In 1999, the UN General Assembly resolution 54/120 endorsed the recommendation made by the World Conference of Ministers of Youth (Lisbon, 8-12 August 1998) that 12 August be declared International Youth Day. It was against this backdrop that Global Peace hosted its “Global Peace Youth Day 2021” discussion during a virtual setting under the theme, “Transforming Food Systems: Youth Innovation for a sustainable future”. The event provided an opportunity to celebrate young peoples’ views and initiatives on a global scale and as such was centred around knowledge building and information sharing. The sessions, comprised of the welcome address, by Mr Kobla Asamani, Campaign and Advocacy Coordinator at Global Peace, and the introduction and speeches by the Founder and Executive Director of Global Peace, Dr Vasu Gounden, as well as the keynote speaker for the event, H. E. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, outgoing Executive Director of UN Women. Global Peace citizens selected from the five continents contributed to the topic of youth innovation in transforming food systems.
The vigorous discussions, that continued in the breakout rooms, reiterated the need for youth engagement in all summit work streams and structures. Global agriculture is facing major challenges, including feeding a growing world population, addressing rural poverty, and the management of the ecosystem of goods and services in light of global environmental changes evident through climate change. Food systems include not only the basic elements of how we get food from farms to the table, but also all of the processes and infrastructure involved in feeding a population, and the negative externalities that can be generated during the process, such as air and ocean pollution as well as desertification. Population health is also key in addressing food systems challenges, especially as nutrition-related chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some forms of cancer are major contributors to the global burden of disease. The success of such needed global efforts cannot be achieved without the meaningful participation of young people.
Global Peace Citizens have stressed that concrete actions, are needed, particularly with regard to the work done around fisheries and aquaculture, as well as the key role of youth employment and entrepreneurship in small-scale farms and in rural areas. Today, COVID-19 is adding to the strains on our food systems, disrupting markets and supply chains for small-scale farmers around the world, threatening peace, and stability among the most vulnerable and marginalized populations. Youth continue to state that they are facing a health crisis and climate crisis that demands urgent changes to our food systems; being idle is no longer an option.
Some of the points noted during the session, included, the need for a more holistic and inclusive framework that is needed to address these complex issues through integrated approaches; the prioritization of youth voices in such discussions; and youth acknowledgment as fundamental contributors and partners towards the identification of new and innovative solutions. Global Peace will continue to work towards galvanizing youth mobilization towards a collective effort for youth innovation and towards a sustainable future. The Global Peace Citizen Community continues its endeavour to contribute to the ongoing global conversations on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and related frameworks.