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Challenges of Youth Inclusivity

By Shakira Choonara
on June 1, 2015

Being recently selected as 1 of 14 youth globally for the Future Leaders Programme at the European Development Days (EDD 15) still feels surreal. One of the highlights of my trip to Belgium thus far has been to attend the event ‘Our World, Our Dignity, Our Future –  The Post 2015 Agenda and the Role of Youth’, an interactive debate between UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and Youth Ambassadors, on 27 May. The reality is that there will be brand new Sustainable Development Goals ( SDGs ), though at the rate the world is going it’s highly unlikely that post-2015 will bring any change for those who matter the most. That is unless young people are given the platform to bring about the change they want to see (yes, I know, you would expect me to say that, as a Future Leader, so let’s not disappoint you).

In Brussels, youth inclusion in the post-2015 agenda was fostered by bridging the gap between Ban and over a 1000 youth from 120 different countries. Other youth were ‘included’ via #AskBanKiMoon on Twitter. This was certainly a good start to youth inclusion. I have always been a fan of the Secretary General and I was extremely excited at the prospect of meeting him. Well, I did not actually meet Ban Ki Moon, but I did see him in person – five rows away at the stunning Bozar, in Brussels. Somehow I got the feeling though that Ban Ki Moon attracted more attention than the post-2015 agenda.  There was no sharing, no ‘dignity’, no ‘our world/ our Bozar’, no ‘our Ban Ki Moon’,  it was every man or woman for themselves as this bunch of ‘young leaders’ pushed into the venue for the best seat in the house – P.S this wouldn’t be a good time to ask how I got to the fifth row.

Ban Ki Moon certainly lived up to expectations, his soft humour, down-to-earth manner and charisma immediately brought the event to life.  It is what each of us young beings had probably been waiting for all our lives. We all hoped that our questions via #AskBanKiMoon would be touched on. At this stage we are unsure how #AskBanKiMoon or our Bozar questions will fit into the post-2015 agenda or if instead, this whole thing was just meant to create a twitter/ social media hype. In my personal opinion, youth posing questions via #AskBanKiMoon is not enough and should be extended to understanding youth’s vision post-2015 and the solutions that they offer. All in all, the entire event did not disappoint, though, the youth who were involved in the panel asked the necessary questions and the Secretary General rose to the occasion.

The UN Youth Envoy, particularly Ahmad Alhendawi, has a pivotal role in ensuring that the voices of youth will be heard. I get the feeling that the first challenge is to re-unite boyband One Direction and have them play at youth events instead of other ‘music interventions’ which may not directly appeal to youth. Humour aside, challenges of youth inclusivity in the SDG or other global agendas are similar to the ‘community inclusivity’ dilemma we face in healthcare. It is yet to be seen how inclusivity will be ensured, whether it will be effective and what its true role will be. To complicate matters even further, I ask you to ponder youth inclusivity in health policy and systems research- in your view, what are the successes and challenges? On my side as a young health policy and systems researcher I have no complaints about inclusivity. I’m more than honoured to speak alongside the esteemed Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Margaret Chan at an Ebola panel at the EDD15. Heck, I might even ask her a few tough questions!

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