Being Mindful of Sustainability

In case you missed it.

Our previous post gave readers an overview of the content to be discussed at our meeting on the 10th of May. This covered the theoretical component that was discussed. This article will cover the discussion and practical components.

Discussion

Why should we believe the SDGs will succeed? How are they different from the Millennium Development Goals, also proposed by the UN, which failed?

The MDGs were centred around the role of the government. While the SDGs are still fairly state-centric, the emphasis on partnership leaves us with more hope.

The dominant view in this discussion seems to be that the UN is a superstructure we can trust to guide us in the right direction. This member does not agree with this view, but would like to know, if we view the UN in that way, who is it supposed to be partnering with, when there is no other structure like it?

The UN encourages participation of various kinds on various levels, there is no specific partnership that needs to take place. Clean energy, for example, is worked on through PPPs (Public Private Partnerships, where a state works with a private company to find solutions to national problems). It is therefore not a case of the UN partnering with another body, but a case of the UN encouraging all other entities to work together.

That being said, the member is right to have a distrustful view of the UN, coming from an African viewpoint. The UN is a large Western institution that has been known not to have non-Western countries’ best interests at heart at all times. In addition to this, the UN is still focused on state-centric forms of governance, which is not applicable in all contexts, as the member rightly points out. However, it is possible to remain watchful and critical even if we accept the goals.

Who is the UN, as a Western institution, to prescribe goals and legally binding resolutions to the rest of the world, when the majority of people were not consulted.

One member argues that it is not possible to consult absolutely everyone, but that room is gradually being made for more voices, drawing upon Resolution 2250, which binds states to involving youth in decision-making, among other things.

The member who raised the question disagrees, showing that the accessibility of global communications networks would make it quite simple for a deciding body – if such a global institution absolutely must exist – to draw on more voices than just those of the heads of states represented in the assembly. While this still cannot reach every single person, it does allow for grassroots participation and agency on the part of citizens, who are not merely passive victims.

Practical Application

Be Informed

All people have the ability to identify a problem and think of a solution. The difficult part is implementing a solution that will last. This requires quite a bit of thinking. Considering all the aspects of a problem and all the ways in which the problem and your proposed solution will be interacted with is key. It is difficult, but it is a skill that can be built just like a muscle. The most important thing you can do to help this is to gain as much information about the project, the environment it will take place in, and the people affected by it as possible. Your gut feeling when it comes to a project is important and will guide you towards making it successful, but building this skill will make it sustainable.

Consider Affected Groups

Obviously, a project will have a target group. Looking at the example of a community where idle youth are exposed to violent activity, we can come up with the solution of creating an after school sports programme to keep the boys – who are most susceptible – off the streets. The target is therefore obviously boys in the community, but the target group is not the only group that will interact with the project. What about disabled boys, who won’t be able to play conventional sports? What about girls, who will have no place to go in the afternoon? What about boys who have to walk their sisters and younger siblings home first? Where do the parents fit into the picture? Et cetera.

Keep in mind that it is always possible for you to miss something, even if you are already skilled in this regard. It is important to seek help to make sure you take as many things as possible into account.

Be Climate-Aware

Climate change is happening, and there is very little that can be done about it at this point, but the effects can be mitigated and accommodated. Projects have to take the climate factor into account, because later the project may not be able to continue due to climate constraints. The project should also, under no circumstances, contribute to worsening climate change. For example, if you want to make a youth sports programme, don’t build a swimming pool, because water is very limited and should not be wasted. Or, if you help a community grow their own food, make sure that the crops can grow with little water, because water may become scarce, in which case the community will be without food again.

Create Partnerships

When starting a project, you should have your main goals written down somewhere, and stick to them. However, you must be flexible in your strategy, especially when you form partnerships. You are limited, and your project cannot grow without partnerships.

When approaching a possible partner, understand that it is a give and take situation. You will not be able to simply demand what you want and not have to give anything in return. Start by explaining who you are and what your project is, and how it fits into the bigger picture. Second, show them why they should care, and why your project is relevant to them. Explain what you can bring to the table, and lastly propose what you expect from a partnership with them. Be willing to compromise. If at all possible, meet face-to-face and work out all the details in person. Perhaps most importantly, do not commit to anything you will not be able to fulfill.

Your flexibility should also allow others to take your project and branch out. Other people may be just as passionate as you about the issue, and they can access different areas and resources. It is sometimes difficult to let other people take a part of your project and expand it without you, but understand that you cannot possibly reach everyone, and to effect change on a larger scale – which should be the ultimate goal – you need to expand.

