Gender Justice and USAID

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” 

This opening statement from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the cornerstone of the Post-World-War II quest for a peaceful world following decades of war, fascism and genocide. It mirrors the founding aspiration of America and is central to every spiritual tradition.

USAID is a major actor in this quest, and many sincere professionals at USAID have devoted their lives to this ideal and to promoting this cherished American value. USAID, like each of us, has struggled for decades to learn what works to advance this goal — and particularly what is required for women and girls.

On August 19, 2020, USAID released for public comment a new policy document on the Empowerment of Women and Gender Equality (available here).  Missing from this draft policy, however, is the most important recognition in the quest for gender equality — that the subjugation, marginalization and disempowerment of women is systemic. It is a deeply entrenched social condition that — like racism — is the consequence of systems of laws, policies and social norms. Transforming the patriarchal structure of society requires a long-term social change process. 

While patriarchal systems are nearly universal, the specific barriers to gender equality are locally specific. Country-level strategies must begin with a detailed gender analysis of both the systemic barriers to equality and the highest leverage opportunities to transform them.

History has shown that the change process is driven by social movements led by those whom the system has oppressed, hopefully with genuine solidarity from the rest of us. To quote the great educationist Paulo Friere, “The oppressors, who oppress, exploit, and rape by virtue of their power, cannot find in this power the strength to liberate either the oppressed or themselves. Only power that springs from the weakness of the oppressed will be sufficiently strong to free both.” 

Working for gender equality is not imposing a “foreign idea.” In every country where USAID works and where poverty and hunger persist, there are organizations of courageous women that have been striving to transform patriarchal structures for more than a century. The starting point, therefore, of any honest commitment to gender equality is to strengthen the hand of local women’s organizations — to listen to them — and to ensure that local women’s voices are the first voices heard in the design of any program that has the intention to advance equality for women and girls.

A gender policy should influence budget priorities. It has been estimated that less than 2% of aid money goes to support grassroots women’s organizations (Neuwirth 2017). If we are serious about gender equality, that number must increase dramatically. To advance democracy and self-reliance of low-income countries, a top priority must be to help build a strong, sustainable, independent women’s movement that can ensure the collective voice of every woman and girl is heard in every country.   

The draft policy wisely asserts a policy of “do no harm” but it fails to recognize the principle that the economist Ester Boserup pointed out 50 years ago — that when aid is addressing a problem like hunger and poverty in which gender inequality is a root cause, unless the majority of resources are going to women and girls, those funds are widening the gender gap. They are doing harm.

Some agencies are pleased when they can report that 40% of participants in a farmer training program are female. After all, within a deeply patriarchal society, that takes something. Yet — by the Boserup criteria — that means that the program is widening the gender gap, not narrowing it. It is doing harm. Perhaps four times less harm than if it only served 20% female participants. But it is widening, not narrowing the gender gap. This is particularly harmful and unjust when the majority of farmers in low-income countries are women.

If gender equality is a goal, then the majority of funds must support the advancement of women and girls.

Finally — what is the role of men and boys? This draft highlights their victimhood in the prevailing patriarchal system — which, of course, is true but not helpful. Boys and men must come to understand their own role in either perpetuating or transforming an unjust system. A top priority for gender policies should be gender-awareness training for men and boys. 

Action for gender equality has evolved through three frameworks of thought — 1) women’s welfare, 2) women’s empowerment — supporting individual women to succeed within a fundamentally unjust system, and 3) women’s voice and agency — women’s power to lead transformative social and systemic change.  The current draft seems to have landed somewhere between 1 and 2. To achieve its vision of equality and self-reliant development in low-income countries, USAID must take steps to ensure its policy is aligned with this third paradigm — a policy framework which supports and strengthens women’s grassroots organizations as they strive to transform their own societies.

References

Woman’s Role in Economic Development. Ester Boserup, 1970.

Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Paulo Friere, 1968. Available online. http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon2/pedagogy/pedagogychapter1.html

Too Little Aid Money is Reaching Grassroots Women’s Organizations, Jessica Neuwirth. https://www.newsdeeply.com/womensadvancement/community/2017/07/31/too-little-aid-money-is-reaching-grassroots-womens-organizations

If, When and Whom to Marry: Young Women Choosing Their Best Future of Health

28796175381_0b954aa4ae_zIt is perhaps easy to envision what should constitute quality health care for all people. What about choice in what quality health care means per person, according to what one wants for their lives?

