A global initiative for innovative ideas began in our islands and created a bold blueprint for youth to be agents for social change and sustainable development.

The World Youth Congress is a global gathering of grassroots game changers committed to serving their communities and country in the 21st century.

The inaugural innovative institution launched in our islands in 1999 has sailed like Hokulea around the world in the past two decades landing on the shores of Morocco, Scotland, Canada, Turkey and Brazil.

On Sunday, just after Hokulea also returns after three years, the World Youth Congress will open its week-long program bringing together youth to generate a game plan from the generation that will grow up with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The World Youth Congress, from June 18 – 24, in Honolulu, is the first opportunity for future generations to organize a sustainable development movement to end poverty and protect our earth.

Starting with 820 youth in Hawaii from all the regions of the world, the numbers have swollen to over 1,000 a couple of times in the past 20 years. Hawaii will host the empowering educational endeavor for youth to create and coordinate around human rights rights and civil society resilience for sustainability and solidarity.

Energized and engaged youth meet together in peer led programs covering community action projects; workshops sharing wisdom; and dynamic debates developing a transformative toolkit to distribute in own democracies to offer opportunities to achieve the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Every government agreed to a 2030 development agenda with 17 global goals and 169 indicators to measure and monitor accomplishments. In September 2015, all 193 UN member states accepted the agenda for a new direction in people-centered development created from intensive public participation and country consultations including diplomacy dialogues. Transforming Our World by 2030 – A New Agenda for Global Action is an historic agreement of comprehensive, creative and courageous set of standards. It’s a global compact to promote peace, human rights and development as well as protect our planet.

The 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals focus on ending poverty; zero hunger; good health and well-being; quality education; gender equality; clean water and sanitation; affordable and clean energy; decent work and economic growth; industry, innovation and infrastructure; reduced inequalities; sustainable cities and communities; responsible consumption and production; climate action; life below water; life on land; peace, justice and strong institutions; and partnership for the goals.

During the week, there will be a creative combination of trainings to create Sustainable Action Toolkits; courses sharing indigenous models such as the Aloha+ Challenge sharing traditional knowledge to solve current challenges; local action projects to put philosophy into practice. There will also be a UNESCO World Heritage Volunteer project Strategizing and Securing the UN SDGs 13- 15 Climate Change Adaptation Action Camp promoting the generational partnership for Papahanaumokuakea.

The World Youth Congress is a confluence of creative forces for fundamental freedoms in the fields of sustainable development and campaigns to influence international institutions to accomplish the hundreds of indicators in the Global Goals. One result of the World Youth Congress will be to organize the political will among the constituency of the country to meet its global obligations and responsibilities to own citizens.

At the conclusion of World Youth Congress, a plan of action for people and our planet will be promulgated and provided for young leaders to return home and create own cultural models to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals

One example of the local action projects is the Leahi Millennium Peace Garden at the door of Diamond Head. Over the two decades, various NGOs have volunteered to ensure indigenous fauna thrive and host cultural events. The World Youth Congress will culminate with a green carpet event and closing ceremony featuring Ta’kaiya indigenous First Nation youth with songs and spoken word on the Leahi Millennium Peace Garden.

Beyond the local action projects, the seeds are planted for Legacy Projects of Education and Empowerment. The first one is with University of Hawaii Office of Sustainability offering two courses every semester where our college students will study the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in the fall semester for three credits and then participate in the actual negotiations in Bonn assisting Pacific Islands States diplomatic corps while earning another three credits. Another one will study the human rights specifically indigenous peoples rights at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in the spring and attend the actual session at the UN Headquarters. The courses aim to develop generation of island diplomats pursuing employment to ensure equality and equity and jobs for justice.

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About the Author

  • Joshua Cooper
    Joshua Cooper is Dean of International Human and Peoples Rights Law Program in Vienna, Austria and Trainer at the International Training Centre for Teaching Peace and Human Rights in Geneva, Switzerland. Cooper is director of the Hawaii Institute for Human Rights and also teaches at the University of Hawaii.