Make the Pledge: what can youth do to tackle poverty and health?

Our Youth & the SDGs mini series author Leonie Nahhas takes a thought provoking look at how youth can challenge the impacts of poverty and poor health and wellbeing.


‘No-one will be left behind’ is the pledge we have taken as global citizens in response to the United Nations 2030 Agenda and ASEAN’s Community Vision 2025. The youth of today are catalysts in driving this vision forward, but it is also our youth that are being left behind.  

While the world today prospers from the fruits of global economic growth, this is disproportionally spread.

Both within and between countries, we see billions of people thrive with increased longevity and higher levels of wellbeing, while the poorest of the poor continue the daily fight for survival. These vulnerable populations are deprived of basic levels of nutrition, health-care, shelter and sanitation.

The reality is that youth in our region fall victim to this disparity.

In the joint endeavor to promote sustainable development and tackle these issues, the United Nations 2030 Agenda and ASEAN’s Community Vision 2025 have pledged that ‘no-one will be left behind’.

We, as youth, must also make this pledge – a pledge to ensure that the Agenda’s goals and targets are met by all nations and all segments of society. In saying that, we must endeavour to reach first those who are furthest behind, including our fellow youth.

Our shared aspiration for sustainable development can be understood through five different lenses, or the ‘5 Ps’: People, Prosperity, Planet, Peace and Partnership. 

The major challenges and youth issues in our region, namely in East and North-East Asia, will be explored in each of these five categories, along with the relevant Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and targets.

This current article will cover issues pertinent to youth within the People category.

[ PEOPLE ] – SDG Goal 1 and SDG Goal 3

Goal 1: No poverty

Goal 1.1. By 2030, eradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere, currently measured as people living on less than $1.25 a day.

One of the greatest challenges facing humanity is eradicating poverty in all its forms. Globally, more than 800 million people live on less than $1.25 a day and in the Asia-Pacific region alone, an alarming 85 million youth live in extreme poverty.

Compared to 9% of working adults, 16% of all employed youth are living below the poverty line. This means that those aged 15 to 24 are more likely to be among the working poor.

It is important to note that poverty does not discriminate. According to the 2018 Poverty in Australia report, over 3 million Australians (13.2%) are living below the poverty line of 50% of median income – of which 739,000 (17.3%) are children. Despite being the second-wealthiest country in the world, poverty has now become a consistent feature of Australian life.

With new threats brought on by climate change, food insecurity and conflict, more work is needed to bring people out of poverty world-wide.

A bold commitment, but an important one.

Question to you:
What would $1.25 translate to in your day?  

Goal 3: Good Health and Wellbeing

Goal 3.1 By 2030, reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births.

Did you know that complications linked to pregnancy and childbirth are the second leading cause of death for 15 to 19 years old girls, globally?

Not only are these adolescent girls at higher risk of maternal death, their babies also face a significantly higher risk of death compared to those born to older women.

Despite the fact that adolescent fertility rates in the Asia-Pacific region are among the highest in the world, there lacks adequate prenatal care to support these young women.

Question to you:
What innovative solutions or interventions do you believe need to take place to address the lack of adequate prenatal care?

3.4 By 2030, reduce by one third premature mortality from non- communicable diseases through prevention and treatment and promote mental health and well-being.

Mental health and wellbeing in the region should not be overlooked.

Among the OECD countries (intergovernmental economic organisation with 36 member countries), the Republic of Korea and Japan have the highest suicides rates. For female youth in the Asia-Pacific region, suicide is the leading cause of death.

Suicide is a complex, yet preventable public health problem resulting from the interaction of psychological, social, biological, and environmental factors.

While a growing concern, mental health awareness, education and promotion is key to saving lives.

Question to you:
What mental health services are accessible to you and how can these be accessible to all?

3.6 By 2030, halve the number of global deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents.

Too many young adults are put at risk due to accidental or preventable causes. For male youth in the region, road traffic accidents are the leading cause of death. To protect vulnerable road users and reduce road traffic fatalities, the United Nations Road Safety Trust Fund was introduced in 2018.

The Trust Fund will support SDG targets by: 1) strengthening road safety management capacities, 2) improving safety of road infrastructure and broader transport networks, 3) enhancing safety of vehicles, 4) improving behaviour of road users and, 5) improving post-crash care.

Question to you:
What do you believe are best practices for road safety?


So, revisiting our pledge: ‘no-one will be left behind’ – raises the question of how can we best serve our youth counterparts to ensure that disparity leads to equality?

What matters now, is what we do next.

Stay tuned for the next article in the Youth & the SDGs mini-series.

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