Author : Soumya Bhowmick

Expert Speak Raisina Debates
Published on Aug 12, 2022 Updated 14 Days ago
The realisation of SDGs is incumbent upon youth participation in the target areas.
Youth capital for resilient societies

Youth and the SDGs

The United Nations General Assembly recognises resilience as “the ability of a system, community or society exposed to hazards to resist, absorb, accommodate, adapt to, transform and recover from the effects of a hazard in a timely and efficient manner, including through the preservation and restoration of its essential basic structures and functions through risk management.” In a contemporary context, a resilient society must take into account climate change, urbanisation, globalisation, technological patterns, and demographic patterns, among others, and the role of the youth is indispensable for overall progress in the sphere of sustainable development.

With a majority of the world’s young population either living in or aspiring to live in cities, urban areas seem to be the deciding factor on whether SDG 11 will become a reality by 2030 or not.

The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) make special mention of how resilience needs to be imbibed in our societies to achieve equitable progress by 2030. Within SDG 1 on ‘no poverty’, target 1.5 discusses the need to build the resilience of the poor to help them withstand environmental, economic, and social disasters. While SDG 9 requires resilient infrastructure to be built, and inclusive and sustainable industrialisation to be promoted, SDG11 includes making cities and settlements inclusive, sustainable, and resilient. The youth have hitherto had a limited to no role in city planning and organisation. With a majority of the world’s young population either living in or aspiring to live in cities, urban areas seem to be the deciding factor on whether SDG 11 will become a reality by 2030 or not. Again, 60 percent of urban growth by 2050 is predicted to occur in the global South, which makes it an important area of focus. While the holistic nature of the SDGs is crucial for the development of the youth, the realisation of these sustainable development objectives is also incumbent upon youth participation in the target areas—especially in the domains of education and employment. The youth are considered across all the SDGs and recognised as agents of change to advance both intra-generational and inter-generational equity. While almost half the global population is less than 30 years of age, for the 56 member countries in the Commonwealth of Nations, 60 percent of its total 2.5 billion people fall in this age bracket. This gives a significant chunk of the population the ability to become tools for creating resilient communities in the future. While Asia and Africa are home to the largest number of young people in the world, the age group of 12-24 years is expected to rise from 18 percent in 2012 to 28 percent in 2040 in Africa while Asia is expected to face the sharpest decline from 61 percent to 52 percent during the same period. Figure 1: Regional Variations in Youth Population Source: United Nations Population Fund

Capacity building for resilience

Resilient societies have been viewed as capable of rising from the effects of exogenous shocks such as the pandemic or the Ukraine–Russia conflict. This traditional approach views resilience as a coping response, rather than a defence mechanism, thus placing the burden of imbibing resilience on the poorest, vulnerable, and excluded in society. Resilience building should, alternatively, be also viewed as a multidisciplinary approach which would focus on capacity building for people and communities to make them capable of advancing the system. Creating such an inclusive model would require focusing on what are the most vulnerable groups in the population, and which categories hold the most power for the transition toward more resilient societies. The youth is one such age group capable of robust capacity building and sustainable change shortly, in the following ways. Firstly, the demographic dividend of a nation refers to the shifts in a nation’s economic potential when the population’s age structure sees changes. A positive change can occur when the working-age population is larger than the non-working-age population. The idea is to involve more youth in the working population of the global South through skilling and other social security measures, thus stimulating economic progress in the longer horizon.

Resilience building should, alternatively, be also viewed as a multidisciplinary approach which would focus on capacity building for people and communities to make them capable of advancing the system.

A UN research on India’s demographic dividend shows that for the demographic dividend to improve in developing nations, two investments are essential. Human capital investments in developing and underdeveloped nations are traditionally lower than in developed nations. An improvement in this regard, especially around children and adolescents would yield favourable results. Education was found to be one of the most fruitful spheres of investment from a returns-to-the-economy point of view. Additionally, health sector investments in the global South were found to be relatively lower. Ensuring the presence of a well-functioning public health system and improving access to the same is another crucial function of governments. Secondly, the pandemic has led to technology penetration increasing around the world, and trends indicate that these numbers will continue to grow in the future as well. Enabling youth to adapt to the same would mean the creation of a future-ready workforce. Children have been observed to learn technology at early ages, which has been supplemented by the availability of such devices in every household. Improved investment in tech literacy, thus, has the potential to make or break nations’ future economic prospects. Thirdly, SDG-17 focuses on building partnerships amongst nations and with the UN to make the 2030 goals a reality. The youth have an implied role in this particular SDG, with their participation in advancing the potential of such partnerships. Building on existing initiatives, advancing current contributions, improving youth participation and addressing barriers to the same are some of the functions which need active youth involvement, and cannot work without it. Finally, improving digital cooperation and promoting youth leadership are essential tools for building resilient societies.

Children have been observed to learn technology at early ages, which has been supplemented by the availability of such devices in every household.

Productive capabilities need to be further developed to enhance a nation’s human capital base and diversify its economy. This prevents the entire ship from sinking in case of external macroeconomic shocks. Research advocates that better coordination and cooperation between developed and developing countries should lead to investment in science, technology and productive capabilities, which will be driven by the youth population. The proactive stimulation of domestic investments in ensuring a better demographic dividend, education, and health can go a long way in making economies more resilient.
The author acknowledges Rohan Ross at NLSIU, Bengaluru, for his research assistance on this essay.
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Author

Soumya Bhowmick

Soumya Bhowmick

Soumya Bhowmick is an Associate Fellow at the Centre for New Economic Diplomacy at the Observer Research Foundation. His research focuses on sustainable development and ...

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