When a person reaches the age of adolescence, they become more aware of how their surroundings and choices affect their future. When that adolescent is entrenched in a patriarchal society, the set expectations for their future more so affects their current life and health. Examples include teen pregnancy as a result of early and child marriage, lack of access to age-appropriate sexual and reproductive health education, and young women dropping out of school.

The Hunger Project is working in Africa and South Asia to shift these patriarchal mindsets and empower youth – both young women and men – to make decisions about their health and future through the Her Choice Program.

Through a community-based mentoring approach, including peer mentors, the program mobilizes relevant community actors to build local ownership over ending child-marriage. Activities aim to foster empowerment among girls and young women to take control of decision-making, and sensitize the community to value such.

Girls and communities become increasingly aware of the negative [health] consequences of early, child and forced marriage, which allows girls and young women to better participate in society and apply newly gained knowledge from sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) into their life choices. “If, when and whom” to marry is the primary choice in focus.

Early, child and forced marriage pervades the cycle of poverty, especially for young women: dropping out of school, teen pregnancy, limited or no household decision making capacity, poor health of young mothers and newborns, lack of decisions around one’s sexual and reproductive preferences, and stagnated economic empowerment and income generation among women. The program aims to improve access to formal education for girls by supporting girl-friendly schools and access to youth-friendly SRHR services.

035Relevant community actors are key in helping shift the patriarchal social norms to ensure an enabling environment wherein girls can make their own life choices. Women’s “self-help” groups carry out trainings and education about financial services to improve economic security of girls and their families. This helps to decrease incentive for marrying off daughters and increase women’s independent economic empowerment. Relevant community actors also include traditional leaders and supportive groups of men of all ages to help transform social and traditional norms toward inclusion of women and girls in decision-making. Traditional leaders are especially crucial in helping enforce national policies around child marriage, in not approving or overseeing child marriages in their respective communities.

By imbedding youth-friendly SRHR leadership and program activities into communities, Her Choice is influencing sustainable results. They can continue building on local assets and train additional young leaders to continue fostering women’s choice in marriage.

Do you want to marry? If so, when would you want to marry? And to what kind of person would you like to be married? Do you want to finish school before you consider marriage? Do you want to finish school and pursue work more than you want to be married? The choices – at least in some way – affect health and economic security.

There are many ways we can degrade, stabilize or improve our own health. Everyday habits like washing your hands, drinking clean water, eating healthily, to more long-term choices like getting vaccinated. Young women have a right to choose their future of health, and that right includes choosing “if, when and whom” they should marry.

 

 

Top 10: How to think about the SDGs

As global citizens, it is not only important that we think about Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development — better known as the SDGs or the Sustainable Development Goals — but also that we transform how we think about them.

In the year 2000, the nations of the world signed a Millennium Declaration setting a bold agenda at the start of the century for achieving a world free from hunger and poverty. They created an initial set of 8 Millennium Development Goals (the MDGs) to get us halfway there by 2015.

Despite a very slow start and great initial cynicism, the world did far better on the MDGs than many people expected. This resulted in the world adopting a set of goals to finish the job — and to incorporate key components left out of the MDGs. (See earlier discussion on the differences at this link).

Here are my top 10 recommendations.

  1. Don’t think of them as “17” but as “1.” The SDGs recognize that the challenges of poverty, hunger, conflict, the environment and discrimination are inextricably linked and can only be solved through an integrated approach. You will hear people say “Goal X (fill in any number 1 to 17) is really the key to solving all the others” and they will be right in a way. But if you focus on any goal without fully taking account the complete system, the SDGs will not succeed.
  2. The SDGs are for every country. Every nation on earth has poverty and discrimination. Every nation is threatened by crime, violence and climate change. This is a paradigm shift — from focusing on aid from rich countries to help poor countries, to every nation working in alignment for a world that works for everyone.
  3. The SDGs apply at every level.  Similarly, the SDGs recognize that progress is not just the job of national governments. In fact, many of the key challenges must be solved in local communities.
  4. Going for the “High-hanging fruit.” When you are trying to get “half-way” you start on the easiest pathways to progress – the “low-hanging fruit.” But to include everyone, you have to start with the most difficult situations – the most remote, the most marginalized – because that will take the longest.
  5. Good governance.
  6. Partnership, not patronage.
  7. Harvesting the data revolution.

