Young leaders of global health ask for a seat at the table if they are to be the ones to usher in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

This blog was written by Caity Jackson, Co-Founder & Communications, Women in Global Health and Director of European Engagement, CFHI. It summarizes Panel 4 from the GHLS 2015 Symposium titled Young Global Leaders Reflect – How Will I Shape the SDGs?

The 2015 Global Health Landscape Symposium’s final panel, ‘Young Global Leaders Reflect: How will I shape the SDGs,’ challenged today’s leaders to institutionalize young peoples’ involvement in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  Three themes guided the discussion, including recognizing the important role the enormous population of youth have in ushering in these goals, ensuring young voices are heard in these discussions and invited to the decision-making tables, and encouraging true collaboration at all levels, with a focus on capacity-building and training in this skill for young leaders.

Moderated by Kyle Peterson of FSG, the stage was alive with ideas and energy as all the panelists considered on their own experiences as young leaders and what they see as the role they can play in the SDGs. Sahil Angelo from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) started out the discussion focusing on the immense number of young people in the world – almost 2 billion between the ages of 10 and 24. This is in-part due to the successes of past global health efforts, but as a community, we have not really considered or planned for the implications of these strides. What does 2 million young people (and rising) mean in the context of the SDGs? Nowhere in the “Means of Implementation” section of the SDGs’ text does it mention that youth would be the ones to usher them in.

Many panelists commented on the comprehensiveness of the goals and saw them as tangible objectives that address the root causes of inequity in health outcomes, even as a chance to do it ‘right this time’, referring to the previous Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Yet in terms of young leader involvement, Oliver Anene of the New York City Department of Health commented that young leaders need to be invited to the decision-making table and their voices need to be heard – especially since they are currently on the receiving side of the policies created by today’s leaders. Anne Heerdegen of the Global Health Fellows program echoed this thought, commenting on how young leaders should be invited to speak at conferences and events alongside their experienced colleagues.

GlobeMed Executive Director, Alyssa Smaldino, spoke to amount of collaboration needed in order to achieve success. She discussed how true collaboration is very difficult, but essential – especially at the local community level. There is a need for proper training, capacity building, intention, and bi-directional thought leadership at every level. These activities will empower young leaders change pernicious power dynamics that pervade the donor community, helping them to ensure their voices and the voices of their respective communities are represented as they see these goals through.

The final take-away messages from this group were powerful, with the panelists warning the current generation of global health workers that the youth of today will hold them accountable to their actions and the goals they have set. The young leaders of today are demanding to be heard so that the solutions for tomorrow’s global health challenges can be adapted and addressed today.

GHLS 2015 Panel 4 - Young Global Leaders Reflect – how will I shape the SDGs?

GHLS 2015 Panel 4 – Young Global Leaders Reflect – how will I shape the SDGs?