Global collaboration to support young people track and shape the Sustainable Development Goals and transform the world.
What is YoungVoicesCount?
YoungVoicesCount is a community and global conversation led by young people about health and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). To get the ball rolling, young people born around 2005 in different parts of the world discussed what the SDGs mean to them. In the resulting video, Does My Voice Count?, they talk about things that matter in their lives and their role in shaping their future, such as staying healthy, ending conflict, feeling safe, playing with friends, going to school, stopping environmental pollution and building a better world. This video sparked conversations at global adolescent health conferences in Canada and Delhi that are continuing worldwide. If young people could add their voice – safely, meaningfully and effectively – to the numbers on monitoring health and the SDGs, they could help drive transformative change.
You can join the conversation by sharing your ideas and related initiatives on social media using the hashtag #YoungVoicesCount.
Why young voices matter
There are over 3 billion young people under the age of 24 years – 42% of the world population – which is the largest number in history. The young people in the video are some of the 125 million born in 2005 who were 10 years old when the SDGs began and who will go through adolescence and youth in this period. As adults, this generation will inherit the post-2030 world, so it is essential they take the lead in shaping it, and that their countries and the international community invest in their efforts. The ECOSOC Youth Forum, Every Woman Every Child Global Strategy for Women’s Children’s and Adolescents’ Health and other initiatives have positioned young people at the center of the SDG agenda.
The benefits potentially are huge. Evidence from the Lancet Commission on Adolescent Health and Wellbeing shows the high returns on investments in the health, well-being and capabilities of adolescents with a benefit to cost ratio of at least 10 to 1, including in social and economic benefits. This profits young people now, their future adult lives, and the next generation. Imagine how much greater the returns could be if young people were able to shape their future by having voice and agency in their own health and well-being, and in establishing a safer, more sustainable world.
Ultimately, young people will decide for themselves how to shape the SDGs to get the best results. However, WHO and partners suggest some ways to kick start transformative change by, and for, young people, their families and communities.
Safe, meaningful and effective engagement
“Meaningful” engagement means enabling young people to speak out on health, well-being and the SDGs in ways they understand and can relate to – in communities, on social media and the internet. It is essential to ensure that young people are safe and protected in their engagement on these issues, and that they are respectfully listened to and protected from harm. Meaningful and effective engagement of young people would lead to changes that matter to them, and contribute to achieving the SDGs.
It can be done. For the past 160 years, the World YWCA has provided Safe Spaces to women and girls in the heart of local communities to discuss critical issues to their lives and bring about positive change. The Girl Effect with TEGA uses certified data-collection techniques and mobile technology to enable young women to collect meaningful, honest data about their world with important safety features to protect them when doing so. UNICEF’s @UReportGlobal is a global platform where young people can speak out safely on issues they care about and catalyze positive change in communities anywhere in the world.