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Youths, the Last Boost to 2030 Sustainability Dream

By Baraa Waleed

head shot of Baraa Waleed 4th place winner

Is there a chance where the world will be with no poverty? An answer to the previous question as long with some other questions made when the UN set up the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015 as a mission to make a better world free from economic, environmental, and sociological issues by 2030. Sustainability, to be able to thrive and live within the existing resources and meeting the human needs without compromising the future generations’ resources and needs, was always a target to achieve globally. This objection takes its most influence from youth sector and its future was interrupted when the pandemic made them home persons.

Sustainability takes its international care from its three pillars: environmental, through maintaining Earth’s systems balance and controlling the human consumption of natural resources, economical, to grant all humans access to the financial resources to meet their needs, and social, through protection from discrimination and applying the universal human rights for keeping the people and their families safe and secure. Thus, sustainability is the direction that drives the world to be the place where all people can live while having their needs met and their rights completely, not harming the environment, and developing for the future while being aware of their responsibilities towards their planet.

However, due to several reasons, it seems that the world in 2030 may face a major crisis that can lead to economic recession, conflicts inside nations, and global warming. One of the main reasons is the environmental breakdown through forest fires, water and plastic pollution, overfishing, deforestation, and Ozone depletion. The second reason is the weak global financial system which has several flaws such as low financial literacy, high transaction fees, low trust in financial institutions which result in many people remain unbanked, currency manipulation, and the inequality that comes from the spread of Centralization (Visual Capitalist, 2019). The third reason is the global inequitable system which allows only the richest to acquire the most wealth and resources while half of the global population still live on less than 5.50 dollars per day (The Futures Centre, 2021). The gap between rich and poor is getting wider and the class lines are getting broader. These reasons work as barriers for sustainability to be met even after 2030; but what worsens the situation was the COVID-19 consequences which resulted in, 71 percent loss in global employment, 8.3 percent decline in labor income, and 81 million persons are out of the labor force (International Labour Organization, 2021).

Although, there are seen signals that can convert these negative situations to more stable ones which can afterwhile make the sustainability goals meetable. For example, over 560 companies, including giants like Tencent, H&M, Walmart, Olam, and Unilever are adopting policies to reverse nature loss. Zara, M&S, Inditex are collaborating to protect forests under the CanopyStyle Leaders initiative by scaling innovative fibers from recovered textile from former waste streams rather than taking it from trees. 14 countries have started applying some form of direct income support to individuals and households living below the poverty line to address the global economic fallout. Also, the high increase in digital usage for connecting made some kind of citizens assemblies in countries such as France and the UK; when the assemblies met, they came up with solution plans to recover quickly from the pandemic, solve inequality and agriculture issues. Companies like Uber and Lyft launched a campaign to enable workers to work independently and have their guaranteed earnings and health allowances (Futures Centre, 2019).

Despite that, sustainability goals are feasible due to similar actions but the most controlling factor is the youth influence. Youths, ages between 15 and 25, are 1.2 billion, according to UN (2019), that makes them 16 percent of the global population, yet they have the largest influence on how the sustainable development goals are going to be accomplished. The assemblies made in France and UK were mainly youth, the volunteering and ushering organizations which aim to reduce hunger and poverty, protect the environment, reduce pollutions, and keep equality and human right such as AIESEC, Surfrider Foundation, Human Rights Foundation, Build Abroad, Natural Resources Defense Council, Soil Association, and Anti-Slavery Foundation are mostly youth ushers based and joined by youths. Youths’ leadership impacts are remarkable, they are much open and have an “adaptive programming” behavior meaning that when something is not working, they find a different approach and change it. Youths tend to be more in a learner’s role therefore they have the patience and potential to generate new solutions and be the chief hope holder to execute sustainability goals by 2030. If governments raised awareness about necessity of urgency to reach these goals, donations to youth led organizations and companies will start to put mandatory acceptance terms when recruiting a strong boost in processing sustainability will occur.

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