22 January 2019, Geneva, Switzerland – University students from China visited the European Headquarter of the United Nations, known as the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, to participate in a seminar on the Role of Youth in Achieving Sustainable Development Goals. During the workshop, co-organized by UNITAR and Association des Étudiant-e-s Sinophones de l'Université de Genève (AESG) and held at the Palais des Nations, the students were introduced to the SDGs and their importance. The purpose of the session was to encourage and inspire these young individuals to become future leaders who will support the mission of achieving the 2030 Agenda.
Chinese students were first introduced to the story behind the creation and adoption of the MDGs and the shift towards the SDGs. Then, the workshop transitioned into a more interactive and engaging session where students were encouraged to lead the discussion and share their knowledge on the topic. Many students alluded to their country’s situation and talked about the way China is working towards the 2030 Agenda. For example, one of the participants shared his opinion on the challenges and improvements in dealing with pollution and recycling. Likewise, many students talked about their own initiatives within their universities.
Throughout the session, participants discussed the obstacles in achieving the SDGs and proposed solutions to resolve these. Gender equality was a topic of interest among students, they discussed and compared experiences, provided reasons behind still existing inequality, and presented ideas for improvement. Students agreed that this specific subject is crucial for achieving the 2030 Agenda, alluding to the importance of coming up with educational methods and regulations aimed at closing this gap.
In the afternoon, students participated in a system-thinking exercise to illustrate interconnectedness, and how even making one small change can trigger and influence every part within a system. This activity raised awareness on how actions can impact, either positively or negatively, the road towards implementing the SDGs.
In a survey conducted after the event, the students appreciated the interactive and participative approach with open discussions to stimulate critical thinking and better understand current global challenges. It was also a rewarding experience for them to be at the UN where delegates and decision-makers gather to discuss global issues.
The students also indicated that the objectives of the seminar were mostly/fully met (100%), the methodology was useful given the objectives (100%), and that the resource persons were effective in presenting information, responding to questions and in stimulating participation (100%). Similarly, 100% of the participants were satisfied with the event and would recommend it (100%) to a colleague.
Students expressed their passion and strengthened determination to work towards the SDGs and its mission but recognized the challenges along the way. Having this in mind, they concluded that the younger generation must be proactive in finding their role within the larger system and seize the opportunities given in order to become agents of change.
Photo 1: Students participating in the workshop on the Role of Youth in Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
Photo 2: Group photo at the Assembly Hall, the largest room in the Palais des Nations.