We need to talk about Youth and Sustainable Development (recap of the seminar)
On Saturday, 30 January 2021, ENGSO Youth hosted its second online international seminar, titled “Sport as an enabler of Sustainable Development”.
The seminar was organised within the framework of the Sport for Sustainable Development project, co-funded by the Erasmus+ program of the European Union.
Sustainability is set to move from the margins of the industry to front and center, with international federations, organisations and companies under rising pressure to ensure their products, operations, and supply chain relationships meet the highest possible standards, both in terms of climate change and issues such as labor rights. It has become an increasingly urgent priority to all actors. COVID-19 only accelerated the trend. The onus now is on federations, organisations and companies, to secure sustainable supply chains and to engage with concepts such as circularity.
ENGSO Youth committee member, and also the moderator of the seminar, Ivana Pranjic welcomed more than 100 participants from all over the world who joined the conversation on sport and sustainable development.
In her welcome words, ENGSO Youth chair Ugne Chmeliauskaite emphasized the importance of every single step, in order to work and live in a more sustainable way.
Dr Marianne Meier, Research Associate in Gender and Development at the University of Bern, presented her critical view on the sustainable development goals.
"Both, gender equality and gender equity are needed," she added, when discussing goal five (gender equality), while also highlighting the importance of a critical perspective.
Dr Meier also emphasized that sport is neutral, it is a tool, an instrument, and it matters how we use it.
COVID-19, poverty, lack of access to education, obesity, lack of physical activity… Philippe Furrer, Founder and Chief Engagement Officer of insPoweredBy, began his presentation by addressing the issues youth are facing today.
"The fact that we don't have the word youth mentioned on sustainable development goals [the images], is a challenge," he claimed.
Mr Furrer discussed the role of youth in sustainable development and presented his view on transforming youngsters, communities and cities through inclusive sport, physical activity and active play.
Hideyuki Aoyagi, the Graduate student of Doctoral programme at Kokushikan University, and a representative of ENGSO Youth project partner from Japan, delivered an informative presentation about the current situation of the sustainable development goals in Japan and the country’s mission to educate its citizens about the importance of sustainability.
The current youth generation is acknowledged as the largest in history. Today, globally there are over 1.8 billion young people, or people under 30, representing close to a third of the world’s population. This is the largest youth population the world has ever known.
While young people are often the most affected by social change, they can also play an important role as agents of positive change. Not including them/ us as an important factor of change, would simply be a missed opportunity. There is a term in in microeconomics called “the cost of missed opportunity”. So, it is the opposite of the benefit that would have been gained had an action, not taken, been taken—the missed opportunity.
Therefore, it was very important to give the chance to the young experts in the field. The panel discussion on youth engagement and sustainable development was formed by:
Mathatho Manaka, IOC Young Leader, Young Sport Maker at Global Sports Week Paris 2020 (South Africa),
Francois Singer, 17 Sport, Purpose Sales Executive, (France),
Priyal Keni, International Rifle Shooter, Founder of the Play and Shine Foundation, (India),
David Thibodeau, Young Sport Maker at Global Sports Week Paris 2020, Program Analyst at Government of Canada (Canada).
The central discussion about the debate was formed around the role of youth and sport in achieving sustainability and the challenges young citizens from all over the world are facing today.
"We look at everyone as an equal stakeholder", began Ms Keni, presenting her organisation Play and Shine Foundation. Ms Manaka, who also runs a foundation, called “Rough Diamonds” focusing on “Quality education” (SDG 4) in South Africa added: “"You need to understand the relevance of what that community really needs."
"There is no youth at the decision-making table," highlighted Mr Thibodeau, when asked about what would be his message to decision-makers. Answering the same question, Mr Singer concluded: “They [decision makers] have to listen.”
ENGSO Youth would like to give special thanks to the speakers, partners of the project (Kokushikan University, the Senegalese Olympic and Sports Committee, Sport and Citizenship and the University of Physical Education of Budapest) and all participants who joined the debate.
Young people as game changers can simply not be ignored anymore. Aside from performance, sport is about inspiration and aspiration. If young people see themselves represented at the top level, it shows them it’s possible for them to succeed too.
Learn more about the project Sport for Sustainable Development: