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Youth Collaboration, Sustainability, Health and Innovation Take the Spotlight at 2021 Global Youth Summit

by Fahly Poblete-Handa

Some 6,400 youth from Asia, Africa, North America and Europe examined youth collaboration in addressing key UN Sustainable Development Goals at the  ninth Global Youth Summit, convened virtually on August 13-14. 

The two-day summit addressed the most critical issues related to five goals—SDG 3: Good Health and Well-being; SDG 4: Quality Education; SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities; SDG 2: Zero Hunger; and SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth. The topics were selected through a poll that involved 1,996 youth respondents, and presented through inspiring talks delivered by some of today's industry leaders, change-makers and social media influencers.

The summit was hosted by SM Cares and Global Peace Foundation (GPF), in partnership with Consuelo Zobel Alger Foundation, CIE British School, Rotary Club of Makati Circle of Friends, Nestle Philippines, Unilever, and Globe Telecom,  in conjunction with the 2021 Global Peace Convention.  The event was hosted via Zoom and On24, and broadcast live on Facebook and YouTube.

On Day 1, physician and online content creator Dr. Kilimanguru Tiwaquen and Department of Health OIC and Undersecretary Dr. Maria Vergeire  emphasized strategies ensuring community safety in the time of the pandemic; and SM Foundation Trustee Chito Macapagal and Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization Dr. Ethel Valenzuela emphasized the importance of education for future success.

Toward a sustainable future

Day 2 speakers included renowned urban planner Arch. Jun Palafox and NEO Offices CEO Raymond Rufino, who discussed sustainable urban planning and green buildings; Nestle Philippines Head of Public Affairs, Communications  and Sustainability Arlene Tan-Bantoto, and Local Roots Agricultural Farming and Services Founder Leo Casaclang, who both discussed ways to achieve food security, nutrition, and sustainable agriculture; and Globe Telecom’s President and CEO Ernest Cu and Wonderful Employee Experience Director Atty. Nicolette Bambao, who gave presentations on creativity and innovation as important skills for the twenty-first century.

In his message to the youth, Cu said: “Be creative and innovate continuously. Even if an idea is ahead of its time, as long as the problem to be solved remains, I think one should hold steadfast and really push after that problem.”

On transitioning to a better global “new normal,” Rufino challenged the youth and said, “What’s more important than what you were doing, is really what will you do? What will you do starting today? What will you do tomorrow? Because our future actions will have to be much greater than the actions we have taken in the past.”

Asked if cities need to be urbanized to become sustainable, Arch. Palafox says that there should be a balance. “In our country, there should be more citizen participation. I believe, especially the youth, that we should be more participative.” He added, “To me, every line we draw, if we do a good job, we should think of the beneficiaries. If we do a lousy job, let’s think of the sufferers.”

To encourage active participation among attendees, GYS held trivia quiz sessions as well as a social media contest wherein they were asked to share their key takeaways from the event using the hashtags #GYS2021 and #GYSTAKEAWAY. Over P50,000 worth of gift certificates, online vouchers, gadgets, and other prizes were given away to winners of these activities during the two-day event.

“It is my fervent prayer for those participating in this year’s GYS, that you may be inspired by our speakers and leaders, that you may find purpose as you dream big, create opportunity not only for yourself, but also for others, and that you remain to have the grit, to surpass all the challenges that you will find in your journey,” said Program Director for SM Cares Committee on Children and Youth Royston Cabunag during his welcoming remarks.

“What’s more important than what you were doing, is really what will you do? What will you do starting today?  Because our future actions will have to be much greater than the actions we have taken in the past.”

“We believe that moral and innovative leadership development needs to be stressed in the home, in the school, as well as the community, so that we can ensure that the leadership of tomorrow has the implements and the fortitude to deal, not just practically but also purposefully, with all that the ever-changing world is throwing at them,” said GPF Vice President for Operations Daniel Bessell.

“All over the world, young people are responding to present-day challenges with innovative approaches and fresh ideas,” said Resident Representative for United Nations Development Program-Philippines Selva Ramachandran. “We hope the GYS will continue to support and inspire more Filipino youth to do the same.”

This year's summit also recognized the second class of Five Global Youth Summit Outstanding Alumni “Safe Space Heroes” that received a total of Php250,000 to support their ongoing initiatives and projects that ensure children and youth have safe environments to gather, live, learn and work in. This year's outstanding alumni are Eleazar Danila of JCI Regatta's Balangaw: Celebrating the Gift of Life of People with Special Needs, Ambriel Pascual of Karapatan at Kabataan Paligsahan ng mga Maikling Pelikula, Samuel Madriaga of Angat Kalusugan Operations (AKO) Initiative, Yanie Mirabueno of Grassroots Development Program and Atty. Edward Arriba of “Lakbayan” & Safe Spaces Caravan.

GYS 2021 had a total of 6,481 attendees on Zoom and On24, more than 14,000 views on Facebook and counting, and 343,049 people reached. It was also #10 among the top trending topics on Twitter in the Philippines during its run. Of the attendees, 68 percent came from the Philippines, 12 percent from the rest of Asia, 9 percent from North America, 7 percent from Africa, and 4 percent from Europe.

GYS, a recipient of the 2020 Gold Anvil Award, is an annual event that provides a platform for youth leaders to come together and come up with innovative solutions to many of the issues affecting them. It is a joint program partnership of SM Cares and the Global Peace Foundation Philippines.

Learn more by visiting SM Cares Supermalls, Global Youth Summit Facebook, and Global Peace Foundation Philippines