Sustainable Development: A Prerequisite for a Life of Dignity

I have just had the opportunity to virtually observe events carried out through the United Nations’ Working Group on Sustainable Development during their seventh session.

“248. We resolve to establish an inclusive and transparent intergovernmental process on sustainable development goals that is open to all stakeholders, with a view to developing global sustainable development goals to be agreed by the General Assembly. […]”

— Quote from the reportThe Future We Want

I have just had the opportunity to virtually observe events carried out through the United Nations’ Working Group on Sustainable Development during their seventh session. It was exciting to observe some of the events of this newly formed open working group. I learned that this group was established after the famous United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) occurred in Rio de Janiero, Brazil. After this conference, many world leaders acted upon the realization that the United Nations needed an effective system that could set up an efficient system of recommending sustainable development goals (also known as SDGs).

Throughout this experience, I learned about the positive effects that effective sustainable development initiatives could have on young people. Young people are often the most untapped resource when it comes to dealing with issues related to sustainable development. According to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, “one of Africa’s greatest untapped resources is its young people…” and he has repeatedly urged “the continent to take advantage of the skills and talents of its youth to promote sustainable development.”

I couldn’t agree more! There are youth throughout the world creating effective and innovative solutions to global sustainable development issues. Take the non-profit called the African Development Initiative. This non-profit, founded by youth, is helping poor villages in Africa gain access to clean water and irrigation systems. They are currently focusing on a project that will build a rural irrigation system for an African village named Ekumdipe. The organization hopes through utilizing the Daka river located in close proximity to the village, that they would be able to “create a thorough water irrigation system that will allow the citizens of Ekumdipe to farm year round.” Now, imagine what other great projects and solutions could be created if we encouraged youth, and especially young women, throughout the world to follow their dreams and by starting organizations and projects aimed at making the world a better and easier place to live in? (To learn more about the African Development Initiative see here.

I also heard Mr. Aromar Revi, the Director of the Indian Institute for Human Settlements. Having previously spent ten months living, working, and volunteering on projects related to economic and sustainable development and global health in New Delhi, India, it was great to meet someone directly working on issues related to making cities in India more sustainable and easier to live in. The Indian Institute for Human Settlements (IIHS) was the first national university within India created for the purpose of addressing India’s urbanization challenges through research, education, and advisory and consulting programs and services. Some of the challenges India face is the large amounts of people, and in particular young people, living in the slums located mostly throughout India’s major cities. When I was living in India, I frequently saw multi-million dollar apartment complexes located in close proximity to slums where people lived in homes made of plastic, and in some cases cardboard cutout.

The seventh session covered several important topics, but one in particular really stood out for me: sustainable cities and human settlements. One of the speakers I listened to spoke about the importance of using public and private partnerships in order to help cities become more sustainable. I find it inspiring when organizations focusing on different sectors come together for a shared purpose and goal, especially when the goal is to make the world a better place.

The next session (8th session) of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development will be occurring in less than one month, from February 3rd to February 7th of 2014. Definitely check out the live streaming of events and speeches happening throughout the 8th Open Working Group. Also check out this website to learn about the history, mission, and goals of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development.

Tiffany Taylor, 2013-2014 U.S. Youth Observer at the UN