Post 2015 Development Goals

Written evidence submitted by Restless Development


1. Restless Development is a young, dynamic and innovative agency – everything we do is led by and through young people ( And because we are who we serve, we place young people at the forefront of change empowering them to take a leadership role in addressing the most urgent issues facing their countries and the world. Based on our 26 years of experience, it is this award winning [1] youth-led approach – the source of our expertise and credibility – that lends our strength and creativity in bringing the nuance, perspective and life to this pivotal global discourse.

2. Half the world is under 25 – that’s over 3.5 billion people. Young people are a growing demographic majority. 87% of young people live in developing countries, disproportionately affected by their community and country’s most pressing problems [2] . More than 30% of 15-24 year olds in the world live on less than $2 a day. And yet, young people remain isolated from decision-making processes, frequently overlooked as a resource for change and development.

3. Restless Development is co-chair of the Beyond 2015 Children and Youth Working Group. We are also a member of the UNDP Post-2015 Reference Group leading the Global Consultation on Governance, the Beyond 2015 Participatory Research Committee, and leading a network-wide youth consultation on post 2015 in over 12 countries globally. In addition we are delivering a set of deeper qualitative pieces of research led entirely by young people from hard-to-reach, excluded communities in three of the poorest societies on the planet. All of these activities are directly enabling young people to contribute their experiences, perspectives and ideas as part of the global discussions currently taking place on post 2015.

4. Restless Development endorses the submissions of Bond Beyond 2015 UK, which make more general comments on the post-MDGs framework as a whole, and the UK Consortium on AIDS and International Development, in response to the issue of HIV and AIDS specifically. This submission by Restless Development is predominantly to articulate the role and contribution of young people to the post 2015 agenda and how young people must be placed at the forefront of any future development framework.

Lessons learned from the adoption of the International Development Targets and the Millennium Development Goals: in particular how effective has the MDG process been to date;

Benefits: Increased focus on issues affecting young people

5. Young people are disproportionately affected by poverty across all indicators, and have benefited from the attention drawn by the MDGs to a number of key poverty issues, and by the mobilisation of donor resources. For example:

· MDG 1 specifically focused attention on young people through the commitment to full and productive employment for all, including young people and women. Africa’s youthful population represents a major opportunity for economic growth given the right policies and approach. [3]

· MDGs 2 and 3 generated investment in young people and specifically young women’s capacity through basic education and literacy programmes, with the abolition of school fees establishing education as a right.

· MDGs 4 and 5 mobilised resources for maternal and child health, issues which disproportionately affect young mothers who are more likely to experience complications in childbirth. [4]

· MDG 6 mobilised resources for HIV, for which the most at-risk population is young people for social, political, biological, cultural and economic reasons.

Limitations: Lack of engagement with or accountability to young people

6. However, in 2012 young people are still disproportionately affected by many of the poverty issues targeted by the MDGs:

· Young people are 40% of Africa’s working age population, but 60% of the unemployed [5] .

· Illiteracy still holds back more than 120 million young people and 36% of girls from the poorest communities do not go on to any form of secondary education [6] .

· Pregnancy is the leading cause of death for young women aged 15 to 19 [7] .

· Young people aged between 15-24 years account for 40% of all new adult (15+) HIV infections. [8]

7. Whilst the MDG framework set out global targets by thematic area, it broadly did not consider how to ensure ownership by and accountability to those with the greatest stake in the success of the agenda and those with the greatest role in its implementation. Furthermore, there has been a distinct lack of disaggregated data on age demographics and systematic country-level indicators on youth, making progress on development targets hard to evaluate.

The incorporation of these elements would have required the involvement of young people and youth organisations from the beginning of the framework design process and we believe the lack of this involvement, has had a serious impact on the effectiveness of the MDG process and the MDGs themselves. The below case study demonstrates the negative impact that feelings of disenfranchisement amongst young people has had on MDG progress.

Case Study

To date the impact of the MDGs has been limited by lack of youth consultation in the health sector in particular, undermining delivery against commitments to improve maternal healthcare and reduce the spread of HIV. As the generation most likely to contract HIV and most affected by maternal health complications, young people require accessible sexual and reproductive health information and guidance, Voluntary Counselling and Testing and access to contraception.

Restless Development’s youth-led research over many years has revealed that a shortage of age-appropriate services is limiting youth access to healthcare (corroborated by WHO [1] ). Young people feel their confidentiality is not respected by clinic staff and they are not able to broach serious issues such as STIs, pregnancy and abuse. This is largely as a result of a lack of youth consultation during design of healthcare policies and services.

Youth input to development goals, on-going youth consultation during delivery, and data disaggregation by age, would ensure young people’s needs are reflected throughout health policy design and budgeting, that health staff are trained to work with young people and health information is available in formats accessible to youth. Restless Development’s work offers a model of how young people can hold local government to account for provision of youth-friendly services. It is vital that government and donor policies also include a commitment to deliver effectively for youth.

