The Youth's Agenda: The Role of Youth Leaders in the Post-2015 UN Agenda

When the United Nations released the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2000 as the agenda for the next 15 years of global development, it set a precedent: a precedent for the world to reflect on its current state and take action to rectify its major injustices. Albeit ambitious, and possibly revolutionary (the world had not yet seen an agenda set on tending to its wounds), the MDGs were highly exclusive, focusing primarily on poor, 'developing' countries. MDG Goal 6, 'Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and other diseases', targets diseases that plague poor regions and decimate impoverished populations. Malaria and other target diseases, have not had a significant impact on the populations of states in the Global North in decades. However, the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agenda is decidedly more universal, encouraging the world not to eradicate specific diseases found in these poor regions of the globe, but instead to 'Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at any age' (SDG 3). His Excellency 70th President Elect of the UN General Assembly Mogens Lykketoft stated:

"This is about the whole world and a realization that we have done well in bringing poverty down but we cannot go the rest of the way to eradicate extreme poverty in the same way. We cannot rely on eradicating poverty by having the normal kind of growth in every country. We have to realize this while meeting the urgent tasks in investing in the battle against environmental change and catastrophe. If we allow the current track to continue the costs of environmental changes will remove people away from where they live. Conflicts will swallow all the resources we should use to make a better world. These are some of the things we need to take care of if we are to create a more stable world and the globe has a very real opportunity to survive as an acceptable place of living for the human race."

H.E. Mr. Lykketoft is one of the many leaders the Millennium Campus Network honored throughout their conference with the Global Generation Award (GGA), an award that indicates their dedication to improving their community and their recognition of the influence of youth in today's world.

Ever since the United Nations started compiling this post-2015 agenda, they captured the attention of today's millennial generation. At the 7th Annual Millennium Campus Conference 400 youth leaders from across the globe gathered to discuss these goals and what their role would be in the future of this agenda. His Excellency Ambassador of Portugal to the United Nations Federico Gonzalez Franco and GGA recipient, moved by the youth leaders in attendance, said, "It is such an honor and an inspiration for the UN community to have so many young leaders here learning about the UN and about the SDGs.... It is excellent they have this chance to learn about it so they are prepared and they can then project it." Over half of the world's population is under 30, making this millennial generation the largest population of youth in the world, ever. What is the role of these nearly 5 billion millennials around the world? This post-2015 agenda is what world leaders around the world will be working on until 2030.

Ms. Lakshmi Puri, another GGA winner and Assistant Secretary-General of the UN and Deputy Executive Director of UN Women, feels that "[The SDGs are] a universal agenda, a transformative agenda. It's about the next 15 years and youth have to be involved and they are involved. This has been preceded by almost 2 years of inclusive engagement with all citizens including youth. It has also been a period of intense youth activism on its own. The two coming together is absolutely incredible." Richard Stengel, Under-Secretary of State of the United States of America and GGA recipient, concurs, asserting that "It's actually by definition that, to make all of these goals sustainable, it has to be youth who do it. It's really heartening to see all this commitment and engagement that will continue over the decades."

As youth come to accept their role in the future of not only the post-2015 agenda but also the state of the world beyond 2030, they realize what their role entails. They are the generation that will set up this universal and revolutionary agenda, an agenda that will act as the skeletal framework for all steps taken towards a more secure and sustainable future. Already, these youth leaders are taking action. At the 7th Annual Millennium Campus Conference, 5 campaigns designed by youth leaders were launched and delegates signed up to participate in the campaign they were most passionate about. These leaders will meet to discuss steps for the campaigns through monthly global webinars, working to see out the goals of these campaigns. Beyond these five official initiatives, each leader at the conference made a conscious decision to write down what their next action step to promote the post-2015 agenda would be and the responses were simply inspiring. They all had ideas about how to take what they do in their communities to the next level and to promote a more sustainable future. "it's exciting that an international group of inspired students who are working for change get to meet at the UN. The energy that is in this building right now gives me great hope for the future." said Annie Griffiths, another GGA recipient and one of the first female photographers for National Geographic and founder of Ripple Effect Images.

Terry Crews, actor, gender equality advocate, and final Global Generation Award recipient, left with those youth leaders at the conference a piece of wisdom: "Your story is a testament to what's possible. Your story is the only one the world will ever see of you. No one else can tell your story. I am inspired by what others have been seeing....The world is getting better. People are good. Not only are they good. They are great." And with these words of hope and wisdom, the youth leaders of the 7th Millennium Campus Conference, aware of their role in the future of their global community, exuded an air of confidence, tenacity, and conviction.