It’s now or never – from the perspective of Generation Z (and Generation Alpha). Teens (and kids) are coming of age in an era where the world is beset by a complex web of crises. Even in secondary schools, teens collectively show a lack of trust towards existing political, economic and social systems to act swiftly and meaningfully.

Embracing the work of social change, teens have stepped up and mobilized to turn the tide. They have started to think and act long-term with deep systems change in mind – to bring back intergenerational parity and integrate diverse voices in their communities to drive systemic change. Incorporating the learning outcomes of the UNITAR Youth Ambassador Asia Pacific Program, teens across the region have co-curated and co-designed five thematic platforms to collectively advance youth activism.

1. Coalition for SDG Education

Recognizing the need to drive SDG action on an intergenerational level, the Coalition for SDG Education has formed a partnership to cultivate collective social consciousness amongst young people and catalyze them to take action. This is especially important in the Asia-Pacific region, where societal pressures mean many students are academically oriented, forsaking their potential role as young pioneers and change-makers.

As a coalition, they are committed to not just changing school curriculums to cover the SDGs (SDGxEDU), but also to providing ample co-curricular opportunities to engage with social issues (ISSIA HK), raise awareness on environmental issues (EcoLusion) and educate the underprivileged (Inquisitive Minds). Together, they seek to build a sustainable platform to empower the next 10,000 young pioneers.

2. Coalition for Sustainable STEM Diversity

Witnessing the effects of climate change in their daily lives, the Coalition for Sustainable STEM Diversity (CSSD) consists of four organizations (Carbon Neutral, CISxIdeas, TeensinAI and Students for Science) founded on the belief that STEM should empower and innovate communities. CSSD has spearheaded initiatives hoping students perceive STEM as not only academic subjects, but powerful tools that can tackle climate action and the broader SDGs.

Conservative norms in the Asia-Pacific region discourage many from pursuing STEM, which is paramount to meeting the 2030 Agenda. Through hackathons, AI nature-based solutions and experimental science workshops, the coalition makes STEM engaging for all. Their collective impact has been noticed, with 100,000 social media views, extending across borders with over 1,500 students inspired to take up STEM subjects and more than 500 trees planted through satellite tracking.

Asia’s teens have formulated five inter-correlated platforms to cohesively drive action at a community level
Asia’s teens have formulated five inter-correlated platforms to cohesively drive action at the community level.
Image: UNITAR

3. Coalition for Disabilities Inclusion

Disability is a blind spot in sustainable development. People with disabilities are extremely vulnerable to poverty caused by inadequate technologies and systems – things often overlooked in sustainable community blueprints. The Coalition for Disabilities Inclusion is a joint effort by March to Your Beat, Active Grannies, Sing With Your Hearts and United Smiles Youth Organisation to not only foster awareness and acceptance of community members facing disability issues but also empower them to contribute in their own ways.

According to UN ESCAP, the Asia-Pacific region hosts an estimated 690 million persons with disabilities. In addition to facing numerous physical and mental barriers, they are often mistreated by society. Against looming threats to health and food security for the disabled, the coalition’s 5A’s Framework – Affinity, Aid, Augmentation, Acceleration and Alignment – forms the basis of their solution. With empathy and understanding for their beneficiaries, the coalition aims to aid local communities, reaching out to more than 10 hospitals and five caring centres supporting in aggregate 5,000 individuals. Beyond that, they seek to augment their impact, partnering with over 10 regional stakeholders to accelerate change.

4. Coalition for Minority Empowerment

The burden of the negative health and environmental impacts on minority communities is stark. In response, The Coalition for Minority Empowerment (CME), consisting of 4 teen organizations combining the student leaders’ passions for the arts, martial arts, STEM and social advocacy, aims to democratize self-learned spiritual and social empowerment for marginalized communities, as well as fight against societal injustice. Its constituents are, respectively: COEXIST HK, Helpers for Helpers, Kick Action HK and Second Strings.

The marginalization of minorities is a pressing issue, especially in modern-day Asia-Pacific. Domestic helpers are fixtures of south-east Asian societies like Hong Kong and Singapore, yet many of them endure abuse, particularly as pandemic restrictions reduce their proximity to employers. Refugees face similar plights. Through fundraising, awareness-raising, and community events-hosting, the coalition aims to collect $15,000 to financially support minorities by next June, reach 50,000 stakeholders through awareness-raising projects, and democratize knowledge and skills to empower hundreds of members from minority communities on a daily basis.

5. Union of Collective Inequalities Resolution

Understanding that socio-economic inequalities have recently been exacerbated by the double-edged sword of the pandemic and climate crisis, four teen-led organizations joined forces to form the Union of Collective Inequalities Resolution. Be it a lack of education, rising unemployment rates or poor well-being for children, inequality-aggravating realities within the Asia-Pacific community are too often left unaddressed. Even in a developed city like Hong Kong, one in four children is struggling under the poverty line.

To alleviate inequalities, the union fosters awareness and trust-building: VIVA HK and Zenerations HK create insightful infographics, host TED Circles and are launching podcasts on current climate and humanitarian issues. Meanwhile, SimplyShare and PLAYPROJECT host visits to learn more about cage homes (micro family housing units), play sessions and basketball classes for underprivileged children, while creating documentaries to highlight the importance of play in SDG action. In the future, the collaborating organizations will strive to co-host poverty simulations, talks and community events that are cross-cultural and inter-generational.

Forum Foundations

What is a YGL?

The YGL community is made up of more than 1,300 members and alumni, including public officials, business innovators, artists, educators, technology developers, journalists and activists.

The mission of the Forum of Young Global Leaders is to create a dynamic global community of exceptional people with the vision, courage and influence to drive positive change in the world.

Aligned with the World Economic Forum’s mission, they seek to spur public-private cooperation amongst these unique actors to demonstrate entrepreneurship in the global public interest.

Representing more than 100 nationalities, Young Global Leaders are united by the belief that the urgent problems of today present an opportunity to forge a better future across sectors, generations and borders.

Visit the YGL website at: https://www.younggloballeaders.org/

In short, teens are able and willing to catalyze change through youth activism. Transparency, trust and transformation will be key to meeting teens and their ambitions and expectations. To teens around the world, we hear you. We are living together in a global ecosystem, and these five platforms will advance SDG action through ongoing interactive dialogue, mutual understanding and respect. Led by teens, the world will unite and create the necessary climate for a peaceful, equitable and sustainable future.