 

 

Advocating for Youth Leadership to Achieve the SDGs

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Mary Kate Costello addresses youth attendees of 2017 Winter Youth Assembly.

In keeping with The Hunger Project’s priority to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals through community-led development, advocacy for youth leadership and engagement has been at a forefront. The Hunger Project took a leading role in both the United Nation’s 6th Annual Youth Forum and the Winter Youth Assembly at the United Nations at the beginning of February 2017.

Follow-up: Click here to read Mary Kate’s article on young women’s cooperatives.

The Hunger Project’s Senior Policy Analyst, Mary Kate Costello, has been an active member of the United Nation’s Interagency Network on Youth Development’s Working Group on Youth and Gender Equality, and is now co-chair of its new Task Force on Young Women’s Economic Empowerment. Such engagement afforded The Hunger Project the opportunity to chair two sessions during the Youth Forum: breakout sessions on SDGs 2 and 5.

Mary Kate participated in the SDG5 session as a panelist, focusing on the importance of young women-led cooperatives, especially at the grassroots. Not only will cooperatives provide improved income generation for young women, but also offer unique social inclusion – especially for marginalized persons such as those with disabilities and indigenous women. Mary Kate stressed Coop UK’s research that cooperatives have an 80% success rate in their first five years compared to 40% for other economic initiatives and investments. Discussion during the breakout session included hindrances to gender equality in the economy as a result of both discriminatory laws and discriminatory practices that do not adhere to favorable laws for women. One such example noted was Ghana’s policies entitling women and men to have the same allowances in owning land. However, this is not reflected in the percentage of land owned by women. Approximately 15% of men own land in Ghana, whereas less than 10% women own land.[1]

The Hunger Project, as a leader in integrated community-led development, was asked to moderate one of the Youth Forum’s Media Zone Panels. Mary Kate Costello engaged with three youth leaders about their work toward SDG2, ending hunger, in their respective home countries of Trinidad and Tobago, Nepal, and Colombia. Issues covered included how to encourage youth interest in agriculturally focused employment, mobile phone technology and grassroots capacity assessments and rehabilitation of abandoned fisheries to generate exponential income. The full panel is available here.

The week rounded off with chairing and speaking in the Winter Youth Assembly

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Winter Youth Assembly attendees discuss their leadership initiatives toward SDGs 1 and 2.

interactive session on SDG1, ending poverty. The Hunger Project, alongside cohosts Campus Kitchens Project and FeelGood, looked
at existing youth-led initiatives toward ending hunger that mitigate poverty. The United Nation’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) delivered the keynote address via their Lead Technical Specialist, Mattia Prayer Galletti, challenging that youth development need not only include youth in program design and implementation, but more important youth leadership in both aspects.

The Hunger Project, out of its pillar to empower women, is an organizing partner of the upcoming CSW Youth Forum from 10 – 12 March 2017, and will be featured in a plenary panel on the topic of young women-led cooperatives again. This year’s CSW Youth Forum is the second of its kind, chaired by UN Women and YWCA, as a youth-focused “opening” to the annual Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the UN. The Hunger Project will maintain its engagement in the arena of youth development and leadership as a key element of community-led programming to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

[1] http://news.trust.org/item/20160516120134-jqvsx

OECD Report: Women & Money, or Lack Thereof

In June 2016 OECD released a report that investigated funding for organizations and programs whose objectives target gender equality. The title for this report should speak volumes: ‘Tracking the Money for Women’s Economic Empowerment – Overall Donor Support Targeted for Gender Equality: Small’. It is only recently that budgets and finances have become more transparent. The data revealed by this new level of transparency does not bode well for programs and organizations that have a primary focus to achieve gender equality. Aid committed by Development Assistance Committee (DAC) members specifically for women’s economic empowerment reached $8.8 billion on average in 2013-14, a rise from the average in 2007-8, $5.2 billion. Unfortunately, only 24% of DAC member aid to the economic and productive sectors included targeted gender equality as a primary or secondary objective in 2013-14. Furthermore, aid targeting women’s economic empowerment as the principal objective accounts for only 2% of all aid going towards the economic and productive sectors, a percentage which has not changed for six years.

