The as climate change, economic inequality, innovation,

The universality, multi-dimensionality,
comprehensive, transformative and the inclusivity of the Sustainable
Development Goals poses a call to action to end global poverty, protect the
planet while promoting shared prosperity and peace building. They are
multidimensional, comprehensive, transformative and universal in nature, to be
heeded by all regardless of geography or level of wealth. Adopted by the United
Nations in 2015, these global goals set the world’s development agenda for the
next 15years, until 2030. While building on the successes and lessons
learned from the Millennium Development Goals, (MDGs) these 17 new Sustainable
Development Goals also know as the “Global Goals” with over 169 targets focus
on new areas such as climate change, economic inequality, innovation,
sustainable consumption, peace and social justice while addressing the links
between development, peace and security.

 

Despite laudable achievements during the time
of the MDGs, there still remains much to do to get to the point where all
people of the world have sufficient resources to live a dignified life with
assurance of their basic human rights.  We
have been presented with laudable yet precarious/ambitious aims and criteria
with which to implement, assess and measure progress. The goal is to achieve sustainable
and long-term results for all people. Some of the
success and failures of the MDGs have been debated and reported, but there
seems to be a lack of discussion and evaluation according to human rights
principles, which the new agenda seek to address. This chapter will explore the
MDGs from a human rights framework and then proceed quickly into the relevance
of the SDGs today. It will focus on key areas such as access to good health and
wellbeing (SDG3), quality education (SDG4), promoting gender equality (SDG5),
decent work and economic growth (SDG8), reduced inequalities (SDG10) and
climate action (SDG13).

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This framework will envisage a world of
universal respect for equality of rights and non-discrimination of persons
across nations, cultures and other key population groups.

 

As it strives to leave no-one behind, the
Global goals calls on UN member states to respect, protect and promote human
rights, without discrimination with regards to race, color, sex, language,
religion, political, national and social origin, property, birth and disability
for the elimination of all
forms of violence and discrimination against women and girls, and the promotion
of economic empowerment of the poor.

 

Integrated into these global goals will be a
more comprehensive analysis of current global health challenges and a call for
young people through Global Citizenship to belong to a broader community that cuts across national boundaries. By a
foundation of leaving no one behind, this book chapter will focus on the rights
and duties of all people with emphasis on our common humanity and a local to
global framework so that each one of us can think and act for a more
just/equitable, peaceful and sustainable world.

 

 

 

MDGs
to SDGs

The Universal Declaration of Human rights was
drafted by people of every color, and different backgrounds and adopted by the
United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948. This is the only
document till date that sets out our fundamental human rights with the call for
everyone to protect it. Despite the achievements made on the Millennium
Development Goals (MDGs) which saw a decline in extreme poverty, better
nutrition for children, improved gender parity in primary education and access
to clean water, one of the criticism of the MDGs was the fact that it lacked
public input especially from human rights activists and the engagement of civil
societies including the voices of young people who continue to be left behind.

 

Drawing from this criticism, the SDGs were therefore
adopted and drafted using a human rights approach but the challenge here is
that for us to achieve the SDGs by 2030 we must ensure active participation,
full accountability and eliminate discriminatory practices while giving
everyone a chance to strive for the kind of world they want to see not just for
themselves but for those that come after them. The consultation processes of
the 2030 Agenda were characterized by public consultations and the active
participation of major groups and civil society.

 

However, despite the comprehensiveness of the
consultation process, there was a lot of dissatisfaction from human rights advocates
as they felt the SDGs were not quite reflective of the input from global
leaders, young people and grassroots organizations in having human rights at
the center of the 2030 agenda. Nonetheless there was optimism that the SDGs
will be a unifying agenda as they were not only applicable to countries in the
global South (as with MDGs) but also to countries in the global North. One of
the criticisms levied on the SDGs was the fact that they were too ambitious and
many in number but despite these criticisms there was hope that if well
implemented and the necessary accountability measures put in place, they were
going to will help reduce inequalities, end global poverty and foster shared
prosperity for all.

 

It is one thing for countries to adopt these goals
but another thing to follow through on these goals and since its adoption in
2015, the energy is slowing down with countries like the United States not only
denying the realities of climate change despite the science that exist but also
cutting funding to major agencies within the United Nations and other
international development and humanitarian assistance programs. Some of these
cuts have been in the area of gender equality (SDG5) and access to sexual
reproductive health rights for women and girls (SDG3), which millions of poor people
in the global south depend on. This is not just a blow to the international
community and to the values of the SDGs, but also this is an unethical approach
from a wealthy nation like the US, which in the last decade has stood up the
marginalized and the most vulnerable populations so that no one is left behind

 

Health
and Human Rights

Despite these cuts in funding to address
issues related to health rights of children and the Sexual Reproductive rights
of women and girls, access to affordable essential medicines and ensuring that
universal health coverage is achieved by all, there has been lots of criticism
that SDG3 did not take a human rights approach in addressing inequalities but
rather a very technical one that lacks an in-depth knowledge to the underlying
issues that continue to deprive millions of women and girls of their basic health
rights and wellbeing and their ability to have control over their own bodies –
absence of which will continue to leave the most vulnerable populations behind.

