The Blog

In Partnerships We Trust - The Promise of the Sustainable Development Goals

In the decade or so I have been working in development I have had more good weeks than bad ones, and this week is an especially good week that makes me more optimistic than ever regarding the future of the young people we are trying to help.

In the decade or so I have been working in development I have had more good weeks than bad ones, and this week is an especially good week that makes me more optimistic than ever regarding the future of the young people we are trying to help.

This week, 193 countries come together at the United Nations to adopt the development agenda for the next 15 years. In only a few days, the Sustainable Development Goals will become a real target we will work towards globally - fighting poverty, climate change and aiming for peace, equality and prosperity for all.

Of course the SDGs don't reinvent the wheel - in 2000, the UN adopted the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that aimed to work towards more or less the same areas in development. The SDGs are about the next leg of the journey, and what excites me is that they make perfect sense.

The MDGs brought great progress in many areas, but there was still a long way to go before those goals were achieved. Building on the experiences from the MDGs, in formulating the SDGs the UN made the most inclusive consultations in its history, ensuring the goals will benefit ALL countries and ALL people.

Moreover, the focus on the development agenda is on sustainability. So this time around, everyone will work towards not only achieving some goals at a point in time, but towards perpetuating progress as per what the reality of the future will dictate.

Across the global network that is Youth Business International, we have been working for over 15 years supporting under-served young people to start or grow their own business, thus tackling unemployment and advancing sustainable economic development.

In recognition of the growing youth unemployment crisis, and the role that entrepreneurship can play in addressing this, there is a clear focus on our work - particularly in goals 4 and 8:

Goal 4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

  • 4.4 By 2030, substantially increase the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship.

Goal 8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all

  • 8.3 Promote development-oriented policies that support productive activities, decent job creation, entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation, and encourage the formalization and growth of micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises, including through access to financial services
  • 8.5 By 2030, achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value
  • 8.6 By 2020, substantially reduce the proportion of youth not in employment, education or training
  • 8.b By 2020, develop and operationalize a global strategy for youth employment and implement the Global Jobs Pact of the International Labour Organization.


Not only is there now a commitment to achieve sustainable economic development, but for the first time in the history entrepreneurship is recognised at global level as one solution for development. Moreover, youth are at the centre of focus, understood as a key sector to support to achieve these goals.

Now this is promising, and gives the work we do at Youth Business International a whole new dimension.

Our network's steady expansion (we are now present in 43 countries) has been the living proof that supporting entrepreneurship and specifically young people works in more than one region.

And our results (last year alone we helped start or grow 18,949 businesses across the network) showed not only a need, but also the choices young people make when building their future - they are taking matter into their hands and improving their lives and those of others.

But there is one more aspect of the SDGs that really makes me believe that they could be achievable, and that's the last goal.

Goal 17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development.

Based on my experience working in development: real partnerships really work. In the YBI network, when delivering our support to young people, we bring together resources from various sectors from the same or different geographical areas because we found that there is common ground to walk on. And that since we are all working towards the same larger goal, we may as well work together.

We partner with the public and the private sector (often together), with local and regional civil society organisations, with the education sector and with individuals. We use this inclusive model and adapt it to the local context of each country where we are present.

Finally, it is also gratifying to see how the role of the private sector in development has been re-imagined - and that there is a clear role for companies in the implementation of the SDGs.

So there you have it. The SDGs (Scaling Doing Good?) do make me more optimistic about our future. Having this high level comprehensive and sustainability-focused agenda for development for the next fifteen years so widely adopted gives us all a great framework to work within.

It's not perfect but it's a great start and I hope further progress is made during the Sustainable Development Summit.