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As seen above, 43% of the $8.8 billion DAC members committed for women’s economic empowerment went towards ‘Agriculture and Rural Development’. According to the OECD report, via the FAO “only 5% of women across 97 countries have access to agricultural and other training activities, and only 15% of agricultural extension agents are women”. Programs and actions that level the playing field for women to avail of agricultural extension services and markets should also be included in future programs. Gender parity is also critical when considering women’s access to owning and controlling land.

17% of the $8.8 billion given for women’s empowerment in the banking and business sector. A lot of this money is focused on microcredit opportunities. While microcredit is a useful tool for many women, the report claims there is lack of importance placed on gender equality in the formal banking, credit, and insurance industries and women should have access to the full range of credit and monetary services at their disposal.

This report highlights the extremely low levels of investment in programs and organizations that focus on the gender dimension of transportation, infrastructure, and the energy sector. Shifts in infrastructure and transportation will improve a woman’s access to markets, jobs, and other services like healthcare and education. Additionally, improving access to affordable energy sources can increase the time for paid work activities and and reduce time spent on unpaid work. An IDS report found that a woman’s benefit to electricity in her home freed up much more time for paid work activities because electricity helped reduce the time needed for domestic activities. The IDS report included a study in Indonesia that found an increase of 27% of rural, nonfarm income after electricity was introduced. The OECD report laments the reality that funding for energy programs so frequently does not include a gender dimension because women would benefit so much from affordable, sustainable energy.

There is a disparity between the call for inclusion of women for the success of the SDGs and numbers that suggest the opposite. If women are deemed important for the ultimate success of the SDGs, the money invested should reflect that importance.

Update 8.15.16: Three reports from the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) have been brought to our attention which corroborate and expand on the OECD report.

How Are We Doing on the SDGs?

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were conceived as a vision for the post-2015 agenda. They are an action plan to continue the work the Millennium Development Goals started. We are six months into the SDGs. Do we know what’s been accomplished thus far? How are we doing?

You can see for yourself how well the world’s progress on the SDGs. Bertelsmann Stiftung, a German foundation, has constructed an SDG index. The SDG Index has compiled information for 149 of the 193 United Nations member countries. Each country has updates for each SDG that pertains to it. While there are updates for every country, there is no guarantee that all the data is completely up to date or correctly classified.

chart_of_un_sustainable_development_goals

There is a digital report with the data and country dashboards. Additionally, each SDG has additional data points and insights for OECD countries. There is also an interactive map that displays a ranking for each country and SDG. Each country is given a score based on how they’re progressing, as judged by the official indicators.

This Index is not sanctioned by the United Nations; instead, these reports, indexes, and data sets are meant to be preliminary points for governments and other stakeholders. The SDG Index is a tool that NGOs, governments, and citizens can use to gauge priorities and challenges in their country.

A suggested next step for the SDG Index would be breaking this information down by district, when and if possible. A more geographically detailed report of information would be advantageous for local actors.

You can learn more about the SDG Index and report here and see more information here.

Top 5 Takeaways from the SDSN Guidebook “Getting Started With The SDGs”

Let the work begin! The Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), a Global Initiative of the United Nations, has released a guidebook  “Getting Started with the Sustainable Development Goals” (SDGs) to help all stakeholders understand and implement the Post-2015 development agenda. The year 2016 marks the end of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the official launch of the Post-2015 SDGs to be achieved by year 2030. Listed below are key takeaways from the guidebook on how to embark on this collective agenda efficiently:

1. Execute Goal-Based Planning  

Having a goal and target framework like the SDGs is beneficial because it provides a shared narrative of the complex, yet important challenges that must be addressed and understood. For example, the guidebook explains that evidence from the MDGs dealing with public health shows that communities were able to mobilize around time-bound goals.

