Beyond 2015: How the youth see it
Miriam Ebner, Merel Fuchs

‘We see a world that values equality in all its facets, strives for sustainable solutions and active participation of all groups of society in decision-making processes. A world that is free of poverty and hunger and where everyone feels safe. A world, in which everyone has equal access to quality education, employment and information. A world in which human resources are valued and will bring the development of all to the fore. Nobody would be excluded or discriminated against because of gender, sexuality, color, class, religion or caste. The protection of the environment and sustainable development would be as important as economic growth. Through decentralization, improved access to information and the promotion of leadership skills, political instability would not exist. Globally people would be connected and values such as togetherness emphasized.’ ---Vision of youths

  • Youth representatives share their dreams for a post-2015 world in Dhaka  
    Photo- Shun Hatano/UNV

“Let us acknowledge and celebrate what youth can do to build a safer, more just world. Let us strengthen our efforts to include young people in policies, programmes and decision-making processes that benefit their futures and ours.” -UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

In 2000 nearly all governments signed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which had been discussed and formulated by a small group of (mostly male) intellectuals. The eight MDGs were the first time-bound, quantifiable global development goals and ranged from halving extreme poverty, to creating a more gender sensitive world, ensuring primary education for all and establishing a global partnership for development. The MDGs have had a huge impact on development around the world and especially Bangladesh is often highlighted as a country, which managed to address some of the most crucial issues, such as the reduction of poverty and the improvement of maternal and child health.

However, at the same time the MDGs did not focus on essential issues such as growing inequalities or the interrelatedness of various development challenges.

Now, as the timeframe in which the MDGs have been the guiding development doctrine is ending, the United Nations have decided to ensure that the next development framework is discussed globally and involves people from all over the world. The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has made it clear that the global conversation on post-2015 should be the most inclusive debate the world has ever seen. Creative online and offline methods have been used to encourage people around the world to participate in the discussion and share their vision for post-2015.

Today, a quarter of the world’s population is made up of 1.8 billion adolescents and youth, who have proven that in an age of globalisation they are driving social change, building networks across borders and getting involved in international issues. The Report of the High Level Panel on post-2015 emphasizes the need for young people to be involved in the development of the post-2015 agenda. Considering the fact that 50% of Bangladesh’s population is below 25 years, we believe it is essential to create a platform for young people to share their thoughts and voice their opinion on the next development agenda.

Bangladesh was one of 88 countries in which national consultations took place and civil society organisations had the chance to actively engage in the discussion around sustainable development goals. To specifically capture the voices of young people, JAAGO Foundation, Jege Otho Foundation, Young Power in Social Action (YPSA) and the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme jointly organized youth consultations in Jessore, Chittagong and Dhaka between August and October 2013.

84 young people representing over 30 youth organizations participated in our consultations and shared their vision for a post-2015 world.

Other youth-led organizations such as the United Nations Youth and Student Association in Bangladesh (UNYSAB) are currently organizing dialogues and discussion with young people on the post-2015 framework.

The report “The World We Want – Bangladeshi Youth Voices on a post-2015 World” is the result of these youth consultations organized to understand young people’s vision of a post-MDG world, and ensure that their voices are heard at national and global levels. It gives insight into the views and thoughts of young people, summarizes the ideas and discussions of the consultations, and identifies the ten priorities young people believed to be most important.

Equality in all its facets was overwhelmingly highlighted as the most important principle in the youth consultations and is closely related to respect for diversity. Participants in Jessore, Chittagong and Dhaka emphasized the need for a fair and just world, in which people are not discriminated against based on their gender, sexual orientation, colour, caste, class, religion or abilities.

The topics identified by the youth cover a wide range of development issues and reflect the interconnectivity of social problems. It is worth noting that while only 84 young people participated in the qualitative discussion on post-2015, these were also reflected as key priorities by 4,200 youth who participated in the My World survey in Bangladesh.

The priorities from Bangladeshi youth are consistent with the findings of youth consultations held in other countries in areas of equality, employability, education, climate change, poverty and governance. This shows that while the world’s youth are very diverse, they prioritize similar areas and share similar views on important development topics.

 

Creating a World of Equality & Gender Equality

“I want to live in a world where people are not judged based on their gender or sexuality. A world where everyone is equal and has the freedom to love” (participant in Dhaka)

While the MDGs succeeded in reducing extreme poverty, they did not focus on reducing inequalities. In South Asia as a whole, the challenge of growing inequalities is evident when looking at the increased Gini-coefficient from 0.39 in the mid-1990s to 0.46 in the late 2000s. 

In order to address root causes of inequality such as stereotypes, discriminatory structures and the “superiority complex” of the powerful, young people want to change values within their society. This means ensuring equal access to education, employment, health and justice for all through providing free basic services, institutionalizing minority participation, offering incentives for equal participation in the work force, and embedding sections on diversity, equality and respect into national curricula.

Gender inequality was discussed as a major global problem. One root cause for gender discrimination is the existence of rigid gender norms, which limit the opportunities of individuals and prescript gender roles. Women in particular often face difficulties in challenging these roles and accessing their rights. At the same time boys and men can find it difficult to oppose these structures due to a lack of role models. Of course these gender stereotypes also affect sexual minorities. Ensuring gender equality also needs to focus on creating a world in which people are not discriminated against based on gender or sexuality.