Generate Buy-In

If the community doesn’t care about your project, your project is going to fail. It is therefore important to generate buy-in. First, make the problem very clear, but do not use impersonal statistics. Show how it affects the community directly. Second, give the people your are working with ownership. Consult them before jumping in and doing things, because they will not appreciate it, and your attempts at help may end up being completely misguided. In addition to this, creating ownership and buy-in makes you more accountable to the people. Finally, make sure you are visible. Visibility creates legitimacy. No-one is going to trust you if they do not know or understand what you are doing and why you are doing it.

Source Sustainably and Locally

Reduce waste for your projects as much as possible. Use recyclable and biodegradable products, and support local businesses. It may cost more, but in the long run it will be much better for sustainable development as a whole.

Self-Reflect

Make sure you understand and come to terms with your limitations. Know when to say no and when to let go. Knowing yourself, your community, and your project will tell you how to approach situations.


Special thanks to Alpha Shawa for reminding us to have a critical eye and not just blindly accept ideas.

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What is sustainability? Discussing development and peace.

Preparation for the meeting on 10 May 2018.

What does it mean when something is “sustainable?”

In the most basic terms, when something is sustainable, it can continue or be upheld indefinitely. The United Nations goes a bit further, and refers to it as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” In a simple example, sustainable fishery means catching enough fish to feed everyone on the planet now, but making sure there are still enough fish and a safe environment for them to breed and live so that the next round of people who will inhabit the earth after us can enjoy fish too.

What are the goals of sustainable development?

We are not talking about the 17 SDGs here, but rather the vision that inspired the goals. Agenda 2030 starts by identifying some key areas where improvement is necessary in terms of sustainable development.

People

A world where people are free from poverty, hunger and inequality.

Planet

A world where the earth is healthy and able to sustain all life upon it.

Prosperity

A world where all people can enjoy the fruits of the economic and technological growth.

Peace

A world without war, and with strong peaceful and inclusive institutions to ensure it.

Partnership

Working together across multiple institutions to achieve the world we want.

What is sustainable peace?

Peace, on its own, is the absence of war. However, when we imagine peace, we don’t just imagine not being shot at. Sustainable peace is that conflict free situation that we imagine when we think of peace, continuously. In a society without sustainable peace, there are always sources of conflict. This does not refer to interpersonal conflict, like when you argue with a friend. This conflict is on a much larger scale. Gender inequality, for example, leads to a situation where a large portion of the population is unhappy with their situation and want to change the system. This causes conflict. Not war, but not sustainable peace.

When sustainable development takes place, inequality and the scramble for resources slowly fade away, and sources of conflict by extension. Sustainable development and the achievement of the goals in Agenda 2030 thus lead to sustainable peace.

Thinking forward

This Thursday, we will be discussing all these points. From the open discussion, we will move to more practical approaches. At The Hub, we encourage all members to approach a small project towards sustainable development. How do we apply our new knowledge to real life sustainable development through our projects?

 

 

UNSC: Sustainable Peace and Peacebuilding

On the 25th of April, the UNSC was briefed on the topic. On the 26th, they took action.

Briefing

Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr Antonio Guterres, addressed the Security Council on this past Wednesday with regards to sustaining and building peace. His speech was largely in tandem with President Lajčák’s to the UNGA.

Mr Guterres pointed out that all conflict has a root, and without eradicating the root, conflict will always resurge. The roots of conflict are often a result of underlying societal issues like poverty, inequality, exclusion, discrimination, and violation of human rights. He called for a “quantum leap” in progress with regards to this.

Adoption of Resolution 2413

The UNGA recently adopted a draft resolution titled “Follow‑up to the report of the Secretary-General on peacebuilding and sustaining peace.” This resolution has now been adopted by the UNSC as well.

The main line of Resolution 2413 is to speed up action with regards to sustainable peacebuilding. The resolution is a short one, and basically affirms the pursuit of peace in line with the Secretary-General’s report (the conclusion of the report was summarised in the previous section of this article). It was adopted unanimously. You can read the resolution and access the full report here.

UNGA: Focus on Sustaining Peace

The UN General Assembly convened a High-Level Meeting on Sustainable Peace over the last two days (24-25 April).

