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Young people are talented, knowledgeable and ambitious, and are making a difference every day in all fields of work and as leaders in their communities. There are about 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24, the largest youth population ever. With their dynamism and imagination, young people are transforming the social and economic fortunes of developed and developing countries alike. However, despite their drive and achievements, young people’s contribution to society often goes unrecognised, nor are they adequately invested in or included in decision-making processes.

Farahnaz Ghodsinia comes from an ethnic and religious minority in the Mindanao region, southern Philippines. She was elected as President of the 10th National Youth Parliament of the Philippines, which is the largest parliamentary gathering of young leaders in her country, she. She works to prevent conflict and build peace through quality education and interfaith dialogue in fragile regions.

Nishchal Banskota is a business administration graduate and social entrepreneur. He is primarily concerned about the role of sustainable investment in achieving the global strategy for social development. In 2016 Nishchal founded “Nepal Tea”, a social enterprise that connects rural tea producers to the global market through a holistic approach.

There are many young Farahnaz’s and Nishchal’s in the world who, regardless of  the lack the needed support and investment are bringing a change in society. Young Leaders, all over the world are leading the way and shaping the future they want. What remains unanswered is the lack of recognition for young people’s contribution to society, the lack of opportunities to do more  and  exclusion of young people in decision-making processes. Left unresolved, these challenges will impede the youthful population contribution to national development while hindering each individual’s personal potential.

While I completely endorse the numerous calls on individual government and the international community to do more in support of young people, I trust that young people can lead the change they want from the bottom up. If we are not getting the support and needed resources, we should create our own opportunity and cause the change we  need  for a sustainable future. Regardless where you find ourselves, no matter the limitation, we owe ourselves the duty to be the change we want, Just like  Farahnaz’s and Nishchal, you can begin a project to end poverty,  to create jobs, to help flood victims, volunteer your time and effort to be that change. That is what I do back home in Ghana.  I am supporting and volunteering my time to promote women and girls right.

At the 2017 edition of the European development days in Brussels, world leaders, including the U.N Secretary General, the Managing Director of IMF, leaders of civil society organisations and head of states from Africa and Europe were all in attendance, Promises were made, assurances were mentioned and young people were given hope of a better future. While such hopes and assurances will continue to be made, the actual difference for young people is to find innovative ways to improve their own lives and that of the communities they come from.

I challenge every young person out there to dare to be different, to dream to make his or her community a better place. While we encourage governments and the international community to invest more in young people, we are nevertheless going to give up on our own efforts to improve our living conditions, fight to reduce poverty, hunger and remove barriers that prevent peaceful co-existence. I know of 16 young leaders making a difference in the world, regardless the challenge they have forged on. You can also be that young leader in your own right and contribute to the development of your community and country. Find that one thing you are most passionate about an want to change, build support and alliance with other young people in your community, mobilise the resources at your disposal regardless how little and begin to be  change maker. Our collective action to bring change is the key to sustainable development.

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