Youth-led acceleration of the Sustainable Development Goals through Youth 2030 Cities

United Nations Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth

October 7, 2021 marked the beginning of the Fondation Botnar funded UN-Habitat project, Youth 2030 Cities. Guided by the Evidence to Action (E2A) Framework, Youth 2030 Cities has since captured diverse realities on the ground of young people through research, meaningful engagement, collection of promising practices and development of DeclarActions.

UN-Habitat’s work on youth and urban governance aligns and advances the work undertaken by Fondation Botnar’s Healthy Cities for Adolescents (HCA) programme to promote young people as change agents, wile promoting recommendations from the New Urban Agenda, the Sustainable Development Goals localization and pillars of the UN Youth Strategy.

With activities in Ecuador, Ghana, Colombia, India, Vietnam and Senegal, Youth 2030 Cities rolled out a global survey, held city-level focus group discussions and engaged youth in series of forums where findings have been aggregated in DeclarActions.

The DeclarActions declare the Right of youth to the city and express their intention to work with various stakeholders towards the meaningful inclusion of youth in the sustainable, inclusive, safe and prosperous development of their cities and communities.

Speaking on the Youth 2030 project at the High-Level Forum on the Implementation of the New Urban Agenda, youth, UN-Habitat, Fondation Botnar and City leaders expressed their delight on the advancement of youth led SDG localization through the project.

Michelle Tatiana Zuluaga, from Vivo Mi Calle and one of the participants of the project from Colombia noted during the HLM that “We, the youth, want you to know that creating healthy, sustainable and clean public spaces is a priority for everybody. We also understand that governance is essential for young people and governments should be more open to views of the youth,”.

The 2018 World Youth Report on “Youth and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development presents young people’s role as active architects of development. It further underscores the magnitude of the population and potential of the youth while noting that their engagement in sustainable development action as being key to achieving sustainable, inclusive and stable societies, within the Decade of Action.

Shipra Narang’Suri, Chief of the Urban Practices Branch, UN-Habitat reiterated at the High-Level Meeting that transformative change is made when young people are not only in the room, but in the driver’s seat.

Youth 2030 Cities combines the HCA E2A approach with the UN-Habitat Kampala Principles for Youth-led Development and the Ladder of Participation concept adapted from Roger Hart. The Kampala principles of youth-led development posit that youth define their own development, their power to act as role models for other youth, adult and peer to peer mentorship, creation of safe spaces for youth and their integration into local and national development programmes and policies. Similarly, the Ladder or Participation approach advocates for projects and programmes to be initiated by young people, and decision-making shared between young people and adults. This would enable the empowerment of young people, while at the same time enabling them to access and learn from life experience and expertise of adults.

Ultimately, Youth 2030 Cities will strengthen young people’s engagement and influence in local, national and international policymaking on sustainable urbanization. It will bring together the HCA programme’s strength in promoting young people as change agents, with UN-Habitat’s experience in promoting urban youth-led development in policy and practice. UN-Habitat will also work to align the E2A framework with UN-Habitat’s Urban Monitoring Framework, the data tool created by the United Nations to allow cities to track monitory the urban related indicators of the SDGs.