Are there solutions that give as much as they take? This question guided the Sustainable Development Plenary Session, which rounded out the first action packed and inspiring day of the One Young World Summit 2013 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The enthusiasm and passion from the Delegate Speakers was quite evident as each individual shared their projects and initiatives from all over the world. As one can imagine the Sustainable Development phrase acts as an umbrella term that incorporates many, if not all, aspects that are a part our global society including poverty, health, nutrition, energy, water and finances.
The rousing speakers spoke about amazing and wide ranging projects that prove there are solutions that are tackling some of the biggest issues facing our planet. Two delegates from South Africa, Mandisa Dlamini and Shavaye Govender, are addressing food poverty by engaging local communities, in particular individuals between the ages of 12-18, by holding workshops that empower them to grow their own nutritious crops with innovative 'tunnel farming'. However, it doesn't stop there as they also hold workshops that enable the local farmers to turn their farming ventures into social businesses by selling their harvest to others within their community. This income not only helps the young farmers sustain their businesses but also facilitates opportunities for re-investment into their communities.
The wonderful theme of community-based projects was common throughout the Session. This model focuses on local empowerment which results in lasting change since individuals in the community are engaged throughout the project and feel responsible and accountable for its success. Access to reliable energy and clean water are daily concerns for hundreds of millions of people, so learning about energy cooperatives providing electricity access to rural areas in different parts of the world was reassuring. The icing on the cake was hearing how financing obstacles in Croatia were being addressed by Mak Djukan who has engaged the UNDP to develop a crowd-funding web platform that allows individuals from around the world to invest in these community energy projects.
Having access to fundamental health systems is also something that hundreds of millions of individuals lack around the world. Josh Nesbit, CEO of Medic Mobile, explained how his non-profit organisation develops mobile and web technologies to improve health equity in under-served communities around the globe - one of their programs which focuses on child health has seen child immunisation rates increase from 60% to 99% in multiple communities in India because of the increased communications between families and doctors!
The idea of sustainability involves so many facets that it's encouraging to witness projects and initiatives happening around the world that are positively effecting individuals' lives and creating lasting change towards a more sustainable future. That being said, there is still a big picture topic that needs to be addressed to truly move towards a sustainable future.
If we are to move society as a whole to a sustainable future we need a global vision of what success looks like so individuals and communities know what to work towards. It would be hard to find anyone at One Young World, and anyone in the world for that matter, that doesn't want a healthy, happy, prosperous, equal, humane and sustainable world. However, everyone comes from different and diverse cultures, regions and ways of living - where one person wants to save the whale while another needs to eat the whale. The difficult part is defining and then communicating a shared global vision of a sustainable world to seven billion individuals while imbedding local and meaningful calls to action so that no matter where you are you can contribute to moving your society, and in turn the global society, towards the desired and sustainable future that we all want.
Perhaps governments and other governing organisations need to play and more concerted role to catalyze this shift. The 1,250 attendees who represent 190 countries indicated that 84% of them agreed that sustainable development compliance should be more stringent while 92% agreed that governments should engage in scaling successful local sustainable solutions. Hopefully this translates into action with the young leaders in attendance engaging their communities to drive their political parties to be more proactive in supporting sustainable solutions while penalising the organisations that are laggards.
Based on the solutions that were showcased as well as the countless others that young individuals around the world are leading, the movement is beyond the starting stages and is only gathering momentum as more and more individuals with global mindsets apply innovative ideas.
Are you involved with a project that's changing lives and empowering individuals and communities to move towards a prosperous and sustainable future?