Briefing paper on the Asia Regional Youth Festival 2019: Building Next Generation Movement for SDGs

September 9, 2019 Asia Regional Youth Festival 2019 poster

Asia Regional Youth Festival 2019: Building next generation movement for SDGs
11-13 September 2019, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Briefing paper on the Asia Regional Youth Festival 2019: Building Next Generation Movement for SDGs


The Asia and the Pacific region have over 1 billion young people aged 10-24, comprising also 60% of the global young people population.[1] These numbers will continue to grow between 2015 and 2030 and hence young people play a pivotal role in the sustainable development of countries in the region.

The leadership of young people will not only contribute to the resilience of communities, but also propose creative solutions and innovations that will drive positive social change in the coming years. The Asian Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (ARROW), has been contributing to youth mobilising and movement building for the sustainable development in the region, through our various youth-led, youth-focused initiatives. These initiatives not only enable young people to actively engage with the current development framework of the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development implementation, monitoring and review, but also in the implementation of the visionary International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action (ICPD PoA) and Beijing Platform for Action (BPfA), through focused capacity strengthening, knowledge and skills exchanges, evidence-based advocacy and multi-stakeholder engagements. We believe these strategies will foster the agency of young people to claim their rights including their sexual and reproductive rights and improve not only their lived realities, but also the lived realities of the communities they live in.

International commitments such as the ICPD PoA, adopted by 179 countries globally in 1994, and the resolution of the UN Commission on Population & Development (2012), focused on adolescents, human rights and the importance of addressing the rights of young people. These include the realisation of young people’s right to education and attainment of a secondary school education; elimination of all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage, delaying marriage beyond childhood and ensuring free and full choice in marriage-related decisions, and female genital mutilation.[2] The realisation of young people’s right to health, including access to youth-friendly health information, services and counselling; access to health-promoting information, including on sexual and reproductive matters; promotion of gender equitable roles and attitudes and protection from gender-based violence; and socialisation in a supportive environment have further been discussed in the programme of action.[3] These are crucial for a successful transition to adulthood and have significant bearing on the overall socio-economic development of young people.

On the other hand, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action of 1995 (Beijing Platform for Action), is another historic international commitment adopted by 189 governments, which emphasised the empowerment of women and girls everywhere, and committed to taking strategic, bold actions in 12 critical areas of concern: poverty, education and training, health, violence, armed conflict, economy, power and decision-making, institutional mechanisms, human rights, media, environment and the girl child.[4]

Fast forward to 2015, and young people have been active architects of the development of the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, and are continuing to actively engage in the implementation, follow up and review of the SDG agenda in the region and at the national level. In Asia Pacific, young people gather annually at the APFSD Youth Forum co-organised by ARROW and APRCEM youth constituency group to propose recommendations to governments in the region on how they can engage with the implementation, follow up and review in the Asia Pacific region.

Young people’s issues cut across the 17 goals and 169 targets of the SDG agenda, including goals such as ending poverty and hunger, achieving food security and improved nutrition, ensuring healthy lives, and sustainable management of water and sanitation. The agenda also calls for inclusive and equitable quality education and promotion of lifelong learning opportunities for all. Further to this, promotion of inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, building resilient infrastructure, promoting inclusive and sustainable industrialisation, and fostering innovation and decent work goals have significant impact on young people’s lives in the region. It goes without saying that young people remain key stakeholders in stepping up efforts to combat climate change. Central to the sustainable development agenda are human rights and gender equality and reduction of inequality within and among countries. The promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies, access to justice for all and building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels remain key means of implementation. This is all achievable through revitalised global partnership for sustainable development. Young people’s lives remain affected by progress and lack of progress towards these SDGs.

The monitoring and review of where Asia Pacific stands in regards to living up to the ambition of the 2030 Agenda points to disheartening trends. The recent ASIA AND THE PACIFIC SDG PROGRESS REPORT 2019,[5] developed by UNESCAP, notes that on its current trajectory, the region will not achieve any of the 17 SDGs by 2030. The report calls for accelerated progress.

While progress has been made towards some SDGs, such as ending poverty (goal 1); quality education and lifelong learning (goal 4) in Asia and the Pacific, the rate of progress is insufficient and slow. Progress is stagnant for more than half of the SDGs, including on reducing inequalities (Goal 10), combating climate change (Goal 13), and towards supporting peace, justice and strong institutions (Goal 16).  Negative trends have been reported for provision of clean water and sanitation, (Goal 6), and ensuring decent work and economic growth (Goal 8).

In addition, the Asia and the Pacific needs to strengthen its means of implementing the 2030 Agenda as well as partnerships as the lack of progress on these goals will undermine the progress towards other goals.

We believe that engaging with young people is no longer a choice but a necessary lynchpin to achieving the sustainable development in the region.  Mobilising young people for meaningful and effective engagement is the only means to co-create and foster positive change and progress in the countries in the region. Youth mobilisation for SDGs through the Asia Regional Youth Festival 2019: Building Next generation movement for SDGs is our approach towards this endeavour.

The Asia Regional Youth Festival 2019: Building next generation movement for SDGs, organised by ARROW from the 11-13 September 2019, aims to place youth leadership at the centre of the sustainable development agenda and critically examine how young people can further contribute to the full implementation, follow up and review of SDGs in the region. Other international commitments such as the ICPD PoA and the Beijing PfA will also be discussed at this festival as they have direct impact on achieving the SDGs. Through a combination of art exhibitions, performances, critical conversations and capacity strengthening around youth leadership, we will delve into the personal realm and present unique, intimate, personal and political glimpses of young people’s lives and their advocacy and activist actions towards sustainable development. A wide range of art genres including art exhibitions, films, literature, poetry etc – related to sexual and reproductive health and rights – will be explored at this festival.

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