What we brought home from #YES4SDG
The Youth Empowerment Summit for the Sustainable Development Goals (#YES4SDG) was held on September 12. I arrived without a clue about what I’d bring home from it. I didn’t come representing any organization, but by invitation from a good friend of mine. I came representing myself as a Filipino youth eager to learn and take action.
When the Sustainable Development Goals were enumerated and elaborated upon by Rena Doña, I was inspired by what I learned. For those representing organizations, it was an opportunity to know more about their own and other advocacies, expanding their fields of knowledge as advocates. We were shown how the SDGs are more inclusive and specific compared to the Millennium Development Goals.
Climate change is now part of what the SDGs want to eradicate, along with poverty, world hunger and inequality on all fronts. Some of the things the SDGs want to see flourish are good health, quality education, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, clean and accessible energy, economic growth, peace and justice.
After covering this, the panel discussion took place, spearheaded by Leon Flores III, Daryl Tadique, and Gomer Padong. Our access to social media, allowing us to be more connected and aware, was among the topics brought up. Many of the youth practice online activism, creating hashtags to show solidarity with the Lumads, for example. This activism should be brought to the real world, directly helping these causes we campaign for online. It’s amazing that the event was aimed specifically at us so we’d be aware of and take part in the goals set by the UN.
There is a certain stigma associated with being a youth: people believe that we are only self-absorbed — which is wrong. As the next generation of leaders, we do care. We long to make the world better for our generation, older generations, and generations to come. I believe all the delegates and millions more of the youth will agree with me.
The open forum took place after the panel discussion. The discussion on the Indigenous peoples and their involvement in the SDGs was opened, which was timely because in the afternoon we heard from Pastor Sonny Dizon representing the Aetas of Iba, Zambales. He shed light on the situation of the Aetas, of their youth and their education, which was necessary because we need to become aware of the different situations of every people in every island and every region, not just the situations that directly affect us.
If we ever have hope of improving our country, we must start by being aware of what goes on around us not just through news, but through connecting with people from all walks of life. One of the SDGs the Philippines needs to work towards is the attainment of quality education, and the Indigenous peoples are no exemptions from this.
In the afternoon, the delegates were divided into smaller groups for the Youth Consultation and Collaboration Planning for SDG. Each group was facilitated by a representative from different organizations: INTEL and ASSIST (topic: Amplifying Youth Organizations’ Digital Presence through Online Volunteerism), VOTY (topic: Communicating Advocacy through Media), AISEC Philippines (topic: Enhancing Global Leadership through Cultural Exchange Programs), and ADB OGP (topic: Youth Participation in Politics and Governance/Open Government Partnership). After, Mr. Jesus Domingo of the Department of Foreign Affairs spoke to us about “Post 2015 Development Diplomacy: Role of DFA in Harmonizing ASEAN Economic Integration with the SDGs and the UN Resilience and Development Agenda” and was followed by Pastor Dizon.
In the end, we delegates brought home meaningful things from the youth summit: new friendships, the reinforcement of our roles as Filipino youth, knowledge on the SDGs, and the drive to see them through, starting in our own nation. For all of us, the #YES4SDG was a call to turn our desire to make the world better into reality.
All participants signed The Manila Declaration for the Sustainable Development Goals, a symbol of our promise to fulfill our obligations as youth leaders to our fellow human beings, especially the most vulnerable, marginalized, and oppressed; to uphold and stand firm behind our advocacies, especially the ones specified in the SDGs; to be unified in our efforts toward genuine global change on all platforms, regardless of who we are or where we come from.
In the end, the SDG Youth National Convergence was launched, consisting of the youth leaders from different sectors—a sign of our oneness in working towards the SDGs for a better Philippines and a better world.
The summit would have all been for nothing if we don’t see the SDGs through. They are knowledge to be shared with all; they don’t involve just one small community - they involve the entire world. — Rappler.com
Mikhaela Alesna is a freshman BA Philosophy student in UP Diliman who hails from Cebu. She is a space enthusiast, and an aspiring oncologist and writer. She sincerely hopes that the Filipino youth, herself included, rise up to the challenge of working towards a better nation.