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Youth Infomediaries: agents of accountability for the SDGs

Victoria Forsgate

As the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were being launched last September, Heads of State and Government made a commitment to “accountability to our citizens” in the implementation of this new agenda. In 2016, when we talk about citizens, we’re mainly talking about young people: the 3.5 billion people on the planet who are under 30 years old. The problem is that most of the current proposals on “follow-up and review” for the SDGs reduce young people’s role to volunteering as representatives in meetings; undermining both their potential and their agency as accountability advocates. Watching from the sidelines, young people will ‘at best’ be vocal commentators on what’s (not) happening and ‘at worst’ disillusioned bystanders. There are surely more useful things that the biggest generation of youth ever can be doing than simply sitting in meetings.

In response to this challenge, Restless Development has 15 practical recommendations for governments and intergovernmental partnerships for scaling up ambition on youth-led social accountability. These recommendations particularly target countries where there is a youth bulge, but where the majority of elected representatives and decision makers are at least one or two generations older. Putting these into action would also give a boost to the data revolution: if data is the asset accountability advocates have been waiting for, youth are the agents. There won’t be a data revolution without users; who must be able to access information that meets their needs rather than the needs of the data providers.

Restless Development and our partners are already supporting a new generation of SDG Infomediaries who will play an essential role in increasing accountability for the SDGs: young people who interrogate the data, find the stories, make it meaningful and mobilise their communities and peers. We call it The Big Idea.

There has rightly been scepticism about the role that citizens can play in data-driven accountability, and whether all this talk is elevating ‘ordinary’ people to so-called ‘super citizens’: that person living next door who is circumventing all barriers and inequalities to hold their government accountable. However, you don’t need to believe in superheroes to think that ordinary people can lead change. Youth have already proven themselves as powerful community mobilisers.

Young Accountability Advocates from Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda, the UK and Zambia are currently developing national accountability frameworks – multi-stakeholder national action plans for monitoring, reviewing and seeking bottom-up accountability for SDGs. For example, in Ghana and the UK, young infomediaries are tracking progress on reducing maternal mortality and violence against women respectively.

There are two particular dimensions that we think set youth-led data-driven accountability apart from alternative approaches:

  • Empower young people with data and skills. Building data literacy skills enables young people to play a central role in communicating information to activists, the media, citizen accountability initiatives and decision makers. It also better ensures that data and information has relevance to lived experiences.
  • Connect youth to networks and meaningful opportunities to participate. In the Big Idea, youth are being supported to build a broader youth constituency locally and convene other stakeholders on off track commitments. Youth are also creating pathways from citizen-led to state-led review mechanisms and increasing constructive interaction with state representatives.

More seed funding and technical support for youth-led initiatives could empower a ground swell of SDG infomediaries globally who are leaders in accountability. Restless Development and our partners are currently developing a community of practice on youth-led accountability. If you’re involved in a youth-led accountability initiative or you want to find out more please contact rach@restlessdevelopment.org.

Read more about our 15 recommendations on youth-led accountability for the SDGs and access our new toolkit for SDG infomediaries and accountability advocates.

About the Author

Victoria Forsgate

Victoria Forsgate specialises in youth, the SDGs, governance, participation, and accountability. She was previously Head of Policy & Practice at Restless Development in London, leading advocacy, capacity building and youth-led innovations across the global agency. Victoria now lives in Jakarta working as a freelance consultant. She has an MSc in Development Management from The Open University and an MA(Hons) in Philosophy & Economics from The University of Edinburgh.
                   

2 Responses on Youth Infomediaries: agents of accountability for the SDGs"

  1. William says:

    Thanks Victoria, Thanks for posting and your efforts to make successful SDG outcomes possible, indeed speeding up the pace of development. I sent your blog to a Sister Cities International Youth Leadership Summit (Washington, DC July 13-15) as reference materials. Keep up the good works.

  2. William says:

    Thanks to everyone who has contributed! A great resource for young people that I just learned about about our oceans and how young people can be part of the change process for achieving successful SDG outcomes:
    http://www.discoveryeducation.com//Events/virtual-field-trips/of-the-people/protecting-our-ocean.cfm

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