Orville Levy, a 26-year-old engineer from Linstead, St Catherine, will be representing Jamaican youth as part of the government delegation to New York City this week where they will present Jamaica’s progress against the sustainable development goals (SDGs) at the United Nations High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF). This being part of a process called a ‘Voluntary National Review’, which included youth consultation. Orville’s presence will serve to amplify that feedback, a role he is accustomed to as Co-Chair of the Youth Advisory Council of Jamaica (YACJ).
The resilience of youth and their tenacity to push forward despite the adversities never ceases to amaze me. Being able to represent my peers by bringing their voice to the HLPF is a privilege I take with much humility.
The 2022 HLPF theme Building back better from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) while advancing the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is timely and youth are crucial to this recovery and addressing the challenges of implementing the SDGs.
However, after all this time, there is still a cry for young persons to be able to significantly participate, and have their voices heard. They sometimes feel as if their voices are being echoed in a vacuum and nobody seems to accept what they are saying and try to meaningfully action it.
For my trip to be successful, I would measure that by action coming from what it is being presented, networks built for youth and mindset changed. Some of the issues to be raised relates to youth participation and the implementation strategies that impact SDGs at a local level such as actions on climate change and resilience; we will speak to protection for children and training for young persons to enter the modern agricultural sector.
SDG 13 about climate change is one area that requires significant action for our future. Inaction can lead to us and other small island developing states (SIDS) not having a home or at a minimum significant reduction in how we can live on our island home – because we are completely surrounded by water.
This trip is part of a journey I have been on since I was at school where I worked at the grassroots level; volunteering in my community and helping other young persons by organizing study groups and outreach programmes. This I started alone and not with an organization as I just wanted to help my peers.
One of my first elevation to working at a higher level was participating in Y-klick by Respect Jamaica, UNICEF and USAID, which was eye-opening. Y-Klick provided me with the opportunity to work with different organizations to advocate on youth issues. One major recommendation made at the time was to then opposition spokesperson for youth, the Honourable Kamina Johnson Smith, who is now Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade. She heard us and championed this recommendation that lead to revitalizing the National Youth Parliament and the introduction of the YACJ which serves to mainstream youth issues into policies and advocate as a voice for youth.
Youthfulness is often associated with inexperience. For youth views to impact SDGs and our collective future, this notion must change. Youth innovations, creativity, ingenuity, and brilliance are being stifled due to this view. Our views must be accepted to drive change!
What's UNICEF doing?
We are supporting the Jamaican delegation to the United Nations in New York by funding Orville’s participation and previously hosting the National Youth Voice on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) focus group in partnership with the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ). We continue to work with partners to amplify child and youth voices and those aged 13-29 can participate in polls and other activities provided via our social messaging service U-Report. Sign up by messaging the word JOIN to @ureportjamaica on Instagram or Facebook Messenger or to 876-838-4897 on WhatsApp or SMS (free to send and receive texts for Flow customers).