Opening Session

Speaking at the main event of the meeting, the President of the 72nd UN session, Mr Miroslav Lajčák opens the proceedings by reflecting on the UN’s successes and failures in terms of peace. He points out that, while there has not been another World War, the UN has failed in sustaining peace on smaller scales. Highlighting the importance of creating a lasting peace in all societies, he calls for focus in 5 main areas, as discussed below.

1. Prevention

The UN has spent most of its efforts at peacekeeping after the conflict has already begun. This is clearly not an efficient way to sustain peace, if we wait until peace has already broken down to intervene. The President calls for more mediation and diplomacy, at micro-, meso-, and macro levels. An increase in peaceful resolutions of differences creates more resilient societies, which are more peaceful and less prone to conflict.

2. UN Coherence

While the UN is committed to peace, thus far it has not united its efforts as well as they could have. President Lajčák asserts that the UN can no longer treat Agenda 2030 as a standalone project. It must be integrated into all projects, and all projects must be integrated into the communities they are based in.

3. Partnerships

Once again the UN reiterates the importance of working together, because sustainable peace is too big to tackle alone. Linking to SDG 17, the President urges UN cooperation with states, regional and sub-regional organisations, civil society, and the private sector and financial institutions.

4. Financing

The President finds that too little UN funds have been spent on sustaining peace, and that there has been too little investment in sustainable peace in general. Unfortunately, without said investment, progress is difficult and slow. He encourages commitment to peace financially.

5. Inclusion

Peace cannot be built or maintained by political elites alone. People involved in conflict are not merely passive victims. They are powerful actors capable of contributing to peace. The President calls for inclusion of all affected parties in decision-making This links directly to Resolution 2250, which calls for inclusion of the youth specifically.

Side Events

While the main meeting proceeded, President Lajčák went on to address members at three side events.

2. Pathways to Peace

The President highlights the lack of funding for sustaining peace, and points out that most UN funds go to reacting to conflict, rather than preventing it. He cites a study that shows that, for every $1 spent on prevention, $7 is saved on future mitigation. Furthermore, he shows that peace, when viewed as a lack of conflict, does not look glamorous, and therefore not attractive to investors. When we invest in technological advances, we envision progress, but when we invest in prevention of conflict, it is difficult to see a clear outcome. For this reason, it is important to view peace in terms of the SDGs.

1. Gender

During times of conflict, there is a tendency to view women as the victims or collateral damage to the fighting of men. In reality, women are active actors within conflicts. Women are present on the frontlines and behind the frontlines supporting families as well. They are valuable in creating peace and sustaining it, so the President urges their inclusion in the following areas.

2.1. Prevention

Women are strong negotiators and mediators, and are embedded in their communities. Women tend to be grassroots actors, and can therefore broker peace at the root of the conflict. Moreover, women’s inclusion in societies make them more resilient, and therefore less prone to conflict.

2.2. Peace Processes

The President cites a study that shows that peace is more likely to last when women are included. When women are given a chance to take part in negotiating peace, and are also included in society as a whole, there are fewer sources of conflict.

2.3. Post-conflict peacebuilding

Women are disproportionately affected by conflict, and their suffering does not simply disappear once the war is over. Their experiences are valuable, and therefore they must be included in peacebuilding.

3. Post-Conflict Peacebuilding

President Lajčák reiterates the importance of maintaining peace, as opposed to putting out fires. He calls for three main changes to take place.

3.1. Reconciliation

When peace deals are brokered, the whole world watches and there is support all around. After everyone stops fighting, people tend to assume it is over, and stop caring. Peace, however, is once again not the mere absence of war. Conflict causes severe psychological and emotional trauma to whole societies, and these do not simply go away. It is the duty of the UN to remain present post-conflict and ensure that these wounds are healed, preventing resurgence.

3.2. Broader Perspective

Conflicts do not suddenly erupt out of nowhere. All conflicts have a root, and begin by simmering for a long time. Once again pointing out the importance of prevention, the President encourages aiding communities in reconciling differences before they become conflicts.

3.3. Inclusion

The President reiterates, once again, the importance of including all groups in policy-making and reconciliation.

Media Statement

In a press briefing, the President states that he is hopeful that members will discuss the matters at hand constructively and work together towards a solution. He reiterates the importance of financing, prevention, and inclusion. He emphasises the importance of sustainable development and human rights, without which there can be no sustainable peace.

 

Resolution 2250 and why the youth is important

The Hub bases its mission and vision on the UNSC’s Resolution 2250. What is it, and what does it mean?

