Attendees of the United Nations Global Festival of Action listen to event speakers

SDGs: Guiding humankind to a better tomorrow

The Sustainable Development Goals (usually called the SDGs) were set by the United Nations and came into force on 1st January 2016. These 17 Goals build upon the eight Millennium Development Goals from 2000 to resolve the biggest issues of our planet. The main goal was to tackle immense poverty, which is still the first of the SDGs. They are a call for action to all nations for a better future. To encourage this, the Global Festival of Action was held by the UN in Bonn, Germany in early May this year. During the first evening an award ceremony was held to reward people and projects successfully taking action for the SDGs.

Of the 1500 festival participants, each and every one had an amazing story to tell. These inspiring young people created plans, projects and photos from and for our planet. In interviews I was able to get closer to some of them. Sharon Kalima, a MAKE ART/STOP AIDS (MASA) Officer from Malawi won the Award in the Creative Category for her project, educating young people and especially girls on sexual and reproductive Health. In the programme they learn to express their own thoughts and feelings on the matter. The topics of gender-based violence, inequality and the importance of quality education led to an encouraging, inspiring discussion. (Goals 4 and 5)

The so-called ’butterfly effect’ is also being used to encourage more people to take action around the SDGs. It is based on a concept from chaos theory, where the wing beat of a butterfly in South America can cause a storm on the other side of the world – it means that everyone has the power to change things. A stand at the festival put a filter on your picture, making it appear as if you are wearing butterfly wings.

Five young people sit on steps holding numbered boxes which represent United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
17-year-old Jana Carolien Scholten (second left) joined her fellow participants in the Canon Young People Programme at the United Nations Global Festival of Action

What do the SDGs mean to me?

As a student with most of my life still ahead, I have already been lucky enough to participate in the Canon Young People Programme in 2017, the SDG Festival in 2019 and take part in an exchange in New Zealand. So, with that in mind I might not represent the majority of young people, but I surely have a special point of view on the matter. In school we learn about issues such as global warming and extreme poverty. We might even experience these problems ourselves, but do not learn nor know how to change them. We are not able to spread our wings yet. They get cut off or are being held down. But wouldn’t it be in the interest of every human alive (and those going to be) to save our planet and create a sustainable, fair, safe and kind environment? If it is the sacred duty of the younger generations to make a change, then just like all the generations before us we need to be led. And that is exactly what the Sustainable Development Goals are – an opportunity to guide humankind to a better tomorrow.

17-year-old Jana Carolien Scholten lives in Cologne, Germany, where she is studying for her Abitur – the end of High School exams ahead of university. She is a passionate debater and when she’s not at school, she loves to play cricket, the cello and ukulele, or paint and take photos. Jana has been a part of the Canon Young People Programme since 2017 and took a picture of an aid worker.

Photography © Manuela Barbosa

Written by Jana Carolien Scholten

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