are to achieve the final milestone of a truly sustainable world for mankind and the environment. But of course, the issues of nutrition challenges – also meant as the right to food and to zero hunger and food loss and waste – along with sustainable agriculture feature very widely within the 17 goals, though in different ways. We shouldn't forget, however, that all the other goals are inextricably linked to each other in a closely knit network that needs to be tackled with an all-round commitment by the various stakeholders. 

What is the right approach to meet the challenges that even today make sustainable development seem like a distant prospect?

In my view, the approach embodied by the 2030 Agenda is exactly the right one. We have to set ambitious and revolutionary goals, like the 17 goals defined by the United Nations, because the existing food systems and current economic policies need a thorough shake-up to secure a real and lasting change. 

But all this isn't enough. We will never achieve true sustainability if we don't follow what we might say is the real motto for the sustainable development goals: “No one should be left behind.” Inclusiveness, and taking into account everyone's needs without overlooking the weakest stakeholders, is the only winning solution. 

What role can young people play in a situation that is so complex and faced with problems that seem impossible to solve?

Yong people are the real solution to these challenges, and they are perfectly placed to set in motion a revolutionary change. There are many reasons why I really believe this, most of all because of the characteristics that are typical of young generations. Young people are very positive about the future, they are idealistic and their creativity enables them to think outside the box and find new solutions to problems that seem impossible to solve. This was also shown by the young people who took part in the BCFN Yes! contest, which gave them an opportunity to give tangible shape to all the energy, creativity and idealism that we've been talking about. And last but not least, we must remember that there are a lot of young people in the world today, there are 3.5 billion young people aged below 30 – an army that can make a huge contribution to the cause of sustainability.  


Your personal experience is linked to a central issue for this edition of the forum, namely immigration. What are your thoughts on the subject and what connection do you see between immigration and sustainable development goals?

I've lived in Australia since I was a child, but my family is from Iran, which my parents fled from in order to give myself and my family a future worthy of the name. My personal story is similar to that of many other people who have been forced to flee their country in search of better living standards – standards that can never be attained in their home countries due to climate change, for instance, which causes the destruction of crops, and malnutrition, but also because of wars and oppressive political regimes. To achieve sustainable development goals means to recreate the conditions for a peaceful and acceptable life in many different places and for many people who, if they only had a chance, would avoid risking their lives and leaving everything behind in order to move somewhere else, even relying on human traffickers to do so.  

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