Mahatma Gandhi once said: “The future depends on what you do today.” This is a powerful message and one that especially resonates with us as people around the globe celebrate International Youth Day today.
The United Nations started International Youth Day in 1999 with the belief that the voices of young people like us must be heard and celebrated in order to achieve any kind of political, economic or social change in our world. At the same time Youth Day was founded, the UN also developed groundbreaking Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – eight agenda items designed to refocus international assistance on the most crucial issues facing humanity.
We were also born around the time these goals took shape, which – in part – has led to our passion for celebrating International Youth Day. Over the course of our lives, we have seen what the world can do when we come together, which inspires us to continue pushing for international cooperation on particularly pressing global issues. We want to use our voices to ensure the world knows our generation cares about these important goals. We want to take action to ensure these goals become reality.
This year marks the deadline set in 2000 to achieve the MDGs. While progress has been made, further action is needed. And we believe our generation has a huge role to play to help achieve these goals and make our world a better place.
One way young people can make a difference is joining a global movement called action/2015. We joined action/2015 earlier this year – along with students from across the globe – to raise awareness about a critical meeting take place this September. Leaders from around the world will meet at the United Nations to create a new set of MDGs called the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs will build about the goals set in 2000, outlining new plans to address the critical issues facing the globe within the next 15 years.
We have been working as Student Ambassadors with Save the Children Action Network (SCAN) to ensure that these new goals include provisions to end the preventable deaths of mothers and children. We believe child mortality remains one of the great wrongs of our modern world. Each day, 17,000 children under age 5 die, mostly from preventable causes like pneumonia, dehydration, and diarrhea.
Through our work as Student Ambassadors with SCAN, we have learned that we can end the preventable deaths of kids through simple, inexpensive interventions. Something as basic as administering antibiotics to treat pneumonia can save thousands of children. We want all children to have the same chance at life we’ve been fortunate enough to have based, in part, on the luck of where we were born.
This September, we will join other students from across the globe at the UN General Assembly in New York City. During our time in New York, we will meet with world leaders to ensure that they put the needs of children first in this new global framework. We are extremely excited take part in this historic moment when the new SDGs are declared.
Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the UN, said “In this landmark year, as leaders prepare to adopt a bold new vision for sustainable development, the engagement of youth is more valuable than ever. At this critical moment in history, I call on young people to demand and foster the dramatic progress so urgently needed in our world.”
We hear his call, and we’re using our words and hands and hearts to take action to make sure we make our world a better place. We know our friends and classmates believe the future depends on what we do today. This is why we’re going to keep working with the action/2015 campaign and Save the Children Action Network to make sure others raise their hands and lend their voices to a matter that cannot wait – securing a brighter future for our world. We hope you’ll join us.