By Jose Roberto (Robbie) Guevara, Vice President (Asia Pacific), International Council for Adult Education (ICAE), and former ASPBAE President
One of the most powerful keynote speeches during the Official Opening of the High-level Political Forum (HLPF) 2019 was delivered by Yolanda Joab, Leadership Fellow 2016 of the Pacific Islands Leadership Programme. A young mother from the Federated States of the Micronesia, she shared the message from the youth participants who attended the recent UN ECOSOC Youth Forum.
She opened by sharing the story of her 90-year-old grandmother who, informed by her indigenous knowledge, continues to worry about the changes she has observed in her environment. These changes are telling her that despite the aspirations of the UN Sustainable Goals (SDGs), we are not close enough.
Yolanda despaired at the lack of access to quality education for young people across the Pacific. She argued that we often say that we build the future of young people, but fail to build the capacity of our young people to contribute to being part of building their own future.
With regards to climate change, she said that science is not negotiable. We need to transform our economy towards a clean and green transition.
Yolanda concluded that during the UN ECOSOC youth forum, she looked around the room and saw here peers. Today, when she looks around the room, she sees power. Power in the people who can make the change. And she challenged those gathered for the HLPF 2019, “What we need now is not just power, but courage to use that power. Leadership with the guts to take action that puts people and planet above profit. Take the decision that requires more courage.“