Young people taking on the UN sustainable development goals

Grainne Martin-wells is the youth representative on the Our Bright Future steering group. She’s also been given the opportunity to get involved in Merit360, where young people are taking action to support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. 

This year I, along with 359 other people (aged 18-35) from all over the world, was selected to take part in a programme called Merit360. The aim of this is to try and tackle the 17 sustainable development goals that the UN formulated in 2015. The application process was a bit unnerving given that I had to fill in an application form and then answer questions in videos that I could only record once. They asked me what I would take on a desert island! (A radio, paper and pen, and painkillers; I mean you have to be a bit practical right?)

I chose to work on SDG 13: climate action; which seemed a suitable choice given my involvement in Our Bright Future and with my degree being in environmental science. There are 3 stages to the programme, step 1 being team bonding! I joined 11 others and began having group conversations every two weeks. We discussed what our respective cultures were like and how we could overcome any differences. Now we’ve just begun to formulate our ideas for which part of the SDG we want to tackle. This is important as within each SDG there are targets on how to achieve the goal of, for example, tackling climate change or eliminating poverty (SDG 1).

Personally, I want to focus on educating people about what they can do to stop runaway climate change, as I’ve seen all the amazing work that young people undertake with just a little bit of help and information. Once we have settled on which target to focus on we need to think about who can help us out, people otherwise known as stakeholders. And in addition, whether we want to build on an existing idea or do something completely new. Then comes step two: presenting our idea in Parliament. This will come in late August this year where we will spend two weeks in London and Liverpool finalising our plan and sharing it with ‘important’ people. This is the part that I’m really excited for as I think there aren’t enough people in positions of power who care about climate change and by us bringing it to their attention we may be able to slowly change the perception that looking after the environment is of huge importance.

Finally step three is to actually carry out the plan. Because I don’t know what our plan will be I can’t tell you much about this! However, I can give you an idea of what we might be able to achieve through looking at last year’s group. They decided to start a project called ‘The Climate Express’ which will be a bus that travels to communities that will be affected by climate change in five different continents, starting in Ghana. The aim is to provide them with the knowledge and tools to be able to adapt to a changing climate.

The only thing I forgot to mention was the fundraising! In order to get to the second and third stage you need to raise £1,200 which although it is a lot of money is achievable and you get a lot of support from World Merit (the organisation that runs Merit360). I’m raising my money through support from friends and family but also some bake sales. Yes, I had to travel through the tube with boxes of cake but it’s worth it! There are lots of ways to get to your goal; one girl in our group even got sponsored by her university to help pay for flights as she lives in Canada.

There have been points throughout my life where I have worried about whether we can actually do anything to help fix the problems we have got ourselves into. Then I get involved in projects like this and meet amazing people who have made a difference despite their age. It makes me think about what would happen if we all did something, no matter how small, and what a change that could make. That’s what keeps me going, that’s why I got involved with Merit360; because I can see a real opportunity to change things for the better.

 

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