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By Dario Piselli

During the 2nd Conference of the SDSN Mediterranean Network that took place on March 5-6 at the University of Siena, Italy, a special session themed “The Role of Youth for Sustainable Development. Towards the launch of SDSN Youth” was held to focus on the issues of youth empowerment and engagement in the transition from the MDGs to the SDGs, as well as to foster the discussion about the proposed SDSN Youth global initiative, which is now in the process of being launched.

Founding members of the network coming from the Mediterranean region joined forces with the event’s organizing committee to orchestrate the session, which was greeted with optimism by Professor Jeffrey Sachs during his intervention via video conference and introduced by the opening remarks of Professor Achim Dobermann, member of the SDSN Leadership Council. The keynote speakers were SDSN Youth’s Dario Piselli (who also chaired the session) and Dario Bettaccini (both of the University of Siena), and Fulya Kundaklar and Sila Temizel of Bogazici University.

All the presentations from the session, which were live streamed online and can be seen here, highlighted the need to see young people not only as the recipients of international policies specifically devoted to solve the plurality of challenges that youth is still facing worldwide, including lack of access to education and the internet, armed conflict, unemployment, human rights abuses, natural disasters and so on, but also as key stakeholders who have the opportunity to participate actively in all relevant levels of decision – making processes and to bring unique perspectives for sustainable development through their intellectual contribution and their ability to mobilize support. In addition, they introduced key characteristics from the SDSN Youth proposal, including its vision, structure, and potential campaigns and projects, in order to begin developing fruitful collaborations with Universities and research centres from the region.

The session, which was attended by about 100 researchers, students, and civil society representatives, was praised by Angelo Riccaboni, Chair of SDSN Mediterranean, and SDSN officers as a glaring success and a driving force within the Conference, whose outcome document, the “Siena Declaration for Sustainable Mediterranean Agriculture and Food Systems” included many poignant references to the role of universities and youth for sustainable development that the SDSN Youth’s founding members welcomed.

SDSN Youth will launch in 2015 as a new initiative to engage youth globally in the post-2015 agenda. Through education and global cooperation, SDSNY will encourage young people to prioritize the SDGs, while creating a global platform to advocate for change and formulate solutions and pathways for achieving the SDGs, with assistance and mentorship from experts and policymakers. Its main focus will be on empowering youth and supporting its active participation in the transition from the MDGs to the SDGs, but also helping young people worldwide initiate and scale projects that may help sustainable development problem solving at local, national, and global scales. SDSN Youth’s team currently comprises individuals from many of the SDSN Regional and National Centres and beyond, including Monash University, the London School of Economics and Political Science, Columbia University, Fundação Amazonas Sustentável, the University of Siena, Bogazici University and the University of the West Indies. Its membership will be open to youth organizations and student groups from all over the world. For any questions, please contact youth@unsdsn.org.