Youth Volunteerism: An Indispensable Force for Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Ghana
Ghana made great strides in achieving a significant number of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). For instance, according to UN-Ghana, the country performed creditably well in poverty reduction, access to safe drinking water, universal primary education and gender parity. Nonetheless, it is also true that slow progress was made in other crucial areas like achieving full and productive employment, women’s involvement in governance, reducing maternal mortality and, reversing the loss of natural resources and improving sanitation. Even though the MDGs’ period of achievement is over (2015), one can critically draw from the analyses that it has done some good and therefore more effort will be required to meet the unachieved MDGs and more importantly its successor the SDGs.
In every nation, ensuring the massive realisation of these all-important goals undeniably calls for total support and participation from the entire citizenry as well as the government. But I further believe strongly that, the youth have an extremely potent role to play in this regard as they constitute a greater proportion of the nation’s population. Besides, they are energetic, vibrant, adventurous and passionate, and would on any day want to push these goals at all levels. They are thus good vessels for accomplishing the SDGs. “if we neglect young people, we will not achieve a single SDG” emphasised the UN General Assembly President Miroslav Lajcak when addressing the 2018 ECOSOC Youth forum. Achieving the ambitious SDGs is estimated to cost $US 15 trillion more a year than the MDGs. There is every clear indication that governments alone cannot finance such colossal amounts.
It is precisely for this reason that we advocate strongly for volunteerism on the part of young people. Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations did put it succinctly when he said: “If our hopes of building a better and a safer world are to become more than wishful thinking, we will need the engagement of volunteers more than ever”. Indeed, whenever and wherever the spirit of volunteerism has been invoked, there has been a rapid and tremendous achievement of societal goals. This is so because volunteerism involves proactiveness, initiative and self-responsibility.
How Young people can volunteer to make the attainment of the SDGs a reality.
There are diverse ways by which young people can volunteer to make the attainment of the SDGs a reality.
- The first is through political leadership. We have a good number of young persons with key positions at both national and community levels. Examples include Assembly members, Members of Parliament, Political Party Executives and other organisational heads. They should use their platforms to campaign massively about the goals and more especially push for policy formulation to allow for proper implementation. In addition, these young leaders must mobilise their followers for collective action, particularly at the grassroots level.
- The second is through the school system. Our educational institutions, right from basic to tertiary levels offer bountiful opportunities that the youth can utilise to hasten the achievement of the SDGs. Students for instance can form Clubs whose sole purpose will be to propagate the global goals as well as embark on practical activities that will translate into their better realisation. Besides, there are already existing clubs in most of our schools. That is, the Girl Guides, Boy Scout, Red Cross, Wildlife Society, Friends of the Earth, National Commission for Civic Education (N.C.C.E), among others. It will be extremely profitable if all these groups align themselves with the SDGs and design their activities in a manner that will contribute to the actualisation of the goals.
The role of civil society
The establishment of the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) platforms for the SDGs and other CSOs partnerships with UN and other government agencies are all in the right direction and should be encouraged in the realisation of the SDGs. It is of great importance to create opportunities, spaces, and platforms for engaging and collaborating with these groups at the local level in order to promote dialogue, build community awareness, and develop strong relationships. CSOs reach the hardest of the poor by providing services hardly delivered by government agencies. They also have the capacity to monitor progress through data collection and reporting.
The role of the media in fast-tracking the attainment of the SDGs can no more be overemphasised. In the Information and Technological age, young people have at their disposal such a highly potent tool as the mass media that can be employed for rapid realisation of the SDGs. In other words, many of the youth possess Smartphones or at least have access to the internet. Using their social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp, they can easily volunteer by regularly putting out there valuable information on the SDGs. They can engage in debates and discussions and make practical suggestions in line with the goals.
Moreover, there is a need for young celebrities to get involved with global goals. In Ghana, there is an appreciable number of young stars who have a strong mass appeal that can be capitalised on to get the attention of the populace and elicit their support for the SDGs. For instance, some celebrities are accomplished sportspersons, filmmakers, musicians and the like. They should volunteer as SDGs Ambassadors and embark on community projects geared towards popularising the goals as well as improving the living standards of communities. Further, musicians and filmmakers should incorporate the goals into their creative works so that by entertaining their funs, they end up educating and inspiring them for action too.
It is true that collective efforts are needed to achieve collective goals. However, there is no denying that individual efforts also contribute to collective goals in the long run. Therefore, each young person on his or her own has much to offer. As a young person, you should not wait until you are told before you do the right thing. One should avoid littering, use water wisely, conserve electricity, shun indiscriminate cutting of trees, stay away from illegal mining and water pollution, and respect other people’s rights and liberties. Again, the individual should be proactive enough to put right anything that may pose a threat to especially human, animal and plant lives.
All in all, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are here to direct our actions as a global community and to hasten the realisation of our vision of a better, safer, and more joyous world. Governments alone cannot succeed in this agenda and this calls for the participation of all and sundry especially young people. And young people can play their part by volunteering through political leadership, the school system, the mass media, sports and entertainment as well as individual efforts. Let each person do his or her part and the achievement of the SDGs will be as sure as tomorrow’s Sun.
NOTE: Opinion expressed in this article are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of the West Africa Civil Society Institute.