Gender equality, environmental sustainability and the power of youth: the International Development Secretary talks about her hopes for the Youth Summit and Global Goals.
#YouthSummit. Our goals. Our voice. Our future.
The sound of drums echoes around the halls of the Department of International Development on Whitehall. The air is buzzing with the energy of more than 250 youth volunteers. We are here to be part of the change, to tell International Development Secretary Justine Greening about the global issues we care about, and to share ideas about how to implement the Global Goals, or Sustainable Development Goals. All of us have volunteered as part of International Citizen Service; we have worked with young people across the world to fight global poverty and we have seen that there is more that unites us than divides us.
At the start of the 2015 Youth Summit, Vix Anderton and Kwame Sekyere interviewed the International Development Secretary to hear her views on a range of issues and the importance of the summit. Her passion for her work at the Department for International Development, the importance of the Sustainable Development Goals and the power of engaging young people in the fight against global poverty was clear from the outset.
You can watch the full interview or read the report below.
With thanks to International Service ICS alumna Josh Ho for creating this film.
Secretary of State, do you believe that in order to receive aid, countries should show commitments to human rights?
We place a huge priority on human rights and it’s a big part of our programming and how we deliver projects on the ground, whether that’s promoting gender equality or ensuring the right to an education. We only work with governments who have shown a commitment to human rights but we often work in countries that don’t have a good human rights record, in which case we will work directly with grassroots organisations or through some of our amazing UK-based NGOs.
You’ve already mentioned gender equality. We heard this week from Angelina Jolie about sexual violence in conflict, the same week that ActionAid launched their new #Fearless campaign calling for an end to violence against women and girls. What is this government doing to ensure that gender goal is made a reality and that gender equality is a priority both at home and overseas?
This government has been shouting for an end to violence against women and girls and for gender equality. Angelina Jolie has been working with former Foreign Secretary William Hague on the prevention of sexual violence in conflict and the UK hosted the Girl Summit in 2014, bringing attention to the rights of girls. Empowering women and girls is at the forefront of UK humanitarian work and this is enshrined in legislation, thanks to William Cash MP who pioneered the Gender Equality in International Development Act in 2014. A little fact for you: DFID has increased its spending on violence against women and girls sixfold since 2012.
And following on, what do you think is the key to bringing more men and boys into issues of gender equality? How is your department approaching the need for engagement with men and boys?
It is too easy to forget that changing attitudes of and working with men and boys is key to improving prospects for women and girls. One of the most amazing speakers at the 2014 Girl Summit was a young man, who was involved in the Youth4Change team. Involving men and boys needs to be prioritised more, particularly in grassroots programming; changing day-to-day social norms is vital but does take time. Men and boys are part of the solution.
Reflecting on the past Millennium Development Goals, what do you consider to be the most important differences with the new Global Goals?
The MDGs have been successful. We’ve halved extreme poverty and slashed child mortality and the UK government has helped eleven million children through education. But it’s so important to recognise that the world has changed over the past fifteen years: climate change; conflict as a driver of poverty, as seen with the ongoing refugee crisis on Europe’s borders; the youth bulge, to name a few. We need development that is not only good for people, but also good for the planet. We need to increase the availability of jobs for young people. Tackling the root causes of conflict and doing even more to help those fleeing conflict will be vital to the success of the goals. We need to ensure that the new comprehensive gender equality goal flows throughout all of the goals to ensure no-one is left behind.
What is the one thing that every young person can do to contribute towards these new Sustainable Development Goals?
Talk about why the goals matter in your own community and be the change you want to see. I want to see young people being advocates for change and, more importantly, agents for change. As a Member of Parliament, I wanted to make a difference. I am so excited to be spending the day with so many people with the same goal; there is so much energy here, if we could plug ourselves in we would light up Trafalgar Square! I really want to hear from the next generation and ensure that we keep this work going after the Summit.