“The shared focus on time-bound quantitative goals will spur greater mobilization, promote innovation, and strengthen collaboration within epistemic communities or networks of expertise and practice.” (Getting Started with the SDGs, pg. 9)

2. Implement Locally-Focused Development

For the SDGs to be  implemented at the local level, local authorities and communities must take responsibility for leading initiatives. For example The Hunger Project’s Epicenter Strategy  unites 5,000 to 15,000 people in a cluster of villages to create an “epicenter” where communities are mobilized to lead their own initiatives around their basic needs.

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Source: Gender-Focused, Community-Led Developing in Rural Africa: The Hunger Project’s Epicenter Strategy

 “A bottom-up approach can be successful in achieving transformational sustainable pathways through direct contact with communities, which informs national-level policy decisions” (Getting Started with the SDGs, pg.11)

To learn more about these strategies and alike, check out the Movement for Community-Led Development that was recently launched at a side event for the 70th Session of the UN’s General Assembly.

3. Prioritize the implementation of the SDGs

These 17 audacious, yet achievable goals and 169 targets provide a framework for future development initiatives. As a side note the UN’s Inter-agency Expert Group (IAEG) on SDG Indicators plans to confirm most indicators for the 169 targets by  March 2016 for use by Member States and development actors. The Hunger Project and its advocacy partners such as CONCERN, World Vision, Save the Children and Action Against Hunger have been advocating for specific indicators to accurately measure community advancements in nutrition, and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH).

Given this feat, stakeholders should take stock of where their respective country, sector, or community stands in regard to the 17 SDGs. As shown in Table 1 below The Global Reporting Initiative, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, and the Global Compact has developed a set of key performance indicators with which businesses, as well as, civil society, faith-based groups,and  knowledge institutions can utilize to determine their contribution to each of the 17 SDGs.

“A quick ‘temperature check’ of the key dimensions of sustainable development, including economic development, social inclusion, and sustainable environmental management, can help develop a shared understanding of priorities for implementation.” (Getting Started with the SDGs, pg. 13)

Table 1: Indicators for a quick assessment of a country or region’s starting position with regards to sustainable development
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Source: Getting Started with the Sustainable Goals: Guidebook for Stakeholders, pg .14

4. Prepare to Monitor Progress on SDGs and Strengthen Statistical Systems

The SDGs cover a wide range of cross-sector challenges which present a need for demographic, economic, social, and environmental data. For data to be useful in influencing policy and decision-making, it must be timely. Table 2 depicts key data sources for monitoring the SDGs to build and modernize the statistical systems that capture the data.

“As one impressive example [of geo-referenced data], the Nigerian Senior Special Advisor to the President on the MDGs, with support from the Earth Institute’s Sustainable Engineering Laboratory, developed the Nigeria MDG Information System, an online interactive data platform. Using this system, all government health and education facilities as well as water access points were mapped across Nigeria within a mere two months” (Getting Started with the SDGs, pg. 28)

Table 2. A toolkit of data instruments for monitoring the SDGS

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Source: Getting Started with the Sustainable Development Goals: Guidebook for Stakeholders, pg. 27

5. Build Goal-Based Public-Private Partnerships

Evidence from the MDGs suggests that a diverse range of partnerships can emerge from international collaboration such as bilateral partnerships between states and combinations of public, private, and multilateral actors. It is key to note that effective partnerships are not centrally planned and they do not require one actor to oversee all operations. Each sector has a variety of capabilities, therefore the partnerships will vary depending on the engagement. To that regard, Figure 2 illustrates seven core processes identified by the SDSN that depicts the basis of goal-based partnerships.

“As outlined in the document Goal-based Investment Partnerships: Lessons for the Addis FfD Conference[3.14], each sector has unique features and requirements for success, so there cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach to building global public-private partnerships.” (Getting Started with the SDGs, pg. 29)

Figure 2. Core components of goal-based partnerships

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Source: Getting Started with the Sustainable Development Goals: Guidebook for Stakeholders, pg. 29

 

Great progress has been achieved through the MDGs, however  much more has to be done. Now in the era of the  Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals there is a call for more innovate approaches to finishing the fight …for people, prosperity and the planet”  by 2030.  This is a call for building the capacity within local communities to transform the world we live in, from within, starting with the strategies in these takeaways.