 

One of the shortcomings of the MDGs was the
lack of disaggregated data especially in most of the communities that were being
left behind. In the context of SDG 3 using a human rights approach, the lack of
quality, accessible and affordable health care is often as a result of
inadequate health financing to address issues related to healthcare systems
strengthening, capacity building and program design. All of this leads to poor
data collection which is very important in making informed decisions that meet
the healthcare needs of the most marginalized an vulnerable populations

 

However, using big data aided by technology to
help close this data gap may not be a sustainable solution as many poor
communities still have poor information systems and a wide technological divide.
It is therefore imperative for international development assistance programing to
focus more on building the capacity within statistical/data departments in Ministries
of Health in order to ensure that the data being collected is accurate and
reliable enough to help track health related SDGs. 

 

Another key area that is often neglected in health
system strengthening and data collection in poor communities is the lack of
disaggregated data on key populations like men who have sex with men (MSM), transgender
women and men as it related to HIV/AIDs prevention and treatment (SDG target
3.3) as well as persons and communities who voluntarily want to stay invisible
and not be counted fear of being criminalized or stigmatized. When people continue
to live in fear of being persecuted, they are not only left out in health
monitoring programing but continue to suffer from all forms of marginalization
and abuse. It is therefore important for health systems programming to be more inclusive,
gender-sensitive and ethically friendly to key populations who continue to be
left behind.

 

Youths
and Human Rights

As drivers of change, young people play a pivotal
role in driving the human rights agenda of the SDGs and for this to happen, an
enabling environment for young people’s participation and meaningful engagement
in the follow-up and review of the SDGs must be enhanced not just as active
participants but as partners. How therefore do we meaningfully engage young
people in a way that makes them feel their rights are being respected, their voices
heard and their problems solved? This should be the question in every
government or organizations should keep them up at night? If the young people
of today still feel their voices are not being heard, it sends a clear message
that we are doing wrong something wrong and must fix it

 

There are over 1.8 billion young people
between the ages 10-24 years globally – the highest youth population in history.
With Africa having the youngest youth population estimated to be over 344
million (1), and projected
to be 436 million by 2025 and 605 million by 20150 (1,2), it is time for the global
community to make sure the SDGs address the needs and wants of this ever
continuous growing youth population through human rights approach.

According to a World
Economic Forum Global Shapers Survey of young people sampled from over 186
countries, they highlighted two main things they see as a threat to global
peace and security and include; i) climate change and the destruction of nature
(48.8%) as a result of irresponsible human activity and ii) large scale
conflicts and wars (38.9%). This finding give us an idea of what young people
care about and the kind of world they want to see. The 2030 Agenda therefore provides
an interconnected and comprehensive framework on addressing this humanitarian
crisis we face today. It also provides a tool for social justice advocates to
use in promoting human rights values – one that is transformative and rights
driven.

 

When we look at the issue climate change, despite
the different attempts made in CO2 and greenhouse gas reduction and other
technological advances, there is also the growing need to meaningfully engage young
people in policy and decision making which will move us to the nest step in the
quest to make our planet healthier, stronger and sustainable.

 

Inequalities
and the SDGs

In addressing inequalities through the
different targets and goals, we must ensure that the SDGs live up to its
promise of leaving no one behind with a call for disaggregated data. Today, the
worlds poor experience all forms of inequalities ranging from income, wealth,
housing, health and educational inequalities which are further exacerbated by
lack of accountability and political will by governments in living up to the
expectations of these goals.

 

How shocking is it to hear that despite the
progress made towards poverty alleviation, the richest 1% of the world’s
population received 82% of the total wealth that was created in 2017 while the poorest
half received nothing according to a recent Oxfam
study. How is this even possible? This same study found that three of the
richest Americans have as much money as the bottom 50% of America’s population.
This is quite evident of the wide gap between the super rich and the poor. However,
the global wealth gap continues to widen in front of our own very eyes while
the millions of people across the world struggle to survive. With not much been
done to bridge this very wide global wealth gap, it is then left on to the
global community to address such inequalities while setting limits to close the
rising gap between the rich and poor

 

Also, criticisms has been levied on the technicality
of these indicators with regards to how the different targets are being
measured, how they were arrived at and the fact that they were politically
influenced. In addressing these concerns more emphasis on the need for disaggregated
data to advise what indicators to focus on was quite essential. Looking at the
politically motivated nature of the SDGs most human rights advocates think the
issue of race and ethnicity has not been fully addressed – a consequence of
power imbalances and marginalization hence defeating the purpose of the leave
no one behind reality

 

 

Youth
and Jobs

 

According to UNESCO, 124 million children and adolescents were out of school in 2013.
Fifty-nine million will never attend primary school. And for those who do, they
will learn so little that compared to their out-of-school peers there isn’t any
striking difference. Of this number, 30 million live in sub-Saharan Africa.

