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Engaging Young People for SDGs on Social Media

Engaging Young People for SDGs on Social Media


Speech by Dr. Babatunde Ahonsi

Representative of United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)

and Chair of the UN Theme Group on Youth in China

 

2017 China Weibo Philanthropy User Salon   June 27, 2017

 

 

Dear distinguished leaders of  Weibo,

Ladies and gentlemen,


It’s a great honour for me to join such an exciting event with all the leading players in the sphere of promoting social good by harnessing the power of social media. On behalf of the UN Resident Coordinator Mr. Nicholas Rosellini, the  UN Sub-group on Youth and UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, let me express my sincere appreciation to Weibo for providing a powerful innovative platform to enable positive social changes, and for your long-standing support to the UN’s communications and advocacy.


From the earlier presentations and speeches, I am really impressed by the joint endeavours by various players, including government regulators, researchers, private sector CSR practitioners, and numerous individual pioneers, such as opinion leaders and celebrities. Your actions together have engaged millions of members of the public to be the driving forces for social good, especially young people.


I am here because of the successful Imagine2030 campaign of the UN. This award-winning campaign was launched on the UN day on Oct. 24 in 2016 by the UN Sub-group on Youth in collaboration with the UN Communications Group. By the time we wrapped up the campaign two months ago, Imagine2030 has attracted more than 220 million hits on Weibo. This does not include other hashtags related to SDGs created by followers of Wang Yuan, the outstanding advocate for this joint UN campaign. Thanks to the active participation of young people inspired by Wang Yuan, Imagine2030 has made SDGs one of the most trending topics on Weibo——-just like what a follower said in a comment: you are out if you have not heard about SDGs.


Taking this opportunity, I would like to pay tribute to creativity and passion of young people, for sharing your aspirations for a better world along with Imagine2030, which will help making the blueprint of SDGs a reality.


As the Representative of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, please allow me to briefly share our limited experiences with Weibo. We are the leading UN agency that works to deliver a world where every pregnancy is unwanted, every childbirth is safe, and every young person’s potential is fulfilled. Central to our mandate is universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights, gender equality and women’s empowerment. Thanks to Weibo, we have been able to communicate to the public, especially young people, some of the very challenging topics, such as “sex”. More importantly, the Weibo platform has made it possible for us to expand our partnerships with young people for innovative solutions to some of the issues that matter so much to the sustainable development.


We started our Weibo presence in 2014. Though relatively new in this area, we have had a few successful attempts. For instance, the #Be the one Be orange# initiative supported by Ms. Huang Han, a gender expert and well-known TV commentator in the popular programme “If you are the one” , was a very effective social media campaign to promote non-violence culture among the young people. Ten days after the launch on the so-called Confession Day by netizens (Biao Bai Ri), #Be the one Be Orange# attracted 10 million hits, with numerous young people making personal pledges of zero tolerance to violence on Weibo.


The #UNFPA MOOC Scholarship# initiative with support from Guokr was another example showing what young people can do with their innovative power. The initiative generated 370 million hits from the creative contents promoting safe sex and healthy gender norms by a dozen young people, mostly university students. This initiative demonstrated that young people themselves can be part of the solution to the challenges they face, including challenges associated with rising sexual and reproductive health risks they face, such as unintended pregnancies, risks of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections and sexual violence. They have shown us it can be fun to talk about sex, and we must make sexual and reproductive health information available to young people.


As shown by #Imagine 2030# and the other examples, for the UN and UNFPA, social media is not only a channel to disseminate information and to increase visibility. We see social media as a vehicle to engage young people as partners to achieve the global sustainable development goals. We see social media as a platform for young people to voice their concerns and to take part in the development process.


Today’s world is home to 1.8 billion young people, and they stand central to the SDGs. We must do all we can to ensure every one of them can fully realize their potential. As we call for increased investment in young people, let’s continue to keep our mind open, and to embrace the advances of information technology and social media, for better ways to engage young people for a better world.


Thank you. I look forward to exploring partnerships with all of you present here to collaborate on social media communications to support our advocacy and to engage young people as a driving force for the global 2030 agenda.

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