Jeremy Corbyn's election as leader of the Labour party, solidarity marches for refugees and a pioneering Youth Summit on 12th September demonstrated the passion young people have for social equality in the UK and around the world. A surge of youth-led activism is auspicious as the UN General Assembly prepares to gather in New York for the formal endorsement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the end of September. Succeeding the Millennium Development Goals and consisting of 17 objectives, the SDGs are the UN's projected guide to tacking global inequalities and alleviating poverty. With a fast-moving wave of engagement, young people are building a platform to kick-start the UK's commitment to the goals and build better, inclusive societies both at home and abroad.
Corbyn's election campaign was based on fighting inequality and injustice and crucially, the support of young people was instrumental in contributing to his landslide victory in the leadership race. In his acceptance speech, the veteran MP spoke of finding 'peaceful solutions to the world's problems' through social inclusivity and democracy. While there's been no shortage of negativity around his victory, Corbyn has galvanised hundreds of thousands of supposedly apathetic young people to become more engaged in politics and social action. Young people are already more active and concerned about global issues than any other age group and Corbyn's victory will only further inspire them to play their role as global citizens in shaping a sustainable future for the world.
Corbyn was present at the London 'Solidarity for Refugees' march from Park Lane to Downing Street on Saturday along with another figure idolised by young liberal campaigners, musician and activist Billy Bragg. During the Occupy movement of 2011-12, the Bard of Barking issued a rallying cry for socially active young people to communicate what was going on to everyone else. While Bragg would like to see more young people take up his mantle of protest through music, there's no doubt he will be enthused by the increase in youth activism in recent years. Vast numbers of young people participated in Saturday's marches, which took place in cities such as Bristol and Exeter as well as the capital and promoted providing support to refugees and safe passage to Europe. Many held signs with slogans such as 'We are all equal' and 'We are one', echoing language and messaging also present in the SDGs. Such solidarity is encouraging, particularly for goal number 16 which aims to 'Promote peaceful and inclusive societies', reduce all forms of violence and provide access to justice and inclusive institutions at all levels. The importance of this objective is epitomised by the current refugee crisis. To create the world we hope for, there has to be global assimilation between people from all walks of life. Having grown up in a socially and culturally inter-connected world, young people are leading the charge for this essential integration.
The exercise of youth-led action for social equality and eradicating poverty was epitomised through an inspirational Youth Summit run by young people in partnership with the Department for International Development (DFID) and International Citizen Service (ICS). ICS is a government funded initiative that offers young people from the UK the opportunity to work on sustainable development projects in developing countries around the world. As well as providing assistance to some of the world's poorest communities, the programme fosters the notion of global citizenship and a lifetime commitment to sustainable development. Saturday's summit was an exceptional example of what can be achieved when young people, government and development organisations come together to initiate positive change.
Irrespective of political sympathies, there can be universal confidence in the enthusiasm of young people to take sustainable development to the next level. There's no doubt that messages from Corbyn's campaign and the current refugee crisis have further stimulated their passion for the cause, and it's vital to harness that appetite going forward. At the Youth Summit, Secretary of State for International Development Justine Greening spoke of putting young people at the heart of a DFID's work. The energy of the summit, which was complimented by messages from Ban Ki-Moon and Malala Yousafzai, guarantees they are more than ready to take up the mantle of implementing the SDGs and work towards achieving social equality around the world.