Where no one else is doing our work in the UK, we faced some barriers which you too may face. Based on our experiences, here are a few of the main issues which may impede youth accountability work, with our suggestions on how to overcome these.
In your accountability work, you may choose to partner with adult-led organisations (e.g. to help with your data collection, or to reach Governmental figures). Although not always the case, you are likely to experience being a ‘token’. This means that the adult-led organisation may use you, as young people, to demonstrate a commitment to youth leadership and partnerships (e.g. to speak at an event or to mention in a report) but will overlook your experiences and input into meaningful work.
This is not necessarily meant in a malicious way, and may be a simple oversight by the adult-led organisation. We have experienced this too – we feel that the best way to avoid this is by establishing with the adult-led organisation that you want to be valued as an equal partner and to have your voice meaningfully responded to.
Who takes responsibility for the SDGs?
In a meeting with DFID, they stressed the importance of DFID’s budget being spent on international causes, rather than local. This entails that the responsibility of SDG implementation and monitoring in the UK depends upon a cross-departmental framework. Therefore, with DFID focusing on global issues, which government department is responsible for the SDGs in the UK? Such vague action on the SDGs by the UK government means that UK citizens cannot effectively hold decision makers to account for their promises, and leads to poor governance. However, a recent report by the International Development Committee promises to rectify this: “Departments should be assigned specific responsibilities for making progress on the SDGs to ensure ownership and clear lines of accountability and these should be laid out clearly in each department’s Single Departmental Plan, with specific references to relevant SDGs. We recommend that, if it has not already done so, the Government urgently produces a substantive and fully resourced internal communications strategy on the SDGs to ensure that all departments understand their responsibilities to deliver on the Goals”.
Lack of awareness on the SDGs
Young people still do not know what the SDGs are, or believe they are relevant. We have been attempting to change this as, day to day, inactive youth could be engaged through youth groups or proper campaigns aimed at young people and educational services. We found that many civil society organisations weren’t interested in working with us on matters related to the SDGs, sometimes because of a lack of awareness or due to the fact they did not work in the UK,as they believed the UK is not an urgent case and does not require monitoring the progress of SDGs. Perhaps this is because the UK government has not prioritized the Goals, and so the UK public is unaware of their existence and applicability in the UK.