Faith, Youth And The SDGs

Bristol, in South West England, the 2015 European Green Capital, played host to the UN ‘Faith in the Future’ meeting. Held on the 8th and 9th September, 24 faith groups and faith-based organizations launched the ‘Bristol Commitments’-a range of practical action plans in support of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

ARC Meeting Brisol 2The action plans, were presented to Paul Ladd, Director of the United Nations Development Programme’s Post-2015 Team, at the ‘Faith in the Future’ meeting, organized by the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) and the UNDP.

In presenting her long term plan on the UN SDGs, CYNESA renews the commitment and resolve of young Catholics across Africa, to work in collaboration with others, in creating a better world, as envisioned by Saint Pope John Paul II, who stressed “the need for carefully coordinated solutions based on a morally coherent world view” (Message for World Day of Peace, 1990). Pope Francis re-affirmed the role of young people in his encyclical ‘Laudato Si, ‘On the Care of our Common Household’, reminding all of humanity that “Young people demand change. They wonder how anyone can claim to be building a better fu­ture without thinking of the environmental crisis and the sufferings of the excluded” (LS 13)

CYNESA’s long-term plan addresses all 17 goals, while laying emphasis on those that have a direct relation to her mission. For example, Action plan A, B and C focus on the realization of goals 15 (terrestrial ecosystems, forests, desertification and biodiversity); 13 (combating climate change) and 14 (conservation of oceans, seas and marine resources) respectively. The full plan can be accessed here.

Presenting a copy of the 'Bristol Commitments'  to CYNESA Zimbabwe Team.

Presenting a copy of the ‘Bristol Commitments’ to CYNESA Zimbabwe Team.

The CYNESA team is excited with the plan and its long-term character, making their contribution towards touching lives. This will, however, not be without challenges, as Pope Francis observed in his speech to the 70th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA, September 25th 2015)”The number and complexity of the problems require that we possess technical instruments of verification. But this involves two risks. We can rest content with the bureaucratic exercise of drawing up long lists of good proposals – goals, objectives and statistical indicators – or we can think that a single theoretical and aprioristic solution will provide and answer to all the challenges. It must never be forgotten that we are dealing with real men and women who live, struggle and suffer, and are often forced to live in great poverty, deprived of all rights.

The CYNESA Executive Director, Allen Ottaro, emphasized the central role that young people play in Africa, not only attributable to the ‘youth bulge’, but also to their incredible talent, creativity and commitment to social justice. He later visited the offices of the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD), where he met with teams from the Youth, Post-2015 and Advocacy departments. The discussions at CAFOD ranged from turning Laudato Si into action, collaboration for the next World Youth Days in Poland and monitoring the implementation of the SDGs in different African nations.

Allen Ottaro, CYNESA Founding Executive Director (middle), with the CAFOD youth team in London.

Allen Ottaro, CYNESA Founding Executive Director (middle), with the CAFOD youth team in London.

Pope Francis is scheduled to speak at the United Nations Office in Nairobi (UNON) during his first Apostolic voyage to Kenya, November 25th-27th, and it is expected that he will revisit the SDGs and environmental care, urging States, as he did at the 70th UNGA in New York, to “set aside partisan and ideological interests, and sincerely strive to serve the common good.”

Click here to read Allen’s personal reflections on how faiths and UN agencies can work together to advance the common good, in this interview published in ‘The Economist’.

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