Defining Our Demands: Next Steps for Youth in the Post-2015 Process

In 2000, the UN established eight international development goals (the MDGs) — ranging from eradicating extreme poverty to improving maternal health — to be achieved by 2015. Now that this deadline is upon us, the international community is looking ahead to define what’s come to be known as the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

Last summer, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon established the High-Level Panel (HLP), a group of 27 international government officials and civil society experts, to guide the development of the Post-2015 framework. The HLP recently convened in Bali for a meeting before they submit recommendations to Ban in May. Along with more than 100 youth delegates, I participated in a parallel youth multistakeholder meeting, which included an outreach event with key players such as High Level Panelist John Podesta of the Center for American Progress and Homi Kharas of the Brookings Institute.

In preparation for our meeting with the HLP, we were tasked with the impossible: to distill the vision and priorities of young people, all 3.5 billion of us, into a tidy presentation on what we hope to see in the next development framework. Compelled by this rare opportunity to provide direct inputs into what continues to be a frustratingly inaccessible process, we managed to catalog what matters most to young people, drawing on our own discussions as well as outcomes from prior and ongoing post-2015 youth meetings. Gender equality and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) emerged as areas of strong thematic consensus.

The Youth Communiqué, which documents the outcomes of the Bali youth meeting, calls for a transformative and transparent new development agenda, and includes strong language on inclusion and rights.  We also call for a number of commitments to gender equality and SRHR, including universal access to quality education (including Comprehensive Sexuality Education) and youth-friendly health services, a commitment to gender equality, the elimination of gender-based violence and the recognition of young people’s diverse sexual orientations and gender identities.

Inclusion was a striking theme of this meeting.  As we discussed the need for meaningful youth participation on the whole, we highlighted the challenge of ensuring that the most marginalized young people are included in the next development agenda.  Drawing heavily on commitments made during the 2012 Global Youth Forum, we demanded the recognition of young people with disabilities, sex workers, indigenous youth, and young people living with HIV/AIDS as valued stakeholders in the Post-2015 Development Agenda process.

Upcoming events throughout the summer (including another HLP meeting in mid-May and the ICPD Regional Reviews) present immediate opportunities for young people to mobilize yet again.  We must use these opportunities not only to further define our asks and non-negotiables, but also to continue challenging the limited and often superficial opportunities for meaningful youth participation. The fight is far from over. It’s crucial that we build on the momentum from Bali to claim this agenda as our own. 

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