In 2015, I had the pleasure of attending the Post 2015 Inter-Governmental Negotiations at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. It was an incredible experience during which I witnessed first-hand the shaping of the future world in the next fifteen years time along with the ratification of the Sustainable Development Goals for the United Nations General Assembly.
An Inter-Governmental Negotiation (IGN) takes place at the United Nations Headquarters amongst numerous member states, member groups and civil society. The IGN that I attended as an NGO delegate and member of Advocates for Youth’s Girl Engagement Advisory Board was the final negotiation to be held concerning the Post-2015 Development Agenda.
Given that this was the final negotiation, most of the goals and targets had already been established and were no longer on the table for amendment. Therefore, our role as civil society was primarily to liaise with member states along with participating in a number of press conferences and formulating creative ways to get the attention of the co-facilitators so that they would heed the suggestions being fielded to them. Along with liaising with the member states of their nationality and holding press conferences to outline their issues to media, NGOs got creative to ensure that their points were seen, heard and understood by member states and the co-facilitators.
Given the notable absence of girls engaged in these processes, we were lucky to have the Girl Declaration, which was informed by 508 adolescent girls living in poverty in 14 countries across four continents who were asked what they need to have a chance to reach their potential. The Girl Declaration suggests specific goals and targets that should be included in the post-2015 development agenda to ensure that the future of girls everywhere is secured. I believe that The Girl Declaration, the valiant efforts of my fellow Girl Engagement Advisory Board members, and the immeasurable (and sometimes painful) contributions of the dedicated activists and groups that affected the cause of the girl, helped elevate the importance of girls.
It is truly remarkable to be able to report that the proposed goals for the Girl Declaration were successfully incorporated into the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Our expectations were in fact exceeded as we were not only mentioned in the Introduction and Preamble of the document but we were also able to reserve an individual goal for ourselves (Goal 5 – Gender Equality), thereby ensuring that we didn’t only leave with an ‘honorable mention’.
My experience as an advocate and representative for girls, my nation, and my region is one that I can never forget and is definitely a highlight of my advocacy efforts. Having to quickly adapt to the environment along with giving relevant assistance and recommendations is something that can only be perfected through practice. The assistance I received from my colleagues in New York helped me to get better acclimated to the UN terrain and allowed for me to not get lost in the encompassing nature of the negotiations and ratification. My family also played a significant role in aiding me to stay grounded during the entire process and do my best in all circumstances.
Now that the SDGs have been formally ratified at the United Nations General Assembly, the document will officially come into effect on January 1, 2016. The clock will then be set to track the development and implementation of the goals over the next fifteen years.
Our mandate for ensuring that girls are no longer the most vulnerable in society has not ceased with the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Implementation must still occur to ensure that the goals and targets in the agenda are actually reached. Although it is a great victory that the united efforts of girls globally has been recognized by the paragon of global betterment, the victory will lose its luster if we refrain from joining our voices and efforts in ensuring that these efforts provide viable results.
Christal is a 20 year old, Jamaican third year law student at the University of the West Indies, Mona. She serves as a Vice President of the UWI STAT Ambassador Corps and a member of the Debate Society. Christal believes that empowering young people to engage in advocacy on a regular basis is fundamental to fostering a more forward thinking and solution-oriented society. She has used her writing to highlight issues facing women around the world and as a member of the Girl Engagement Advisory Board, aids in removing the stigma associated with speaking out about youth and girl’s rights. Christal is committed to realizing a world where girls no longer feel like being born female is equal to having a secondary role in any facet of society.