This
is the future of a generation whose contribution is vital for Africa’s economic
growth and social development, and yet is likely to remain stagnated.

Poor learning
outcomes in primary schools result in just 28% of Africa’s youth being enrolled
into secondary school. Another 90 million youths struggle to find low-paid jobs.
In the absence of an urgent drive to raise standards, half of out-of-school
children – 61 million in total – will reach adolescence lacking the basic
learning skills, which they, and their countries, need to escape poverty

The
good news is despite these failing numbers, primary school enrollment increased
by 75% to 144 million in 2012, gender gaps are narrowing, and more kids are
making it through to secondary school. The bad news – Progress towards
universal primary education has stalled because governments are failing to
extend opportunities to the most marginalized and hardest-to-reach children.

Globally, an estimated 71 million young
people between the ages 15-24 years are unemployed. Today’s generation of young
people face a very complex changing world with over half of the world’s jobs
estimated at 2 billion at risk of disappearing due to innovation. As we seek to
harness technology to drive youth employment, the International Labor
Organization (ILO) estimates youth unemployment in Sub-Sahara Africa to be at
12%, which is just under the 12.4% global youth unemployment rate. With the
African youth population expected to grow by 42.5 million by 2020 according to
the World Bank, over 2.2 billion people mostly young people who are employed earn
less that US$2 a day.

 

With over 470 million jobs being needed
globally in the labor force between 2016 and 2030 there is need for investment
in our educational system, one that is smart and provides key skills to drive
economic growth. Companies are shifting towards demand for high-level skills
while low and medium skilled jobs will become obsolete – especially in
developing countries.

 

However, for
years now, technology has failed to provide solutions to these problems and while
we may blame the tech industry, some blame can also be attributed to the
hostile, bureaucratic and poor infrastructure plaguing our current educational
system. With sub-Saharan Africa now considered the world’s fastest-growing
mobile technology region, there is a huge promise towards digital learning.
This makes it possible to bring low-cost access to education and provide new
learners with skills. Billions has been spent on financing education in
developing countries, often resulting in poor outcomes. Using technology to fix
underperforming schools may not always be the solution. But failure to try and
harness technology could end up damaging the lives of millions of children.

To address these concerns, the United Nation
member states in 2015 adopted a stand-alone goal – Goal 8, to promote inclusive
and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all. Its is
critical for young people to stay busy and contribute to nation building or
they risk being radicalized or lured into the hands of radicalized groups who
in many instances join for economic reasons rather than ideologies.

 

Education
in Emergencies

Articles 28
and 29 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child state “All children have
the right to primary education, which should be free”. The fourth Geneva
Convention, and the 1951 Refugee Convention further protect the right to
education in conflict situations under international humanitarian law

However, globally, 75 million children aged three
to 18 years – living in
35 crisis-affected countries – are in desperate need of educational support. Niger,
one of these 35 crises affected countries faces a huge humanitarian crisis
caused by increased food security, malnutrition, population movements,
epidemics and natural disasters.

 

In conflict-affected communities, socio-economic structures
are destroyed while access to basic services such as education becomes
difficult, fragmented or simply nonexistent. Out-of-school children become more
vulnerable and are at risk of violence, forced labor and displacement. But
education in humanitarian crisis situations continues to get the least funding.

 

Niger’s high fertility rate, at 7.6 births
per woman, has exacerbated the
out-of-school crisis. As part of the government’s effort to improve educational
opportunities in Niger, schooling is now free but the girl enrolment rate
remains low due to child marriages whose prevalence is at 75% as over a third of girls are
married off before their 15thbirthday. According to a UNICEF report of 2008-2012, Niger’s literacy rate among 15-24 years stood at
52.4% and 23.2% for boys and girls respectively. With an estimated 20 million
people according to the 2014 census, Niger ranks 188 of 188 in the Human Development Index.

 

In Niger, adolescent girls and children – and those living
with disabilities – continue to face difficulties accessing education. This is
due to extreme poverty, discrimination against girls, insecurity, physical
distance, insufficient teachers, poor learning environments and the perception
of the value of education. Terrorist groups try to recruit young children through
financial incentives, thus depriving them of their education. For these
children, their education has been snatched from them – we must act and act
now.

 

Promoting
education in fragile states promotes peace building and conflict mitigation. It
fosters economic growth and poverty reduction. It can accelerate progress on
children’s protection and wellbeing in and after emergencies, peace building
and state building, and a return to normality. And it reduces risks from –
while building resilience to – disasters and climate change.

Teaching is therefore at the heart of the
learning crisis and key to Africa’s economic success. We need to invest in teacher
training, personalized learning and supporting teachers with livable wages. We
need to incentivize parents so that children, especially girls, can stay in
school. Every dollar we invest in an additional year of school generates an
additional $10 in health and earnings in low-income countries.

 

Unless African
governments and the international community work in close partnership to raise
educational standards, the future of millions of children will be wasted.
That’s something we can’t afford to risk. We must strive to leave our countries
with smart and better kids to carry it forward. – As the late Nelson Mandela
once said “Any society which does not care for its children is no nation at
all.”

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