Young People Engage in Sustainable Development

Participants standing in line to enter the UN City in Copenhagen,

Participants standing in line to enter the UN City in Copenhagen,


By Viktor Lerche-Jørgensen Lassen


On a Wednesday evening in September, about a hundred young people gathered at the UN City in Copenhagen to discuss the Sustainable Development Goals and how to get involved with them. The event which took place on September 27 was conducted by UNYA DK, and had sold out weeks earlier.


After an introduction by UNYA chairman Sofie Clausen, the participants spread out into sessions on the topics of education, energy and climate, gender equality and health. Representatives from a number of organizations working with the SDGs were present at the UN City to kickstart the debate.


The Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, are 17 goals that were adopted by the UN General Assembly in september last year. The SDGs sets the global agenda for the next 15 years on how to secure social, economic, and environmental development for everyone on earth – both in developing and developed countries. The 17 goals touch a range of issues, from eradication of poverty to the promotion of peace and justice, emphasising the comprehensiveness of sustainable development.


Education is the answer – what was the question?


Philip Jaatun, vice chairman of Save the Children Youth was there to engage in conversation on the importance of education:


–Education is in many ways a fundamental element for sustainable development. Besides being valuable in itself, education creates social mobility, enables alternative livelihoods, improves health and is tied to many of the other development goals.


At the session, the participants shared their own knowledge, experiences and opinions. Many had working experience with education and development and several were studying relevant subjects. Although Denmark is a developed country with a well functioning education system, Philip Jaatun finds it important to talk about education nonetheless:


–I don’t think many danes realize how privileged we are compared to many other countries. We’re a prosperous country in many ways, and the education system is solid, but that doesn’t mean everything is perfect. It is important that we form a clear opinion on what role education should play in our society – is it secondary, or is it essential? I think we should make up our minds on that, so that we can take a qualified decision on how to fulfil our goals for the world.


Young people matter


During the break, while participants loaded up on snacks, a video link was set up with the Danish UN Youth Delegate, Esben Holager, who reported live from the UN headquarters in New York. Apart from the selection of the next Secretary-General, Esben Holager reported on the work to implement the SDGs:


–There is a lot of progress being made and a lot of focus and recognition of the work that is being done by young people around the world.


After a second session, and after Sofie entertained the participants while waiting for the UN City watchmen to open the exits, there was general agreement that the event had been a success.


Christina Sørensen and Anna Victoria Bach from HeForShe Copenhagen had spent the evening debating gender equality, focusing on maternity leave, salary, and the lack of women in management positions. They emphasized the importance of spreading awareness among young people – in high schools and universities – and were excited about the involvement of the participants:


–I am just impressed that there are so many committed young people with knowledge, strong opinions and an urge to debate this issue, said Anna Victoria Bach.


The participating organizations were:

HeForShe Copenhagen

Save the Children Youth

UN City


Ung Energi




Interested in future UNYA events or in becoming a member? Join us on October 12 for our next Working Wednesday and hear about what else we are up too. Find the event on facebook.




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