Seventy-five inspiring, young leaders, gathered at the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA) to host their own negotiation session themed: ‘Connecting the past to the present: Young South Africans shaping a sustainable future’. The session was hosted as part of the fourth Young Leaders Conference and focused on equipping South African youth with knowledge and understanding of local and international issues connected to sustainability and helping them to tackle current challenges such as climate change, HIV/AIDS and women empowerment.
The conference ties in with UN’s Sustainability Development Goals that were launched in September 2015. Chief Director of United Nations (UN) Political, Peace and Security, Advocate Doctor Mashabane said the youth need to be empowered through these discussions so that they are able to solve the challenges facing their generation. This was echoed by the Deputy Minister of South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO), Mrs Nomaindia Mfeketo, who added that DIRCO “welcomed any initiatives that seek to empower the youth and build Youth Leadership”.
Mfeketo further encouraged the youth by adding that their presence indicated that they had “taken education very seriously and are investing in a brighter future” for themselves as well as the country as a whole. She added that education was vital and key for the youth to empower themselves so that they could be better-abled to come up with solutions for a better tomorrow and for generations to come. Quality education is one of the 17 goals of the SDG’s that the UN has set out to achieve by 2030.
The United Nations Information Centre (UNIC), National Officer,NtokozoMahlangu, emphasized the importance of youth participation tackling developmental challenges. “Development goals aim to enhance our continent and it is a great opportunity to be part of discussions related to these issues”. Mahlangu spoke to the youth about the 17 goals that form part of the SDG’s such as gender equality, access to clean water and sanitation, the eradication of poverty and quality healthcare. The youth leaders were encouraged to continue taking an active role in developmental issues and finding constructive solutions in order to achieve the SDG’s by 2030.
Young leaders also gained insight into the work of the UN in South Africa and career opportunities that exist in the developmental and diplomatic field.