With open government, youth can be agents of change for the SDGs

May 15, 2018

Anchored in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and committed to the principles of universality, equality and leaving no one behind, the UNDP vision for the Strategic Plan 2018-2021 is to help countries achieve sustainable development by accelerating structural transformation.

Jazmín Aquino is actively participating in transformative processes aligned with the global development agenda and with local priorities in her native state of Oaxaca. Representing a network of youth organizations, the law graduate promotes open government commitments so that public resources can be used to map good practices of citizen engagement and transparency and accountability at the community level.

To ensure the sustainability of development processes, especially in high-middle-income countries like Mexico, it is necessary to address challenges at their structural causes and interconnections. This implies transforming the way in which problems and their solutions are addressed. And there’s no better way to do that than by engaging young people like Jazmín.

Structural transformations for sustainable development

We at UNDP Mexico are convinced that promoting a more equitable and inclusive society, where no one is left behind, begins at the local level. It is in this area that authorities and citizens share a common space and public problems, and it is also where the more immediate solutions are found.

With open government, youth can be agents of change for the SDGs

Fellowship graduate Jazmín Aquino is a champion for open government in her home state of Oaxaca. Photo: UNDP/Mexico

Adapting the 2030 Agenda to specific local realities is a key challenge. In Mexico this meant an opportunity to generate consultation and participation opportunities to place citizens at the centre of public policies, to enable participation in the governmental decision-making process, to appropriate the "civic space", and to become active subjects within the development process. 

Open government: From local thinking to sustainable development

One of our goals is to contribute to strengthening trust between citizens and government, at the local level, through action-oriented citizen participation, transparency and accountability, and co-creation. As a result, in partnership with the National Institute of Transparency, Access to Information and Protection of Personal Data (INAI) and three civil society organizations –  GESOC (Social Management and Cooperation AC), ProSociedad and GobiernoFácil – UNDP Mexico implemented the Open Government Practices for Sustainable Development Goals project, with financial support from USAID.

The initiative has two closely linked objectives. One is to improve the quality of public policies, strengthening local opportunities for dialogue and co-creation of solutions to the principal challenges of communities. The other is to boost skills and empower local citizens—especially young women and men—to become tech-savvy, especially for open government and sustainable development purposes, through a fellowship training programme in local change focussing on 60 young women and men from 15 states.

New approach: SDGs bottom-up implementation

Although the project has been implemented for just over a year, results are becoming visible. Open government has proven to be a great means to support SDGs implementation with a bottom-up approach delivering interesting results.

With open government, youth can be agents of change for the SDGs

'The tools I have received enable me to change my environment and make a contribution.' - Jesús Anwar Benitez Acosta, Fellowship graduate

Ms. Aquino from Oaxaca is one of 20 young community leaders, split equally between women and men, who graduated from the fellowship training programme in 2017. Together these young people have drafted five open government projects with a sustainable development perspective. The fellowship empowered them to become leaders of open government principles and SDG ambassadors in their communities.

Local agents of change to transform our world

Another 40 youth are enrolled in the fellowship in 2018. The initiative offers a platform for learning, reflecting, exchanging ideas and experiences, as well as fulfilling short-term projects that encompass open government and sustainable development perspectives, so as to transform conditions in their locality or region. Likewise, it seeks to strengthen connections and create a network of local agents of change for open government and sustainable development to promote consolidated local actions to strengthen transparency and citizen engagement in Mexico.

"The tools I have received enable me to change my environment and make a contribution,” Jesús Anwar Benitez Acosta from Sonora told me once. Another young trainee, Denisse Herrera from Chihuahua, added: "It is indeed a space for construction between individuals who do not know each other but want to make a change in their respective states."

Denisse Herrera examines a document with another youth.

Denisse Herrera from Chihuahua graduated from the fellowship programme in 2017. Photo: UNDP Mexico

The graduates are already becoming integrated into their communities and participate actively in the work carried out within the framework of the local open government actions promoted by INAI, just as Jesús and Denisse have done.

These young agents of change are connecting local action plans to the global vision of SDGs proposed in the 2030 Agenda, and many of them are designing projects that apply open government perspectives to transform and address development challenges in their locality or region.

The transformative nature of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is allowing young Mexicans to build, from the bottom up, the promise of leaving no one behind.