While mostly discussing social inequities, youths in Jessore also discussed global disparities, for example, the unequal effects of global warming in different parts of the world, in which the biggest contributors to climate change are often the least affected and so do not see the need to act on the issue. In all of the discussions the participants agreed that most development issues can only be solved in a sustainable way if existing inequalities are systematically addressed.  

Improving access to education and employment

Young people all over the world emphasize the need to improve access to quality education and employment. As in many countries, adolescents and youth are particularly vulnerable to unemployment and have difficulties entering the job market. The different educational systems in Bangladesh do not offer the same opportunities to their students and young people often have difficulties in finding a job. The participants of the youth consultation underlined the importance of supporting young people when entering the job market.

To reduce the drop-out rate in school, participants want to address child marriage and allocate more resources to education and skills development. They also believe that youths from developing countries should receive full scholarships from international universities.

Concerning improved access to employment, youth want to ensure the free flow of workers, and upholding labor laws and worker’s rights.

Living in a healthy society

Bangladesh is one of few countries in the world that achieved two MDGs related to health: the reduction of child mortality (MDG4) and the improvement of maternal health (MDG5). However, limited access to basic healthcare facilities and quality treatment still make child birth risky and can have negative impact on the first five years of a child’s life. Health includes many different topics such as access to safe water, nutritious food and medical services. When looking at these areas it becomes clear that gender discrimination strongly influences accessibility. In order to live in a healthy society, people need to be educated about basic health issues, the number of healthcare centers and qualified staff has to increase, and free primary healthcare services need to be established. Moreover, doctors from developing countries should have access to ongoing training and skills development in order to be updated and knowledgeable about newest research and techniques.

Strengthening global connectivity & peace

Another important area that is closely connected to leadership and political stability was the discussion around global connectivity and the creation of unity in the world. Youth in Jessore stressed that they felt discriminated against by the dominance of ‘western’ values in the media, which did not allow for diversity. They felt disconnected from the national discussion because of this influence. This fearreflects the urban-rural divide that can be found on national, but also international level, where countries like Bangladesh are often seen as disempowered and at the margin of power and decision-making bodies. In Dhaka, Chittagong and Jessore, youth demand a more prominent role in decision making and want to contribute to a true exchange of ideas and values.

Apart from the desire for social inclusion, the participants demanded a ban of nuclear weapons and the stop of profitable arms trade to create a peaceful world.

Creating political stability

Political stability was identified as one key priority by the youth. The creation of a stable political situation was of high importance nationally and globally. Two key challenges were identified as the main obstacles to political stability: (1) a loss of faith in national and political leaders and (2) lack of global consciousness.

Youth envisioned a world in which countries both look at the national consequences and global implications of their actions, and where leaders are well connected to the needs of the people.

 

Enforcing the rights of children

Children are among the most vulnerable groups of society and need special protection. Children, being dependent on their parents, are often in a social position in which they cannot choose their destiny, and life in poverty additionally reduces their ability to claim their rights. In order to strengthen and ensure rights of children, access to education has to be improved, violence against children needs to be reported, and perpetrators have to be held accountable.

Furthermore, teachers need to be trained on child and adolescent related issues, e.g. adolescent health, in order to be able to discuss these issues with their students.

Upholding Human Rights

On 10 December 1948 the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world”. However, basic human rights are still not available to all. Child labor, human trafficking and freedom of thought are important issues that must be addressed in the next development framework. Youth emphasized the need to ensure human rights at local, national and international levels, so that people – no matter where they are – are protected by human rights.

Mitigating climate change & strengthen environmental sustainability

Bangladesh is known to be one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change and natural disasters. Floods, cyclones and earthquakes pose a realistic threat to the lives of many people and many young people volunteer in disaster management and response.

While discussing challenges on local and global levels, possible solutions identified were reforestation, awareness raising, rural development, decentralization of industries and treatment facilities, policy changes, and the enforcement of these policies and law. Most importantly a strengthened lobby of least developed countries in climate change discussions would be necessary on global level.

Living in a poverty free world

“I want to live in a poverty-free world, a hunger-free world, where people can live in justice” (Dhaka)

Even though Bangladesh has made great progress in reducing extreme poverty, it is still considered a least-developed country facing the continual challenge of poverty, hunger, malnutrition and lack of access to basic services.

For many participants the root causes such as overpopulation, lack of good governance, and decent employment opportunities can only be tackled by changing values and raising awareness on basic rights. Participants believe that to address poverty, many different strategies have to be used as reasons for poverty are interlinked. They also believe that quantitative and qualitative indicators are needed to measure improved living conditions and overall well-being.

 

How can you be part of the post-2015 process?

  • Discuss with your neighbours, family or friends what you/they find important and share your views with us through Facebook.
  • Consider the priorities and recommendations of Bangladesh’s youth while developing your own position on the post-2015 development framework.
  • Read the full report, online: http://www.volunteeractioncounts.org.
  • Recognize the creativity and expertise of youth on different development issues.
  • See youth as partners and involve them in decision making.
  • Participate in the global My World survey, in which you can choose 6 development priorities (it only takes 2 minutes) www.myworld2015.org.
  • For more information please contact [email protected]

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Miriam Ebner

Miriam Ebner is UNV Programme Officer.

Merel Fuchs

Merel Fuchs is the Youth Networks Development Officer for UNV Bangladesh