Last week, almost 1,000 young people met in Colombo, Sri Lanka, to discuss their priorities and goals in global development.
With sponsorship from Women Thrive, I attended the World Conference on Youth along with five other members of the United Nations' GEFI Youth Advocacy Group (YAG) in order to bring new perspectives to the discussions.
It was a really exciting experience that I wanted to make the most of since this global meeting was all about youth, with only young people attending to discuss and work together.
Luiz (center) and other YAG member at the World Conference on Youth in Colombo, Sri Lanka
The YAG is composed of 18 young advocates that are making a difference for youth in their communities. Anna Susarenco from Moldova, Chernor Bah from Sierra Leone, Cheryl Perera from Canada, David Crone from the UK, Sumaya Saluja from India and myself from Brazil went to the conference with the mission of bringing our message about the need for quality education for all children.
At the conference I spoke on inclusive youth participation. I believe strongly that we can’t just consult or talk about the problems of marginalized people—like the difficulties that girls face in going to school—we have to work with them and include them.
Others at the conference came up to say they agree with me. It was great to hear that so many other youth are passionate about including all voices in the global conversation.
Being there discussing participation was amazing, but was also a privilege. I'm most concerned about the young people in Brazil who do not have a platform for their ideas at international conferences or who do not have access to international resources.
Out of this conference came something called The Colombo Declaration, which lists our priorities, including realizing equal access to quality education. The Declaration was intended by the conference to be the "official document" for Youth Priorities but, in fact, it’s even bigger than that because it is now part of the global conversation on development priorities.
People around the world have contributed to a number of declarations (like the Youth Resolution: The Education We Want and the Girls’ Declaration) and consultations (like The World We Want Platform and the Crowdsourcing Platform). These voices cannot be ignored and I believe that they will indeed influence the United Nations’ next global development goals.
This meeting is just one in a series that youth are holding around the globe. African youth met in 2012 and introduced us to their priorities. Next week, I will meet with Latin American and Caribbean youth in Ecuador to discuss their priorities.
Young people like me who want to see education improved and expanded for all students are everywhere. I am not alone. I want to connect even more with people, hear more and get to know others’ experiences and points of view. We don't need to do anything alone anymore.
We all have to take responsibility for improving lives around the world. There are many goals in the Colombo Declaration and all of them are our concern. It’s up to all of us (especially youth) to work toward these goals.
The United Nations’ global development agenda is being built in a fairly complex process—this conference was just one part of setting the next round of global goals. We, the world’s youth, have the right to be part of this process and also the duty to engage ourselves and make our voices heard.
The opportunity is here in Sri Lanka, in Ecuador, in Kenya – it's everywhere. The time to seize that opportunity to engage is now!