Report written by Dafne Murillo, Cross-cultural Youth Exchange Fellow
New York, NY (July, 2019) – On the morning of Tuesday July 9th, the Opening of the 2019 HLPF on Sustainable Development took place. The overarching theme for this year was “Empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality.” The inauguration conference followed this theme by asking “How far are we from the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?” and “how can we move towards them with inclusiveness and equality?” The opening remarks and keynote speakers featured UN powerhouses such as H.E. Ms. Inga Rhonda King, president of ECOSOC, and Ms. Najat Maalla M’jid, UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Violence Against Children. However, I was particularly touched by the speech by Ms. Yolanda Joab Mori, Founder and executive director of Island PRIDE (Promoting Resilience through Involvement, Development & Education) and Young World Ambassador from the Federated States of Micronesia. She began by stating a need to move from decision-making to concrete actions and stressing the need for more spaces where young people could be engaged and participate. She also noted the need to advance SDG number 4: Quality Education, noting the lack of women in STEM fields, because the world needs more young leaders with access to the skills necessary in order “to be the problem solvers the planet needs.” SDG 4 is for me a clear example of a goal that cannot be achieved without addressing systemic issues such as gender inequality (tackled by SDG 5), and I was happy to hear Yolanda highlight the role of women and girls’ education. Overall, her emphasis on the 2030 agenda centered the youth, who will have to inherit the world in whatever condition it is in by then. She noted that inequality is perpetuated by policy choice and no one understands this better than young people, who have to watch as those in power continue to gamble with our future. Yolanda called out the nation-states, which represent the decision-making power of the UN, remarking that “we don’t need more power, what we need is action and change.” It’s a beautiful thing to head a speaker that you completely rally behind and that was my experience listening to Yolanda’s speech, words from the perspective of a young indigenous woman that had the power to move the world’s leaders.
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