26 June 2023, Geneva, Switzerland - As we navigate the complex challenges of the 21st century, the role of young people in driving positive change has become increasingly vital. Empowered by their creativity, energy, and determination, youth worldwide spearhead innovative initiatives that advance the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In this article, we will explore the inspiring ways that young people are engaging with the SDGs through a creative project that is shifting communities worldwide.

António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, emphasizes that youth play a vital role in the accomplishments of the SDGs and the impact they are having in the lives of millions across the globe.

During the UN Youth Strategy Launch in 2018, he said: "Young people are a vast source of innovation, ideas, and solutions. They are pushing strongly for the changes we need in the technology arena, in climate action, and in calling for inclusive and just societies."

The Division for People and Social Inclusion's work at every level contributes to advancing the Sustainable Development Goals outlined in Agenda 2030. The involvement of youth in the accomplishment of these goals is vital, given that youth make up 16% of the global population. In the Division for People and Social Inclusion, young people play a crucial role in advancing the SDGs, specifically via involvement in service leadership through activities offered worldwide by the 30 International Training Centres for Authorities and Leaders (CIFAL).

An initiative allowing young people to have a voice through the SDGs is the Through the Lens of Youth Documentary Series in partnership with Barbara Harrison Media. Youth worldwide responded to a call for them to "showcase how the Sustainable Development Goals impact you and your community!" by submitting a short video in which they take the audience through a journey of explaining the importance of a particular SDG in their particulate context. The Division for People and Social Inclusion received written applications from over 150 countries. These youth are now creating these videos, to be judged according to set criteria. The 17 videos that score the highest points will be selected and featured in an interactive series with other participants from across the globe, Barbara Harrison Media, and UNITAR. The young filmmakers will participate in a panel discussion on the filmmaking journey, the importance of the SDGs to them, and how they address their particular SDG in their local community.

It will become apparent to those who view these episodes, to be published on the Division's Youtube Channel, that advancing the SDGs is not a responsibility reserved solely for governments, NGOs, and private companies but a responsibility everyone in our global community has. Not only does this initiative involve a vital part of our global population, but it also allows for the emphasis on how our relation to the SDGs varies according to cultural, geographical, and socio-economic factors. How do our approaches to advancing the SDGs vary depending on these factors, how does our relationship to specific global issues differ given our context, and how are we proposing solutions to address these issues? 

Barbara Harrison, award-winning journalist, and project partner says, "We see this project as a brilliant opportunity for young people to express their views on the extraordinarily important Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) put forth by the United Nations as essential to the health of our planet.  Moreover, the project is tailored to empower youth to express themselves through the medium of sight and sound by using their smart phones or cameras to tell their personal stories related to one of the Goals. What could be more relevant and engaging than a video competition that involves storytelling about topics such as hunger, poverty, clean water, social justice and so on? We are privileged and proud to be a part of this powerful project. We look forward to viewing ALL of these videos that are coming from youth around the world."

As we get closer to accomplishing the SDGs by 2030, the innovation, creativity, and resilience of young people are shaping the sustainable development landscape is nothing but remarkable. Through technological innovation, grassroots activism, and social entrepreneurship, youth drive meaningful change and accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

António Guterres aptly says, "We must empower young people to be the agents of change we need to achieve the SDGs. Their energy and vision are indispensable in building a more sustainable and equitable future for all."

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