Young people played a crucial role in shaping the 2030 Agenda, which recognises them as “critical agents of change” and integrates their priorities and needs across the economic, environmental and social dimensions of development. Explicitly or implicitly, young people’s aspirations are embedded throughout the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their targets.
With the SDG implementation well underway, young people’s participation and empowerment, from the global to the local level, should be understood as both a means and an end in itself. Indeed, youth voices, actions and solutions, as well as their reach and willingness to influence decision-making, are all essential if sustainable development is to be achieved.
Yet, many young people—who often make up a majority in their societies—still experience interlocked forms of discrimination and marginalization, barriers in accessing their rights, limited civic and political inclusion, high levels of poverty as well as limited access to health, education and decent jobs.
To meet the ambition of the 2030 Agenda and to do justice to young people’s role as agents of change, development actors should systematically promote and invest in meaningful youth participation in SDG implementation, strengthening their involvement in global, regional, national and local level processes as well as enhancing their substantive engagement at programme/project level.
These Guiding Principles, developed by the Inter-Agency Working Group on Youth & SDGs*, while not claiming to be exhaustive, are meant for all partners and stakeholders who see the centrality and interconnection between youth participation and empowerment and the achievement of the SDGs. They are meant for those seeking guidance on how to effectively, proactively and responsibly foster youth participation in SDG implementation across development contexts so that the collective power of young people can contribute to real and lasting change. Starting from these principles and the indispensable role of youth organisations, young leaders and networks, development actors should consider additional modalities and avenues by which youth participation can be enhanced, such as through youth volunteerism, South-South and triangular cooperation as well as private sector and inter-generational partnerships.
* The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Restless Development have developed these Guiding Principles, on behalf of the Working Group on Youth & SDGs and the Inter-Agency Network on Youth Development (IANYD). UN entities, UN Youth Delegates, the UN Major Group of Children and Youth and other civil society partners, including youth organisations, were consulted in the process.