The perennial leaders who have used their experience to lead us are increasingly out of step in a world of grassroot and global movement spread by the digital revolution- and led by a new generation.
The youth of today are leading the charge for better world and they will be leaders tomorrow. It’s time we provided them with the expertise and institutional knowledge to carry out the plan we’ve built to sustain our planet through 2030 – the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
Achieving the SDGs is not an easy task, nor a quick one; it requires an intergenerational approach precisely because the actions we take today will affect the lives of future generations. For this reason, over the next 13 years and beyond, young people the world over will need to lead our efforts to achieve the SDGs. They will also bear the consequences of inaction, and as such have the biggest stake in the success of the SDGs.
In this, the younger generations have somewhat of a leg up on the current leading generations. They are technologically savvier, always ready to learn more, keen to activate new solutions and update their understanding to move the world forward. They are unburdened by bureaucracy or the mantra of “this is the way it’s always been done.” But they need the knowledge, skills and tools that will make them successful.
So how do we prepare young people to thrive in this increasingly fragile, vulnerable world, and help them acquire the skills to achieve the SDGs?
Education about sustainable development is imperative. And it requires:
- First, a deeper understanding of the critical challenges across economics, climate change, health, education, gender issues, human rights, biodiversity, agriculture, urban development and many other realms;
- Second, the ability to identify how each Sustainable Development Goal impacts the others;
- Third, the ability to take this overarching, global knowledge about the past, present and future of sustainable development and bring it to their own hometowns and local communities, taking global issues and translating them into regional, national and local contexts;
- Fourth, combining theoretical knowledge with real, practical applications by acquiring practical skills of management, communication and implementation;
Universities are beginning to grapple with the complexities of teaching sustainable development, but traditional institutional structures and limited resources can make it hard for them to offer programs that combine all these aspects.
Initiative to educate and empower young people in a unique way will be required to reach our young leaders of tomorrow and prepare them for the future.