Aaron Toland, aged 22 from Belfast, volunteered with Progressio ICS in Honduras. Here, he captures the opening activity at the Youth Summit.

The Secretary of State for International Development Justine Greening opened the Youth Summit reflecting on the success of the MDGs. Poverty has been halved, child mortality slashed, to name a few. Justine focused on the differences in the SDGs and the MDGs,  the focus of sustainability and universal application. She linked SDG 16:Peace and Justice to the refugee crisis in Syria and emphasised the need for a peaceful and just world, free from violence.

Justine looked at the crowd and said that events like this are how change occurs, and that young people have two major roles to play in achieving these SDGs:
*Be advocates of change* “Our voice and our opinions of what we want in our world.”
*Be agents of change* “Get pulled of the audience and onto the stage, change things, be the change maker.”

The crowd were greeted to a video message from Nobel Laureate Malala Yousofzai who started by apologising that she could not attend, but reassured those in attendance it was for a valid reason, for the education that she had fought hard for. The documentary “He Called Me Malala” showcasing Malala’s story is released across the UK on 6th November.

Anti-FGM activist stepped up to a roaring crowd, thanked everyone for the invitation to the Youth Summit and praised the role young people have had to date. Fahma reflected upon the challenges of raising issues as a young person, ranging from having over 75 people protesting at her college over an anti-FGM event that was planned, to “teaching Michael Gove about the clitoris”.

What influence do young people have on the SDGs? “Millions of young people decided, not the voice of a privileged few.” The hosts of The Youth Summit explained how young people have helped to shape the SDGs and how they can continue to shape global development.

The SDGs will be decided upon by global leaders in New York in the coming weeks, the biggest UN meeting since 2000. Don’t let this pass us by.