How should the ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ established following Rio +20 relate to the ‘Development Goals’ being considered by the High-Level Panel?

8. Restless Development supports the position taken by Bond Beyond 2015 which stresses the need for a unified process in developing the post-2015 framework which will ultimately produce a single set of international development goals, all of which will incorporate the key message at the heart of the SDGs; the need for sustainable development.

The coverage of future goals: should they be for developing countries only or should progress be monitored in all countries?

9. Restless Development supports the position taken by Bond Beyond 2015 which emphasises the need for a global framework setting out universal goals; including the well-being of young people, but with national-level targets dependent on country context; addressing the individual issues that affect young people in different parts of the globe. For example, youth unemployment is a serious global phenomenon that all governments have a responsibility to address however, targets on unemployment must be informed by realistic assessments of national capacities for them to be meaningful and achievable.

The process: are the right voices being heard? What are the opportunities for and constraints to global consensus?

10. Young people represent the vast majority of the world’s prevailing poverty dynamics and are a frequent target of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and related interventions and yet their participation remains absent from the frameworks used to guide the social and economic development of their nation, leaving debates and decisions around the MDGs to continue to be dominated by the typically top-down processes and policy-makers in the Global North.

Our views on process are based on two fundamental principles:

- That young people are a vital asset to the formulation and leadership of any new commitments to global development and tackling poverty worldwide.

- That young people as the largest demographic bar none will be the difference between the success or failure of any global commitments made. They have the agency to be the banner carriers of development and will be so if included in the implementation and guardianship of any agreed goals

The Opportunities

11. The feasibility of any future development framework rests on its credibility to represent the needs of poor people and marginalised groups. Young people and youth organisations must have a seat at the table on mainstream conversations around the new framework. While the process for setting the post-2015 agenda has already been determined, there are the following opportunities to ensure youth voices are heard and incorporated:

· Inclusion of youth consultation in the Terms of Reference for the High Level Panel on post-MDGs. There is currently no youth representative or young person on the High Level Panel.

· Ensuring youth workers and young experts have the opportunity to participate in UN National and Thematic consultations.

· Active efforts to work in cooperation and partnership with youth organisations and support/invest in the youth sector as a key area of expertise.

· For example, Restless Development is leading a consortium of youth organisations in 12 countries globally delivering youth-led consultations on post 2015. This could provide a key contribution to the post-2015 dialogue and offers a great example of an effective method of engaging young people that could be easily adapted by those leading on process.

· The Beyond 2015 Children and Youth group provides a go-to network for key information on current events and initiatives involving young people and post-2015 activity.

The Constraints

12. There are equally a number of constraints to young voices being heard including:

· Young people viewed primarily as beneficiaries within the post-2015 agenda and not as partners or leaders - there is a distinct lack of visibility of young people’s actions in development and what they are already achieving. For example, young people and adults share joint responsibility on the advisory board to the UN HABITAT Opportunities fund for Urban Youth-led development, however this successful model is not replicated anywhere in the MDG framework.

· Lack of meaningful consultation – there are few concrete plans to involve young people in consultations (e.g. UN guidelines only provide vague guidance on youth engagement – referring to this as a ‘consideration’ and make no reference to working directly with youth organisations). This is going to severely limit opportunities for young people and youth organisations to participate in key events and discussions, especially those with limited funds and capacity.

· Low levels of awareness. Through an online survey, completed by young people across 45 countries, Restless Development found that only half of participants were confident in their knowledge of the MDG agenda [9] .

Targets: was the MDG ‘target-based’ approach a success? Should it be retained? How should progress be measured?

13. National leaders are often strikingly older than the populations they govern. New technology can dramatically open up opportunities for young people to directly monitor progress against targets and provide feedback to decision makers on implementation of local and national development policies and programmes. For example, in collaboration with UNICEF and nine other development partners, in 2011 Restless Development (Uganda) launched the U Report Initiative – an SMS text opinion poll that equips young mobile phone users with the tools to hold decision-makers and development actors accountable to their needs in a cost-effective and accessible way. Now directly reaching over 122,000 young people across Uganda, U Report sends a question on a particular youth issue via SMS text to these young leaders each week, who can respond either with a simple menu-based reply or with personal messages. Stories and findings are then broadcasted over regular radio shows and published in local newspaper (

Financing global goals: are new mechanisms needed?

14. Donor countries like the UK should commit to supporting innovative financing mechanisms, to supply additional funds required to meet existing and new global goals. A Financial Transaction Tax could raise up to $409 billion per year in additional funding for development, by leveraging a tax of just 0.05% on financial transactions like bond and share sales.

