Our Global Festival of Action review comes courtesy of CEO, Greg Viljoen, who attended the three-day conference in Bonn, Germany.
Greg offers invaluable insight into the event and adds a key perspective that he believes is currently missing from the program. Ultimately, the key challenge at hand is to educate the youth in South Africa to better understand the importance of sustainable development goals, but how do we go about doing this?
Global Festival of Action Review
Firstly let me just say the Global Festival of Action is just incredible.
I have never been to any conference with as much important social change content as this. It’s by far the most important social change event in the world.
So, before I dissect my views I have to say congratulations to everyone involved.
Essentially the event is all about the 17 Sustainable Development goals and how politicians, government, Non-profits, social entrepreneurs and anyone in the social impact space can get involved with these goals, adopt them and ensure they are achieved by 2030.
It’s a huge challenge and a target with just 11 years to go.
A key insight that I took from this experience is that the youth need to be activated more and there is a huge challenge facing the UN as in how do they do this?
The youth, right now, have had enough and they should, as they are essentially inheriting a dying planet that is very quickly reaching the point of no return.
Movements like #FridaysForFuture and #ClimateStrike created by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year old Swedish girl who has overnight become the most important and relevant climate activist, it places things into perspective. I say relevant because it’s so important after what I experienced during my visit.
Coming from South Africa, it was incredible to see young South Africans like Eddie Ndopu who has Spinal Muscular Atrophy and is now a UN SDG Advocate and will be going to space, Yusuf Omar from #HashtagOurStories and Johnny Miller’s image, currently on the front cover of Time Magazine, showcasing the inequality in South Africa. All of them had a fundamental influence on the conference.
What now, South Africa?
So, arriving home I’m left wondering the following:
- How many people in SA actually know about the SDGs?
- Do our leaders?
- Do local government?
- Do my friends?
- Do my family?
- Do the Youth?
I’m in the social impact space, and I barely know them all.
The BIG question is…
How relevant are they to someone in SA who comes from a township environment whose only goal every single day is to survive when every day is a struggle?
For that matter how relevant are they to any person living under the bread line in any developing country around the world?
These marginalised people have nothing yet they are the ones who are the most vulnerable when our time runs out. We have seen the recent natural disasters in Mozambique, and I can guarantee you those people are not aware of the SDGs.
Climate change / disaster / crisis – whichever you want to call it – will affect everyone on some level.
But if you look at the data, the first world countries have, for many years, contributed towards climate change, more so than any of the developing nations yet it is essentially the western countries that are primarily driving home this agenda.
So, while I left the conference incredibly inspired and very proud of so many people and what can be achieved if we all work together and I understand that its going to take team work to sort this challenge out, the reality is that to activate the youth represents totally different challenges and requires a clear strategy across the globe.
The perspective of a young 16-year old from a first world country and someone from a township in South Africa and what they need to care about NOW are going to be very different!
It’s, therefore, a very different ask as their universe is completely different which means a different approach is needed to make the SDGs relevant for young people in different parts of the world.
This example is, of course, only around Climate Change however all the SDGs will need tweaking to consider different locations and circumstances.
So, what do we need to do?
SDGs need to be localised
These need to be done per region or country.
They need to be put into layman terms and brought into context so that each individual can understand and appreciate how their involvement contributes to a better planet for all but can also provide them with an opportunity to better their lives.
SDGs can provide massive potential in the social entrepreneur space.
Simply put, we need better initiatives for the youth based on their local regions!
South Africa, for example, has some of the most progressive social impact initiatives simply because of limited employment opportunities young people have to create their own future.
Again, I would like to thank everyone at the UN SDG action campaign for everything and for the amazing insight; the experience certainly left me motivated and encouraged but was also a reality check as to the challenges ahead.
I have some ideas on how to activate the youth here in South Africa and I look forward to connecting with the amazing people at the Global Action Festival very soon again.