A Youthful Uprising

by Engin Polar

With more than 50 million people displaced by conflict and violence throughout the world, universal collective responses aimed at dealing with the main causes of insecurity and violence should be the international communities' priority. In recent years, the growing instances of armed conflict has created record numbers of population displacement and extreme poverty, which puts Goal 16 of the Sustainable Development Goals (dedicated to the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies) at risk. A fresh perspective to address the complex roots that underlie today's intertwined security, humanitarian and developmental crises is necessary in order to combat the attacks on long-term advances in global peace.


Photo credit: UNHRC

Building peaceful, just and inclusive societies at local and national levels requires action on a number of fronts. With half of the world under the age of 30, it is crucial that this agenda puts young people at the forefront of change and development. There are 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24 years old. Empowering young people to lead the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is necessary to ensure meaningfulness and effectiveness. Given their influence, youth have both the right and the power to demand a seat at the table with their governments. As young people, we face many of the challenges addressed in the SDGs, and because the goals affect our future, it is essential that youth from all over the world participate actively in all levels of decision-making processes.


Source: UNFPA

In addition to bringing fresh perspectives, young people often have direct knowledge and insight into issues that are not accessible to adults. Youth best understand the problems they face and can offer new ideas and alternative solutions. Many of the major issues in our world are not being told from the youth point of view; however, youth activism is on the rise thanks to broader connectivity and access to social media. The youth outreach with technology not only makes them more productive, but also far superior at creating inclusive, far-reaching campaigns with global impact. A single tweet, viral video or Facebook post can inspire protests led by thousands demanding change and reform that have the ability to fundamentally transform cultures infested by corruption.


Source: Mohamed Hossam/AFP/Getty Images

Youth-led organizations and networks should be supported and strengthened as they contribute to the development of civic and leadership skills among young people, especially marginalized youth.​ As United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated during his International Youth Day message this year: "I am calling on young people to speak out - and I am urging leaders to listen. As the world changes with unprecedented speed, young people are proving to be invaluable partners who can advance meaningful solutions." When young people are empowered with the knowledge of their rights and supported to develop leadership skills, they can drive change in their communities and countries.

We cannot have a world where only some regions enjoy sustained levels of peace, security and prosperity while others fall into seemingly endless cycles of conflict and violence. We cannot possibly hope to establish a sustainable, peaceful, stable, socially just world, unless every child today has that same expectation. The Tunisian revolution was precisely about these goals: reasserting people's sovereignty and demanding governance that involves citizens as well as economic growth that benefits them. Having successfully held two rounds of free and fair elections and peaceful transfers of power, Tunisia's experience as the most successful democratic transition to emerge from the Arab uprisings illustrates just how marginalized youth can peacefully call for change after experiencing long years of corruption, bad governance, and the repression of their rights and freedoms.

A new system of inclusive governance that puts the youth at its heart must be developed and promoted in order to establish "peace, stability, human rights and effective governance based on the rule of law for sustainable development" as SDG 16 states. Young leaders who can contribute fresh ideas, take proactive measures, and mobilize massive movements through social media must be empowered, as inclusive and peaceful societies are vital to the achievement of all the other sustainable development goals.

Engin Polar is a Senior at Noblesville High School interested in International Humanitarian Law and Middle Eastern Politics. Engin is a member of the American Turkish Association of Indiana and an Ambassador for the National Society of High School Scholars.

This post is a part of a series produced by The Huffington Post in partnership with Friendship Ambassadors Foundation following the 2016 Youth Assembly at the United Nations held on February 17-18, 2016. The winter session tackled the role of youth in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. To see all posts in the series, click here.