Youth, Innovation, and the Sustainable Development Goals

From by Marina Cherbonnier
Youth, Innovation, and the Sustainable Development Goals

Last September, 193 world leaders agreed a new framework for the development of our world. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set out an aspirational vision for more sustainable food systems by 2030. But now decision makers are grappling with the question of what should practically be done to achieve them.

Because a goal without a plan is just a wish. Governments across the world are increasingly recognising that in order for their plans to have genuine impact, they need all hands on deck, especially young people with fresh thinking and openess to change who can help find new solutions to long-standing challenges.

MyFood30 was developed to maximise this opportunity. The project, which is organized by the Swiss National U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Committee, set out to understand young people’s priorities for tomorrow’s agri-food system, spot the barriers they face to making a contribution, and figure out ways to help them to play a central role in delivering national implementation plans.

Over the course of a 50-day campaign, 436 agri-food experts from 58 countries shared their views via an online survey. The findings were then discussed by young people and decision makers at a national Talent Workshop in Bern and an international Side Event at the 42nd Committee on World Food Security in Rome.

The project results generally painted a positive picture. Despite only being agreed in September, three out of five young respondents had heard of the global goals to some degree and the majority (93 percent) felt that they were definitely or partly able to contribute to their achievement. Participants mentioned a number of ways in which they felt they made a difference - from influencing, educating or promoting dialogue in their professional role to living sustainably on a day to day basis and raising awareness among friends and family members.

But it wasn’t all good news. One in four respondents felt that their voices were still not heard by decision makers. Participants also perceived that they lacked the practical skills and experience to ease the transition from education to employment or the entrepreneurial skills needed to develop their own projects and businesses. Rather than spending more time behind a desk, they wanted to apply their knowledge in practical projects and interact with sector experts.

In response, the project’s final report sets out five areas for decision makers to consider as part of their implementation plans (building bridges, entrepreneurship, education, raising awareness and participation). Individuals are also invited to share their own project ideas or pledge to take an action to help us get closer to achieving the SDGs. All content will be shared via the MyFood30 Twitter account to promote continued dialogue and exchange.