Defining a Resolution

A United Nations resolution is a set of rules and ideas in a formal document adopted by the United Nations. While all UN bodies can create and adopt resolutions, most of them are made by the UN Security Council, and only the Security Council can make legally binding resolutions.

Resolution 2250, the backing behind The Hub’s mission and vision, was made by the Security Council. It is a chapter 7 resolution, which means it legally binding for states. It is regarded as a matter of global peace and security, allowing the Security Council and its members to intervene in cases where states are in active contravention of it.

The Youth and its Importance

Demographics

The youth is defined by the UN as people in the age range of 15-24. By other definitions, the age range can be extended to include persons up to the age of 29. When using this definition, we find that the majority of the global population falls into this demographic.

Vulnerability

The youth is disproportionately vulnerable to security issues, for a variety of reasons. Firstly, a portion of the youth are minors that are still dependant on their families. Though they are capable of fending for themselves if circumstances demand it, the problem boils down to a lack of resources. A helpful comparison came up in the discussion: If you are 35 years old and you have been employed and living alone for a significant portion of your life, and a conflict situation arises, destabilising your region, you will be much better equipped to deal with it than an 18-year-old in the same situation. The 35-year-old has more assets than their younger counterpart, the least of which is life experience that better equips them to deal with extenuating circumstances.

Profiling

Often when the word ‘youth’ comes up in discussions between members of older generations, it is in a “kids these days!” context. This is a form of profiling that young adults are subject to. Society tends to view youth as lazy troublemakers, but in an address to the Security Council a few days ago, the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy for Youth cited a study proving the contrary. Only a small minority of youth are involved in violent activities. These youths are often unemployed – by the way, the youth unemployment rate is more than three times greater than the unemployment rate for people above the upper limit of the age range – and therefore at risk for falling into a life of crime for the sake of survival.

Defining Sustainable Peace

Peace cannot be defined as the mere absence of war. If we look at the word ‘security,’ it does not only mean the absence of physical violence. Security is defined more positively, even in colloquial language. When we say, for example ‘food security,’ we don’t mean our food is not being shot at. Therefore, when defining security, other factors must be considered. This is called sustainable peace.

Sustainable peace entails the satisfaction of important needs, which will reduce conflict and the need for conflict. It includes food security, education, equality, job security, and others. Think about it: if you don’t have a job and you don’t have money for food, what will you do? You will be forced to steal, in turn affecting the crime rate, and therefore conflict.

This links directly to the vulnerability of the youth. Because the youth is disproportionately affected by conflict, they are susceptible to recruitment by violent groups. A member presented us with the following scenario: You are an 18-year-old person in Syria. You have been forced to flee your home, like many others. A representative of ISIL approaches you. “Take this gun and join us, and we’ll give you food and a place to sleep.” They don’t even have to add the terms and conditions – “If you don’t, we’ll kill you” – because you are already in a desperate enough situation as it stands.

Why is Resolution 2250 valuable?

New narrative

Resolution 2250 shifts the mainstream narrative in two ways. Firstly, it discourages profiling the youth as a problem to society. Secondly, it changes the way we see the youth from passive victims of conflict, to individuals with the agency to effect change.

Visibility

It focuses a spotlight on the importance of the youth and creates a space for them to participate and thrive.

Legitimacy

Because 2250 is a legally binding resolution, it provides legitimate backing for youth development projects. Our chairperson asked the members to consider the difference between an individual or group approaching a government and asking them to make room for youth participation, as opposed to approaching that same government with international law as backing and demanding participation based on that.

Accountability

We did mention that 2250 is a legally binding resolution, but what does that entail? Firstly, states are required to implement certain changes and report back to the Security Council once a year. If changes are found to be unsatisfactory, the Security Council will apply pressure to the state in question.

In response to a question regarding the actual repercussions that an offending state could face, the speaker clarified that, in international law, it’s more of a ‘name and shame’ game than anything else. It’s a sort of peer pressure situation, but on a much larger scale. It is important for states to look good in front of other states to be respected. However, the resolution does allow for sanctions to be imposed in cases where a state is actively refusing to comply. Technically, if a state was marginalising and persecuting the youth, the resolution type allows for invasion of the state in question, but this is not a real possibility.

What does 2250 entail?

In order for the resolution to succeed, the five pillars it is made up of have to be built.

Participation

The youth should be explicitly involved in all levels of decision-making. Parliament, for example, should include a youth voice. This does not mean that parliament should necessarily have a seat quota based on age, but it does mean that it must consult with the youth when making legislation. Barriers that prevent youth from participating in politics should be removed. In the US, young people are excluded from running for office, but in South Africa any legal adult may run. This is an example of barriers/marginalisation versus opportunities/inclusion.