IFPRI and Partners Release 2015 Global Hunger Index

IFPRI

According to the 2015 Global Hunger Index (GHI), a joint publication by IFPRI, Concern Worldwide, and Welthungerhilfe, significant progress has been made in decreasing levels of global hunger. The 2015 GHI for the developing world fell 27 percent from the 2000 GHI. However, the levels of hunger in the world are still unacceptably high, with 795 million people going hungry, one in four children affected by stunting, and 9 percent of children are affected by wasting.

For the last ten years, IFPRI has calculated the GHI in order to chart progress over time and country by country. This is the tenth year that IFPRI has calculated the GHI, with an interactive map showing where hunger levels are most dire.

More than 13 million people were uprooted due to violence in 2014. Conflict has forced 42,500 people per day to flee their homes. More than 40 countries have been affected by internal conflict since 2000, most dealing with multiple civil wars within the last decade. These conflicts deeply affect human welfare, trapping citizens in a cycle of poverty. Countries suffering from repeated and protracted conflict are more likely to experience higher levels of malnutrition, reduced access to education, and higher infant mortality rates than a more stable country.

It is unsurprising that the first two of the three countries with the highest index numbers – the Central African Republic, Chad, and Zambia – are experiencing persistent violent conflict and instability. Due to insufficient data, indexes could not be created for some of the world’s most dire situations, such as Libya, Syria, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Somalia.

Conflicts in areas such as Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia and South Sudan have presented complex situations with a shifting nature to the conflict that make peace settlements challenging. This year’s report has drawn a direct linkage between regions where poverty is most severe and persistent and armed conflict. In order to properly address the implementation of this year’s UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the international community must find durable and long-lasting solutions to conflict in order eliminate food insecurity.

Below is a chart of index numbers from The Hunger Project’s program countries.

Country 1990 1995 2000 2005 2015
Benin 46.1 42.6 38.2 33.3 21.8
Burkina Faso 53.0 46.1 48.4 49.6 31.8
Ethiopia 71.1 67.3 58.6 48.5 33.9
Ghana 45.7 36.8 29.9 23.3 15.5
Malawi 58.9 55.9 45.3 39.1 27.3
Mozambique 64.5 63.2 49.2 42.4 32.5
Senegal 36.8 36.9 37.9 28.5 23.2
Uganda 39.8 40.9 39.3 32.2 27.6
Bangladesh 52.2 50.3 38.5 31.0 27.3
India 48.1 42.3 38.2 38.5 29.0
Mexico 16.8 16.9 10.8 8.9 7.3
Peru 30.7 25.0 20.9 18.8 9.1

Youth Leadership and Voice in Post 2015: UN Resolution 2250

Youth Representative of Burkina Faso and Restless Development, Cheick Faycal Traore, meetings at the United Nations with The Hunger Project, the Government of the Philippines and MCC to discuss youth in community-led development.
Youth Representative of Burkina Faso and Restless Development, Cheick Faycal Traore, at the United Nations with The Hunger Project, the Government of the Philippines and MCC.

It is not new knowledge that half of the world’s population is made up of persons under the age of 35, the majority of whom are youth older than 15. As the expiration of the Millennium Development Goals near, the world will be responsible for achieving sustainable development within only fifteen years. In the absence of the estimated two trillion dollars per year to realize the recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals, development initiatives must be implemented efficiently and – ideally – through community leadership to reduce loss of money from trickle-down approaches. Volunteerism, local capacity building, local and youth leadership and community mobilization will be necessary, not optional.

The United Nations has keenly prioritized youth leadership and youth mobilization to not only implement the SDGs, but to also establish youth’s rightful ownership over their communities’ and nations’ development. Without their ownership and engagement for both current and future leadership in alignment with the SDGs, the goals are at a serious risk of not being achieved by 2030 – a window of development opportunity that may very well be the last to ensure stable security and the eradication of hunger and poverty forever.

Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 2.32.24 PMTherefore, on December 9, 2015, The UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2250 to emphasize the importance of youth leadership and inclusion to achieve peace and security worldwide. The approach? Youth (ages 18-29) representation for decision making – at all levels – must be increased.In my opinion, this is the most important Resolution adopted by the Security Council since Resolution 1325 in 2000, which similarly acknowledged the need for increased inclusion of women in peace building processes due to the unique gender roles of increasing warfare. Like women, youth account for a significant number, if not majority, of civilians affected by armed conflict and living as refugees or displaced persons. In under 10 minutes, Resolution 2250 was adopted, proving that the Security Council finds it significantly less advantageous to “marginalize” a majority population that has significant capability than leverage and include them as a priority resource for peace and security. A lack of youth leadership and representation poses the risk of losing youth to other priorities such as joining rebel groups or contentment with helplessness.

The millennial generation is uniquely positioned on the global stage amidst globalized technological communication and exposure to improved living standards or policies through available internet connections. Millennials living in extreme poverty are arguably the first from which a majority are rejecting a rural livelihood built on agriculture, instead opting for informal or illegal employment in more urban settings or internet means. They are at a higher risk than youth of any previous generation to be recruited in greater numbers by terrorists or rebels through exploitation of internet access and other forms of modern communication (i.e. texting hot lines). They are also at a significant risk of long-term unemployment and continued poverty should they not be included in the discourse of development plans, from which we risk their disagreement with approaches or priorities to achieve the SDGs. These are risks we must mitigate.

Beyond what I consider to be a moral imperative of the inclusion of a youth voice – at all levels – in peace building and dispute resolution, it is to the world’s economic advantage that UN Member States implement Resolution 2250 [promptly] into practice, establishing conducive policies if need be. Especially for those nations whose conflict has hindered youth education and employment opportunities, their inclusion in decision making will undoubtedly positively impact economic prosperity as solutions are deliberated and established together through the lens of youth and their desires for development.

What is the role for development actors such as foundations and CSOs to contribute to this process? Firstly, advocating for 1) meaningful implementation of Resolution 2250, and; 2) the establishment of relevant policies. Advocate also for the implementation of development initiatives, ideally in partnership with [local] government, that provide opportunities for youth leadership, education, employment and vocational training to motivate positive youth engagement and contribution to society. Lastly, I encourage the design and implementation of locally-led, youth-centered development initiatives that empower youth with leadership skills, dispute resolution skills, seat quotas within relevant committees, and program design input and leadership. Positive engagement and outcomes thereof will not only be an example to governments and multilateral implementers of the positive impact of youth leadership and inclusion in discourse, but will also increase the number of youth engaged in development practices in the absence of government or others’ capacity to scale-up initiatives.

Youth have experiences to share, ideas to discuss, opinions to contribute in discourse and a unique capability given their available time, especially in the absence of employment or education. They are driven to seek and enact change due to their interconnectedness and lifestyle exposures through globalized technological communication. Youth are not the leaders of the future; they are able to be leaders now. Their risks and tribulations are issues of the present, and likely to worsen without their inclusion in development and peace building leadership. Just in time for the start of the SDGs, Resolution 2250 was adopted and must be duly implemented and recognized by all actors if we need to achieve sustainable development by 2030.

IFPRI and The Hunger Project feature ODESZA in 2015 Global Nutrition Report Video

Screen Shot 2015-09-11 at 10.47.50 AMThe official video for the 2015 Global Nutrition Report (GNR), featuring popular electronic music group ODESZA‘s song Kusanagi, launched on Monday, November 9th. The video summarizes key messages about global malnutrition and its effects on strong development. Produced by The Hunger Project’s Policy Analyst, Mary Kate Costello, the video features imagery and video donated by The Hunger Project, accurately depicting the realities of extremely impoverished persons and the challenges of malnutrition.

As Post 2015 nears, the 2015 GNR bears heavy weight in development dialogues about priority issue areas to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. The reality that no country is on track to achieve all of the nutrition targets set by the World Health Assembly is sobering given that countries can lose up to 11% GDP as a result of malnutrition. To meet health, WASH and economic indicators, nutrition must be prioritized.

This video marks a turning point for nutrition experts and champions as it aims to reach new audiences by featuring music from a musical group such as ODESZA, which has a social media following of more than 70,000 millennials and electronic music fans. This type of video calls on the millennial generation that beholds the chance to end extreme poverty, hunger and malnutrition in all of its forms to share the message and take action: “To policy makers everywhere from everyone: malnutrition affects everyone on earth.”

Music:
ODESZA – “Kusanagi”
http://odesza.com