Excellences, distinguished government representatives, dear colleagues form Civil society, ladies and gentleman,
I would like to start by congratulating the panel for their excellent and truly informative remarks and extending my sincere gratitude the organizers of the HLPF and their commitment to allow for the voices and experience of civil society to be shared and heard.
The previous panelist have offered a fantastic picture on the complexity of this agenda and the different levels at which it will be implemented and monitored. I would like to bring into the conversation what SOS Children’s Villages as well as our fellow NGOs working on children consider of essential importance for the success of these efforts: The direct involvement of children and young people in the implementation and evaluation of the agenda.
When the international community, governments, private sector and civil society alike, put in practice their plans for communication and outreach, they must not forget the involvement of ordinary people, and especially those that have been traditionally marginalized from the conversation, at times deeming it incomplete and ineffective. Without the inputs, ideas and energy of young people and children, -that have been called the “torch bearers” of this agenda- its success and sustainability are at stake. Thus, every effort to ensure that all children and young people know the spirit and intentions of this agenda, the goals of their governments and its follow up mechanism are necessary and welcomed. It is the responsibility of governments, the UN system and civil society actors alike, to ensure that all children have the capacity and space to participate in achieving sustainable development. It is not only our duty and responsibility, it is as well a great tool that we have at hand to ensure that we are truly working on an agenda for the people and planet.
The concept note for this round table stresses that without a narrative that inspires and engages people the agenda will be difficult to implement. We know that it will be difficult to implement, but furthermore, it will be impossible to implement rightly and for all.
Just as an example: SOS Children’s Villages works for and with children and young people without parental care and families at risk of separation. How the agenda will impact this specific and, unfortunately, very large group of children, and if it is actually reaching them can only be evaluated if they have the possibility to evaluate if they are better off thanks to the policies developed in the context of the agenda. If social protection is reaching to those children who don’t live in a household, if young people leaving alternative care are able to find employment, or are not subject to discrimination due to their care background, if the violence that separated them from their parents is being addressed and prevented in the end, if they are, or not, being left behind.
From the conviction of the importance of children and youth awareness and participation, and based on several experiences that have shown us the value and necessity of young people’s and children’s involvement in decision making process, the child focused agencies have developed a series of best practices that I would like to share with you today, as a contribution.
As an illustration of the several practices, I will elaborate on a recent experience led by the Global Movement for Children for Latin America and the Caribbean, a network of global, regional and national NGOs working for children’s rights and ensuring child participation in decision making process.
The Movement and all our NGOs have been consulting with children on their opinions and recommendations on what the new goals for the international community should be. Once the goals were agreed in July 2014, we decided to consult with those children if they think their governments had reflected their preferences and what they forgot to include. Our organizations did this exercise with a two-fold purpose. First, to ensure that children are consulted and given the chance to have a say, but secondly, and as a great consequence, to start spreading the word at the national and local levels about the work of the international community in New York and the new development agenda.
For this, we put together a child friendly version of the SDGs.
The document “translates” into child friendly language all 17 goals and 169 targets and includes activities to foster participation and reflection.
The voices and advise of more than 1000 children in the region where collected through consultations in school, cultural centers, alternative care settings and others and were summarized in this tryptic.
Afterwards, a girl and a boy where supported to come to New York and share the results of the consultations in the framework of the intergovernmental negotiations. This exercise was extremely empowering for them, enlightened us and is a clear example of how a very complex agenda can be understood and communicated to all. It also showed us that due to the extremely refined communication ways of young people today, and thanks to their commitment and energy to work for a better world, the outreach potential is extremely powerful. Upon their return to their countries after their participation in New York, Rodrigo, a 14 year-old from Chile, with a very difficult childhood after having lost the care of his parents, requested our support so that he could be able to keep informing other children about “what their governments are doing in New York, and so that we are all ready to contribute to make sure that the new agenda succeeds”.
If you ask me, what is the best way to communicate the agenda, how to make it universal yet adapted to national circumstances, how to make it integrated and how to ensure that everybody, every child and every woman, every farmer and every worker, those most privilege and those for which things must change, then my answer is: involve children and young people. In our opinion, they are not only the torch bearers, they are also the torch starters.
On specific techniques, besides developing child friendly materials and doing proactive work to engage children and young people, I would like to share some advice that children themselves have given to us. The advice that I will share were gathered in an event sponsored by UNICEF and our child focused agencies where students from the United Nationals International School were asked how we could make it more accessible, as well as a great consultation that UNICEF has put together to gather feedback on the zero draft of the agenda from children and young people.
One of the most prominent responses were about the role of social media to hold interactive campaigns and advertisements on the Internet, apps, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. But, in a sign of the global consciousness that many children have today, many of the participants from the developing and developed countries alike, were aware of the difficulties to access new technologies for many children and asked us to communicate the SDGs through the arts and music, in visuals, in games and messages from celebrities. They asked us to convert long pdf documents into videos or books and to help them develop their own materials and communication tools. “It feels good to be the teacher for once” an 8th grader said in the event. And we believe that there is, definitely a lot to learn from them.
In sum, our recommendations on how to communicate the new agenda are:
1. Ask the children and build the necessary capacity so that all children and specially those most vulnerable and marginalized can identify their capacities to contribute to the implementation of the agenda. Develop child friendly materials and include in schools and other spaces curricula on sustainable development. Only if we make the spirit of the agenda second nature for children, only then, will they take and claim the necessary actions to achieve sustainable development and eradicate poverty.
2. Allow for spaces and develop mechanisms by which different groups can express how the agenda is influencing them and hear from the people what impact it has in/on their lives. Besides mechanisms for participation at the local national and regional levels, the HLPF sessions should ensure meaningful, inclusive and adapted spaces for civil society and that all stakeholders have the possibilities for input into the review of the framework.
The community of NGOs working on children that I have the honor to represent here today, remain available to contribute to make the agenda happen and to ensure that all children and young people without discrimination or exception, are part of the process. Please, count on us to help you to make it happen.
Thank you very much.