VIOLET MENGO, Lusaka
“WHEN young people are involved in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), they can drive change in their communities and nation,” declared United Nations Youth Partnership Platform (UNYPP) member Beatrice Phiri,
She says young people have the energy and drive to ensure that issues that affect them are adequately addressed by Government.
Beatrice was among the 200 participants at the national SDGs conference held in Lusaka recently organised by Accountability Advocates Zambia (AAZ).
The young delegates were mostly drawn from youth-led organisations ordinary Zambian youths with particular interest in developmental issues.
The conference focused on SDGs and the Seventh National Development Plan (7NDP) and created a platform for young people to understand the link between the two development plans.
The SDGs are the ambitious agenda ever seen: to end poverty, reduce inequality and protect the planet by 2030, agreed upon by global leaders in 2015 defining a common vision of progress for mankind.
The SDGs, officially known as “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, is a set of 17 “Global Goals” with 169 targets.
The 7NDP, on the other hand, is the nation’s five-year strategic plan which highlights steps the country will make towards the attainment of the vision 2030, Zambia’s cherished long-term aspiration to become a middle-income nation by 2030.
Young people voiced out their concerns during the conference on how they want the SDGs implemented.
One of the ways identified is by engaging them, especially in areas that directly affect their interests and aspirations.
The involvement of young people in the SDGs and 7NDP is essential because Zambia has the largest number of young people than before who will take up leadership roles in future.
According to statistics by the UNFPA, the country’s record of 4.8 million young people aged between 15 and 35 is the largest of young people in history which presents an enormous opportunity to transform the future if they are part of the process.
AAZ chairperson Luchembe Chilufya, who agrees on the importance of young people’s involvement in the development process, said the SDGs conference was held to boost young people’s participation.
It was dubbed: “Engaging the youths in monitoring and accountability of the SDGs for a sustainable Zambia.”
“Among the things that were seriously discussed are 7NDP five pillars and their synergies with the SDGs,” Mr Chilufya said.
These are economic diversification and job creation; reducing poverty and vulnerability; reducing developmental inequalities; enhancing human development; and creating a conducive governance environment for a diversified economy.
Under the SDGs philanthropy platform, the current focus on the welfare of children has been embedded into the Enhancing Human Development strategic pillar in the 7NDP and comprises elements of health, education and skills development, and water, sanitation and hygiene.
According to Mr Chilufya, the pillar on Reducing Poverty and Vulnerability, as well as the one on reducing developmental inequalities, has strong links with the work of enhancing, development pillar.
With the complex alignment of the 7NDP to the SDGs, philanthropy will have a chance to make sure their efforts are linked to national efforts, the long-term vision for the country, and the global thrust to achieve set targets, for the well-being of all.
“Learning from the challenges faced in achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, it is a known fact that systematic exclusion of the youth, who are the most significant resource in the development agenda, may lead to failure,” said Francis Kapatamoyo, chairperson of UNYPP Zambia.
It was the young people’s views that the recent economic growth has not been able to significantly impact on poverty reduction because of the low employment levels.
Growth in the economy can reduce poverty rapidly if the employment potential it creates enables poor people to raise their income, either through increased employment or through higher returns to labour.
As a result of the low employment levels, young people called upon Government to create a youth department at each ministry that will address issues to do with young people, as the Ministry of Youth has not been able to meet their demands, especially when it comes to empowerment initiatives.
The overarching strategic focus of the 7NDP is to accelerate development efforts towards the Vision 2030.
This strategic focus underscores Government’s determination to diversify the economy and create more jobs to reduce poverty and inequalities.
United Nations (UN) resident coordinator Janet Rogan notes that one of the challenges in every set of goals, especially the visionary ones, is making sure that those who are working on them remember the ultimate endpoint and resist being drawn into repetition of the same old activities that lead to under-achievement.
“To do this, there has to be clear and measurable indicators and milestone of progress, agreed and understood at the outset that can be used for regular feedback.
“However, the point is to ensure that what is being done, over time, continues to stay on track towards the expected goal,” Ms Rogan emphasised.
“You therefore must be the people who agree on what the goals are and how to measure progress towards them. You must be part of giving the feedback and keeping the agenda on track.”
The 7NDP is also aligned with the African Union Agenda 2063, the Sendai Agenda on Disaster Risk Reduction and the Climate Change agreements.
Governments that recognise the value of collaborating with young people as partners and establish clear and explicit pathways for their meaningful participation from the outset are much better positioned to achieve the SDGs and related targets.
The review of the National Youth Policy and the Action Plan for Youth Empowerment and Employment are government responses to the needs of youths.
Minister of Youth, Sport and Child Development Moses Mawere said Government has continued to invest in youth development through various programmes currently being implemented by the ministry and other stakeholders.
“The youth empowerment programmes for young entrepreneurs through Youth Development Fund, the street vendors’ and empowerment scheme are examples of how Government is improving the welfare of young people,” Mr Mawere said.