Protection

There are many conventions that ensure the safety of civilians during times of conflict, like the Geneva convention, but 2250 now calls for explicit focus on youth by taking into consideration their vulnerability. The resolution also calls for stronger measures against sexual and gender-based violence, where young people often bear the brunt.

Prevention

Looking once again at the susceptibility of the youth to be drawn into criminal activities in desperate situations, we see that it is extremely important for security purposes to ensure that this does not happen. The youth needs education, job creation, and enabling spaces where their projects can thrive and contribute positively to change.

Partnerships

Linking closely with SDG 17, the Security Council recognises that this project is too large for just one actor to solve. Even a state can’t bring about this scale of change within its own borders as just one entity. That is why 2250 calls for cooperation between various actors and institutions, with specific reference to grassroots organisations that work directly with the youth. At this point it is important to remind all members why they joined The Hub. We are here to work with you, the youth, on the ground. We aspire to enable you to become the leaders that bring about real sustainable change.

Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration

Finally, the resolution calls for a decrease in armed conflict. While sustainable peace is not a simple matter of the absence of war, it is not complete without this aspect of physical security. 2250 asserts that, in order to reduce violence, there must be education and safe spaces.

A quick interjection to define a safe space is in order now. Often, we might see statements and images online that refer to younger generations as ‘special snowflakes’ for needing safe spaces. By these terms, a safe space is viewed as a place for ‘weak’ people. This is an incorrect view. A safe space is a group or place where a specific group of people that is actively marginalised and discriminated against are free from such persecution and allowed to thrive. Let’s break it down into a different scenario. If the youth (A) are unsafe and marginalised, which is a security issue (B), they require safe spaces. Now: If a homeless person (A) is hungry and can’t buy his own food, which is a security issue (B), he requires a soup kitchen. We don’t say hungry people with no money are weak for needing food, so why say marginalised people are weak for needing a place to be comfortable?

Now, when these safe spaces and education and training initiatives are in place, we see that youth are no longer idle, they are no longer in vulnerable positions, and therefore they no longer have a need to turn to a violent life for survival.

A Missing Piece

On the 23rd of April, the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth – Ms Jayathma Wickramanayake – briefed the UN Security Council on youth participation for sustainable peace.

Ms Wickramanayake encouraged the UNSC to allow the youth to do what they do best – innovate. The youth, she said, is already leading the world. The problem is that the world is making it difficult for them to succeed. The youth faces restrictions and negative age-based profiling, despite only a tiny minority engaging in violence globally.

Speaking alongside her, author Graeme Simpson confirms that people tend to stereotype the youth. Policies and older generations tend to assume much about the youth, including making assumptions that demonise them, instead of asking for real input from the youth. It does not make sense to make a policy about or for someone who is fully capable of making reasonable decisions and not asking for their input.

While many older generations make the mistake of taking a ‘kids these days are so X, Y and Z! Back in my day we A, B and C! We’re better!’ stance towards the youth. Millennial and members of Generation Z – the current youth by the UN’s definition (ages 15-24) – are some of the most hated demographic groups. All Millennials are over the age of 20, yet older generations talk down to them like they are children.

The youth is not a problem. The youth is a start of a promise, and it is important to give them a chance to succeed, says Ms Wickramanayake, calling them ‘the missing piece’ to progress in terms of sustainable development and peace. They must be included in political and economic processes, because they will build the future, and they will be the ones who live in it.


Sources

https://www.un.org/sg/en/content/noon-briefing-highlight
https://news.un.org/en/story/2018/04/1007962
Why Does Everyone Hate Millennials?
http://www.unesco.org/new/en/social-and-human-sciences/themes/youth/youth-definition/
https://www.aynla.org/2015/08/special-newsletter-for-international-youth-day-2015-via-un-youth-envoy/

The Magic of Friendship

Err, that would be “partnership,” rather.

The United Nations knew when they set up the 17 Sustainable Development Goals that they were extremely ambitious. These goals cannot be achieved by one institution alone. They require multilateral action by every capable actor. We need governments, companies, individuals, NGOs, grassroots organisations – everyone, really – to work together.

That’s why The Hub exists. The Hub’s goal is to form skills networks between individuals so that people from different backgrounds can use their skills to work towards sustainable development and sustainable peace.


Source

https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/globalpartnerships/