9 empowering lessons from the Global Youth Summit 2017

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The Global Youth Summit is a platform for young people to collaborate and share ideas on sustainable development goals. Here are nine takeaways from this year’s summit that are worth inspiring the youth to take action and focus on the things that matter. Illustration by JL JAVIER

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — If you’re on Twitter, you may have noticed, or even participated in, an interactive United Nations poll that made the rounds in January, prompting users to choose among 17 possible sustainable development goals (SDGs) that they’d like to see come to fruition by the year 2030.

Its draw was its simplicity: All it took was a click or two, and it was a chance to express what you stood for and believed in. But one would be mistaken to think that it’s just a throwaway social campaign to garner hashtags. Those wondering what the poll was leading up to got their answer at the 2017 Global Youth Summit, held on March 4 at the Mall of Asia Arena.

The forum is now on its fifth year, and it brought together youth leaders from around the globe, with international delegates championing and promoting causes and projects from their respective countries.

It featured seven talks from experienced resource speakers from diverse backgrounds. Five of them spoke with keen insight about the most pressing development goals as selected by the youth, via votes cast in the online poll and another one conducted on-site: quality education, climate action, no  poverty, zero hunger, and decent jobs and economic growth.

Here are nine thought-provoking ideas brought forth at the summit that are sure to inspire the youth to take action and focus on the things that matter.

Anne Curtis.jpg Anne Curtis, the UNICEF advocate for children, gave a speech on the value of an inclusive equitable quality to education, which, she says, must provide lifelong opportunities for all, especially those in the far-flung areas.

Turn dreams into advocacies

“Asian stories should stimulate the hearts and minds of the people,” said Global Peace Foundation chairman Dr. Hyun Jin Moon, who gave the keynote speech that officially opened the day’s festivities. In his speech, Dr. Moon recognized that some SDGs are more plausible and feasible than others, but according to him, we shouldn’t let their apparent impossibility hinder us from trying to achieve them. If these “dreams” are turned into causes, with proper planning and steps taken, they might just come true.

Action and attitude go hand in hand

Marco Roncarati, social affairs officer of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia Pacific, gave the talk on the no poverty SDG, which means eradicating poverty in all its forms, wherever it may be. He stressed the importance of resilience and concrete and consistent action on the road to making big changes, but added that positive thinking is truly the key to making things happen.

Engage intelligently

Broadcaster Karen Davila, who also serves as the Global Young Leader of the World Economic Forum, spoke about social media’s role in nation building. In her signature no-holds-barred, take-no-B.S. delivery, she gave tips on using the internet as a tool for affecting change IRL: Verify your information and never share fake news, respect boundaries, and express yourself wisely and with care. It’s practically a cliche, but it really does hold value: Think before you click.

Statistics aren’t simply numbers

Having served as the Philippines’ national ambassador against hunger for the World Food Programme for nine years, actress KC Concepcion spoke on zero hunger, an initiative to effectively end starvation. She said that more than 10 percent of the world’s population experiences a constant state of hunger everyday. “Being better off,” she said, “we easily forget that numbers aren’t just numbers, statistics, and figures. Behind these are names of people and families who are suffering and need our help.”

Aiza Seguerra.jpg “It is for personal growth that should lead to job satisfaction and productive employment,” says National Youth Commission chairperson Aiza Seguerra, who tackled employment issues.

It takes a village to save the planet

Climate Change Commission Usec. Vernice Victorio gave a talk on climate action, asking the attendees to choose one small deed — whether it’s unplugging unused devices to save electricity, opting to forego plastic, or planting trees — that they can contribute for the good of the planet. Collectively, these seemingly tiny decisions, most of which don’t even take a second to make, may just end up changing lives. “The effect you have on others is the most valuable form of currency,” she said.

Doing your job means more than just making a living

Tackling employment issues, National Youth Commission chairperson Aiza Seguerra started off his talk by asking how many attendees were able to secure jobs in the field they had studied in university, and a number of them shared that they haven’t been able to do so. His insights on the country’s employment situation and its ties to economic growth involved remedying the disparity between education and career paths. According to him, a job goes beyond the purpose of putting food on the table: “It is for personal growth that should lead to job satisfaction and productive employment.”

Good education is a right — and it begins at home

Actress and host Anne Curtis, who is also the UNICEF advocate for children, giddily announced that she was about to give her first talk before confessing that she was a little nervous. Her approach to the concept of education was decidedly different, mentioning not curricula or other oft-discussed problems, but the importance of proper care in the development stages of children, before they even enter primary education. Her speech gave value to an inclusive equitable quality to education, which she realizes is a privilege and insisted must provide lifelong opportunities for all, especially those in the far-flung areas.

“The effect you have on others is the most valuable form of currency.”

Forge strong connections and work together

Leonard Faustino, president of Global Peace Youth Philippines — which partners with SM Cares to mount the summit — understands the importance of sharing cultures and understanding one another, which is why Global Peace Youth offers projects and opportunities that “celebrate the diversity, the differences of young people.”

It’s become easier to communicate with people anywhere in the world, but there’s always more to be done in terms of connecting physically with one another, according to James Flynn, Global Peace Foundation’s international president. “When critical issues come up,” he said, “whether it’s an earthquake in Nepal or a typhoon in the Philippines, people can begin to contribute in various ways and can benefit others but also gain lots of really good experience themselves.”

He added: “What’s really great is you meet people and you make a relationship, and then you find somebody that actually has a passion and expertise and becomes a mentor.”

KC Concepcion.jpg Having served as the Philippines’ national ambassador against hunger for the World Food Programme for nine years, actress KC Concepcion spoke on zero hunger, an initiative to effectively end starvation.

A single idea can change the world

For this summit in particular, a grant of ₱1,000,000 was offered and divided among five innovative and forward-thinking projects.

There’s the 5Ebig Project, which provides an online platform to help increase employment through TESDA courses; Community Poultry and Garden for a Healthy Future, a vegetable garden and poultry farm that aim to help eliminate malnutrition in impoverished areas; SakunAPP, an Android mobile application used to teach disaster preparedness and monitor the safety status of community members; Taytayan (“bridge” in Cebuano), which aims to bridge the gap and gender disparity in the primary grade pupils of Mabolo Elementary School in Cebu; and Ropes for Hope, an initiative that helps mothers learn to craft rice straws as a means for alternative income and utilizing waste products.