As part of the College of ACES International Seminar Series, two representatives from the United Nations Major Group for Children and Youth (UN MGCY) visited the University of Illinois campus to discuss the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and how students can get involved with the UN to help achieve these 17 goals.
The SDGs are the new global framework passed by United Nations General Assembly to tackle a host of social, environmental, and economic challenges including ending poverty and hunger, providing access to clean water and sanitation, and addressing climate change.
Mr. Christopher Dekki and Mr. Aashish Khullar discussed how the SDGs are inter-connected and how they evolved from the UN’s previous goals. They encouraged students and student groups to officially join the UNMGCY.
SDGs are inter-connected
Mr. Dekki asked the audience, consisting mostly of students, to identify a “favorite” of the 17 goals. After receiving various answers including “climate action” and “clean water and sanitation,” he responded, “The best answer is all of them.”
The UN’s official stance is that all of the goals are equally important and inter-connected. Dekki said that although all member countries have agreed to implement the goals as equally as possible, it is also understood that countries are in different places with regards to achieving the various goals and may require more work on some than others.
Dekki explained how the 17 SDGs evolved from the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which expired in 2015.
“The MDGs were considered a gift,” said Dekki. Developed nations were seen as helping developing nations.
“However, the way we were doing things for so long is no longer sustainable. All of us have been involved in unsustainable practices,” said Dekki. Now, the UN considers every member country as a developing country with relation to these goals.
“The traditional narrative focused on an economic dimension. More money always meant good things would come, and growth was always good. With the new goals, for example, gross domestic product is still a target, but lots of other things are measured too, including equality in social and environmental outcomes,” explained Dekki.
The new SDGs also provide for the engagement of protected and legally mandated spaces for key sectors of society like children and youth.
Join the UNMGCY
The UN MGCY is the official UN General Assembly mandated space for children and youth to engage in a number of intergovernmental and policy processes at the UN. The group acts “as a bridge between children and youth and officials in the UN system.” It has been a key player in global policy formulation since its creation in 1992, as part of Agenda 21.
The speakers urged students who are interested in a particular topic – or ideally all 17 of the goals – to officially join the UN Major Group for Children and Youth. Students can join as individuals or as student organizations. Members should be under age 30 or part of an organization that represents the interests of children or youth.
The visitors were hosted by Soo Ah Kwan, associate professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies and in Asian American Studies, and their travel was supported by the ACES Office of International Programs.
More information about the speakers:
Christopher Dekki has years of advocacy experience in intergovernmental policy processes at the United Nations. Currently, he is working for the UN Department for Economic and Social Affairs, Division for Sustainable Development, coordinating national Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) implementation workshops in multiple countries. Dekki is active in the UN advocacy work of many youth-led organizations, particularly the youth movement from which he comes, the International Movement of Catholic Students. He also supports the UN Major Group for Children and Youth, the official space for youth engagement in UN policy processes, as a Board Member. Dekki is an adjunct professor of political science at St. Joseph's College in New York City.
Aashish Khullar is one of the Organising Partners of the United Nations Major Group for Children and Youth. His thematic work includes research in environmental and ecological economics, looking at integration of environmental variables in economic analysis in the context of a steady state economy. He is a StartingBloc fellow. He is originally from New Delhi and received his bachelors from the London School of Economics. He is currently based in Boston.