The role of the private sector and other non-state organisations

15. In an increasingly globalized world, only with a holistic approach to development will we be able to address these challenges. We want to see provisions made in the post-2015 framework that non-state actors will be consulted and involved in all key decisions and activities relating to the tracking and implementation of development goals.

16. Youth-led and youth-focused organisations are often overlooked as equal partners in development. Agencies such as Restless Development can offer specialist insight into how to effectively engage young people and youth organisations within the post-2015 global development agenda. Involving external organisations with key knowledge throughout the post-2015 process will serve to create a robust agenda that is truly representative of the widest demographics and carefully tailored to the needs of all involved. Special efforts should be made to reach out to the most marginalised youth-led organisations and networks such as youth with disabilities-led organisations, adolescent girls and young women-led organisations and networks, indigenous youth-led organisations, youth-led organisations in urban slums, minority youth-led organisations, LGBT youth-led organisations, etc.

17. Given the private sector’s dynamism, resources and unique ability to generate growth, it should work in partnership with other actors and stakeholders on the development and implementation of any future development framework. Private sector entities are not only actors in society, but also stakeholders with the capacity and responsibility to contribute to social and economic development. Private businesses are key sources of economic growth, employment and investment, which can benefit their local communities and often extend into the global realm. Decisions made by firms can resonate both through supply chains to affect broader production trends, as well as through recruitment channels to influence hiring levels. The notion of corporate citizenship reflects the social responsibility that accompanies this influence, in particular to future generations over the long-term [10] .

The content of future goals: what would be a good set of global goals? What continuity should there be with the MDGs, and how should the unfulfilled MDGs be taken forward?

Content and continuity:

18. Restless Development believes that the content of future goals should build on the original aims of the MDGs but encompass a more ambitious, inclusive, youth-focused approach to reforming the existing structures that perpetuate poverty, inequality and exclusion across the globe. More specifically, Restless Development believes that new goals, targets and indicators which resonate with the lived realities of young people and can support them most in shaping their own futures, should be included in the post-2015 framework, where they were left out of the original MDGs (only 1 target explicitly focuses on youth – ‘the development and implementation of strategies for decent and productive work for youth’).

19. In order to take this forward, Restless Development believes the content of the future goals must be shaped around:

· Recognising that young people are diverse – they have different strengths and experience different challenges and therefore goals must reflect this diversity. Furthermore that within the most marginalised groups exist a large proportion of young people (young mothers, young disabled people, young unemployed etc) and therefore goals addressing marginalisation, must include an integrated youth focus.

· It should understand the distinction between children and youth. The U.N. World Youth Report 2003 defines it as a phase when a person moves from a time of dependence (childhood) to independence (adulthood). The Global Recession and other emerging issues have created challenges for young people to make this transition. This has implications for goal setting and programming: "Youth probably have more in common with adults than with children… it is important to recognize that many of the challenges youth face such as unemployment and risky sexual behaviour are more closely related to adults than children" [11]

· Enfranchising young people as agents of change through including targets on youth agency. For 25 years, we have demonstrated the valuable role of youth-led development which can accelerate the shift from an international aid model to a sustainable framework that can tackle emerging challenges in a rapidly changing world, tapping into youth perspectives that unlock these challenges.

o In Uganda, targeting over 26,850 young people in our programmes, we recorded a 25% increase in young people engaged in market-driven enterprises. In Tanzania through our Youth Peer-to-Peer Programme we have recorded a significant increase in over 500 young people’s income. The average income before starting our work was under 100,000/- a month, and three years later young people’s rural incomes doubles, and young people’s urban incomes quadrupled.

How should the unfulfilled MDGs be taken forward?

20. Restless Development believes that the unfulfilled MDGs should not be abandoned but reviewed in relation to the above principles; build on lessons learned; and be adapted to align with a post-2015 development framework based on global consensus, accountability and sustainability. Innovative and effective approaches, such as youth-led research, can enable us to unlock some of the blockages to development that has hindered progress in the past.

October 2012

[1] Frequently cited as a ‘model for best practice’ by the World Bank, UNICEF, UNAIDS and UK Government

[2] UNDESA New Indicators to Understand the Situation of Youth 2012

[3] Africa Commission, Realising the Potential of African Youth (2009)

[4] World Health Organisation (2012)

[5] Africa Commission, Realising the Potential of African Youth (2009)

[6] UN, The Millennium Development Goals Report (2012)

[7] WHO, Adolescent Pregnancy, Fact sheet No.364 , (May 2012)

[8] UNICEF, Opportunity in Crisis: Preventing HIV from Adolescence to Young Adulthood (2011)

[1] WHO, Adolescent-Friendly Health Service: An Agenda for Change (2003)

[9] Restless Development, Young People on the post-MDG debate , ( June 2011 )

[10] Restless Development has developed a Private Sector Engagement toolkit which can be downloaded here:


Prepared 16th October 2012