People throughout the world were moved last summer when a team composed of young refugees took the field at the Olympic Games for the first time. The words they shared on that occasion continue to resonate in many hearts. One expressed the desire to use the opportunity of running at the Olympics to send to fellow refugees the message that life can be changed for the better, while another looked back on his life experiences and said he drew strength from them and was running with the hope that refugees would be able to lead better lives.
Their words convey the fact that the true essence of youth is not to be found in the past, nor in the future, but rather in the desire to do something for the benefit of other people living with us in the present moment. Likewise, for young people, the vision of the Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs — to leave no one behind — is not something to be achieved in a distant place or a goal for some time in the future.
The SDGs point to the present realities of living together on this one planet with our fellow human beings, a way of life dedicated to the daily effort of building a society in which the joy of living is shared by all.
When youth make the determination to illuminate the corner of the world they inhabit now, it brings into being a space of security in which people can regain hope and the power to live.
The determination to live together that is ignited in this space of security shines as an embodiment of the global society in which no one is left behind, inspiring courage in people living in other communities who confront similar challenges.
In my 2014 peace proposal, I stressed that today’s youth are the generation that will most powerfully shape the work of achieving the SDGs. I also proposed that the United Nations and civil society should work together to promote the kind of education for global citizenship that unleashes the limitless potential of youth.
I was thus glad when last year’s conference of nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) affiliated with the UN’s Department of Public Information (DPI/NGO Conference) was held in South Korea under the theme “Education for Global Citizenship: Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals Together.” Attended by many young people, the conference adopted the Gyeongju Action Plan, committing participants to promoting education for global citizenship.
I believe that the true value of any state or society lies in what it does for those who are most afflicted by suffering, not in its military or economic prowess.
Education gives rise to the actions and activities that shape the direction of society over time. Education for global citizenship, in particular, can provide the conditioning context that enables people to reframe events, wherever they may occur, through a shared human perspective, and to foster action and solidarity. It can encourage people to consider global issues in terms of their own lives and lifestyles, thus bringing forth the inner capacities we all possess.
( The writer is President, Soka Gakkai International. Excerpted from his 2017 Peace Proposal “The Global Solidarity of Youth: Ushering in a New Era of Hope”)