18 percent of the people in the world today live in extreme poverty, classified as living on less than $1.25 a day. If you think that having a job paying minimum wage, £4 for an hour of work is ludicrous and unfair, then imagine having this little to survive on. No pocket money or parents loaning you a tenner, this is all these people have. It raises the question, how have we let so many people live like this and what can we do about it?
The UN sustainable development goals are a set of 17 goals created by the United Nations to target some of the largest social and economic issues in our world today, with an ambitious yet realistic deadline of 2030. The UN goals include striving towards Gender Equality; which aims to get rid of gender discrimination and to have equal representation in parliament, and No Hunger, which aims to eradicate hunger all around the globe by giving everybody access to food. The idea that some governments restrict women to do such basic things can seem bizarre. In some parts of the world, such as Saudi Arabia, women are banned from driving. Being banned from doing something this common just because of gender is insane. The examples of gender inequality only get darker from here. If we manage to complete these goals, we will see an end to extreme poverty, inequality and climate change.
189 countries have agreed to the goals, which means this has some major momentum behind it. But in reality, it’s our generation who will headline the effort. At the end of the day, it’s our planet which the goals will change, and it’s our futures which will rely on them. The spotlight is on us to have the innovation and inspiration to better our world. We should be rallying as a generation and culture to promote more equality in these parts of the world. However, the UN attempted these goals before; called the Millennium Development Goals to mark the year 2000, but these were regarded largely as a failure, as the most marginalised people in this world have seen little progress. Lack of action, awareness and basic realism of the goals made them seemingly impossible to achieve. But the new goals are genuine and realistic and would see the world become a much better place to live in for everybody, with more access to opportunities, less suffering and just living in a brighter world. – why?
One of the goals that spoke most to me was Quality Education; to provide free primary and secondary education to every boy and girl by 2030. A staggering 59 million children at primary education age have dropped out before or during school, which means that there're 59 million children who will never be able to reach their full potential. As someone who has always enjoyed school, this figure is particularly shocking. In my opinion, having access to education is the key to solving most of the global issues we face today. Poverty, inequality, unsustainable practices, they can all be solved by providing education to everybody. Education in different cultures will close gaps between groups, allowing the world to live in greater harmony. With knowledge in science, the next generation can have access to better farming techniques in rural communities and give everybody the basic knowledge to create innovation and progress. Access to education will speed up development in the most impoverished areas in the world, as everyone can reach their full potential and further society as a whole.
So if these goals are so amazing, then why aren’t more young people aware and doing something about it? “Never heard of them”, said one student. “Obviously not working, are they?” said another. It’s clear that there is a large gap of knowledge in our age group. Social media has been sold to us as making us more connected than ever. Our generation is capable of sending a message to someone around the globe in a matter of seconds. But if anything, social media has made us less connected. We’ve effectively become numb to the constant barrage of bad news and sad stories. You can scroll past news of a famine and not even think about it. Even if it’s just me, I think that’s particularly scary. What we need to do, and what the aim of this blog is about, is to get young people like ourselves to talk about these issues that the world suffers, and what we can do about them. A conversation can go a long way, to be aware of the issues and goals is to have the potential to make an impact with them.
Some of you may be thinking, why should I make an effort? What am I going to get out of it? As I mentioned before, it’s our futures that the UN goals will effect. Not everybody on this planet is as lucky as you to be born into a developed country and to have access to water, food, shelter, education and equality. Some people live each day with uncertainty, not knowing when their next meal will be. Of every 100 children who are born, 5 of them will die before they are 5, because of the lack of natal care, food and basic medical attention that these children receive. If that doesn’t have some sort of impact on you, then you should think about it a bit longer. The idea that we live in a world as full of potential, as prosperous and abundant, while nearly 1 of every 20 of us go without is sickening. In the world, some people have never heard of the internet, never left their isolated village let alone travelling to Devon for a holiday, never sent a text message in their lives. It’s hard to comprehend that people in countries can live such different lives than us, and I think that contributes towards the seeming disconnect between us and the issue.
The reason you should care about the goals and make an effort is because you have the potential to. We all have the potential to become a member of the generation who changes the world for the better, to give everybody the chance to make a decent life for themselves. The single biggest thing we can do is to not follow suit with our past generations, but instead push for acknowledgement and care of the people suffering in the world; to not be an echo but a voice.
In summary, the world is looking at us as the key to a better future. We have a responsibility as human beings to care for those without. Talk about the issues, bring them up in class, see what you can do about them. The UN goals have given us a framework to create a better society, so do your part as the future generation and learn about the goals, take part where you can and be part of something bigger than yourself.
Bradley and Craig are sixth form students at Arrow Vale RSA Academy in Redditch, Worcestershire.