Youth Action for the Sustainable Development Goals - Irish Youth and the SDGs
News15 November 2018
The Iveagh Ballroom in Dublin was packed to capacity on the evening of Friday 7 September 2018 as youth activists from all over the country came together to showcase their work on the Sustainable Development Goals. Special guest on the evening was UN Deputy Secretary Ms Amina Mohammed who was instrumental in bringing about the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. As a keen advocate for social justice and gender equality she has become quite a hero to young people everywhere.
An Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Simon Coveney TD hosted the youth-led event which was ably co-moderated by Eve Nic Suibhne (ECO-UNESCO Youth for Sustainable Development Leader) and Jamie Moore (NYCI UN Youth Delegate).
Orla Mc Breen, Director of Irish Aid Civil Society Development Education Unit opened the proceedings by showing Transforming Our World, a short video on young people in Ireland working towards the SDGs.
Around the room, the many youth activists displayed the range of incredible work they are doing towards achieving the SDGs. Six groups presented their work to the DSG and assembled guests. First up was Leah Fellenz, Captain of the Concern Debates All-Ireland winning team who delivered her winning speech: "To achieve the SDGs we must harness the spirit of 1968". Next, Jack O'Connor, joint winner with Diarmuid Curtin of the 2017 Irish Aid/Self Help Africa Science for Development Award at BTYSTE, presented their winning project and outlined his plans for the further development of the ergonomic planting device.
Previous UN Youth Delegates, Lauren Flanagan and Paul Dockery then introduced their "A Generation for Change" report. This was followed by Lily Ní Dhrisceoil (ECO-UNESCO Youth for Sustainable Development Leader) who outlined the Youth Peer Exchange Programme (Y-PEP) work on the SDGs. The final presenters were Akarachi Ekel and Patrick Akpoveta who spoke about the Trócaire Action for a Just World (AFAJW) Climate Change Challenge. The groups represented all receive funding from Irish Aid for their Development Education programmes.
DSG Mohammed expressed her delight with the many innovative projects on display, saying: "There's not much advice I can give you, looking at the innovation and action and talent on show here tonight". She highlighted the need for global collective action on the SDGs as she said: "It is about collective responsibility, about all of us pulling together, not the 'I' the 'we'".
The Tánaiste was equally inspired by the determination of the young activists to achieve the SDGs. He highlighted the urgency of the work, saying: "If we don't deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals, for many countries it is a matter of life and death". He invited them to call their elected representatives to task, saying: "Keep me under Pressure! My job is to try and deliver on the things you are demanding". But he stressed the need for change at a personal as well as a political level. "Don't just lobby us. Be the change. It's a high order to expect changes of others that you're not willing to make yourselves".
Presentations over, the guests were encouraged by Orla Mc Breen (Director CSDEU) to mingle, to share stories and to provide sound bites to the YMCA group from West Cork who were recording for their Conversationz podcast. As she left the room for dinner upstairs in Iveagh House, DSG Mohammed was inundated with requests for selfies to which she graciously consented. For a time, the youth activists from the many organisations present chatted. A memorable event which inspired and affirmed our young activists in their work to achieve social justice and a fairer world.