Highlights of the Vatican Youth Symposium

Highlights of the Vatican Youth Symposium

The eighth annual Vatican Youth Symposium, co-hosted by SDSN Youth and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences (PASS), gathered youth and world renowned leaders virtually December 15 - 17, 2021. 

With the world still grappling with the pandemic, the annual Vatican Youth Symposium was held online for the second year. While we missed in-person conversations at the picturesque Casina Pio IV in Vatican City, the virtual format was able to bring in more young people across the world to discuss leading change for sustainable development!

The theme of this year's Symposium was “Global Youth Movements; Leading Change for the Good of Present & Future Generations.” For the first time, we opened the event up for public registration, creating access for those who otherwise may not have been able to participate in-person. More than 600 participants tuned in over the 3 days to share their insights on youth empowerment and intergenerational leadership, making it the largest VYS in terms of attendance!

Global Village

Ahead of the thematic sessions, we kick-started the Symposium with the Global Village on December 15. During that session we screened the ActNow Film, which showcased young people from around the world talking about their lived experiences of climate change, their hopes and fears, their climate pledges, and their demands. This was followed by a panel discussion with the production team from Cambridge Zero, Global Alliance of Universities on Climate, University of Bath’s Institute for Policy Research, and a couple of students who worked on the film. 

Day 1: Opening Session

On December 16, the Opening Session set the tone for the rest of the Symposium, with an emphasis on youth as leaders of change. It was graced by H.E. Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados who reminded us that:

Youth have all of the capacity that is needed to safeguard humanity’s future. There's no other force in this world that can compare to the innate ability of young people to deconstruct injustices and to rebuild the bonds that hold us together.

Professor Jeffery Sachs, President of SDSN, H.E. Monsignor Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences and Mr. Brighton Kaoma, Global Director of SDSN Youth also delivered statements of support and encouragement.

Day 1: Session 1 - Transformative Education and Global Citizenship

The Opening Session was followed by the session on the Education for Sustainable Development, in which the Greek Minister of Education and Religious Affairs, H.E. Niki Kerameus, along with Professor Jeffery Sachs, Mr. d'Arcy Lunn, Founder and Director, Teaspoons of Change; Ms. Amanda Abrom, Manager, Global Schools (SDSN), and Ms. Annita Mwagiru, Project Lead, SDG Students Program (SDSN Youth) highlighted the importance of strengthening pedagogies during the pandemic and the principle of leaving no one behind. Strong calls to include Global Citizenship and Sustainability in the curriculum were also made.

Day 1: Session 2 - Entrepreneurship & Technology

The first day concluded with an inspiring dialogue on innovation, entrepreneurship and technology, during which speakers emphasized the need to encourage social enterprises and innovations to align their business with the Sustainable Development Goals. Ms. Namita Dutt, Program Head, Solutions for Youth Employment, World Bank; Mr. Brighton Kaoma; Mr. Samuel Joy, CEO, Huntr; Ms. Trisanki Saikia, Project Lead, Solutions Program (SDSN Youth), and Ms. Veenu King, 2021 Geneva Challenge Winners from Team Buyby spoke about youth-led innovation in a post-pandemic society, as well as the role of technology in advancing sustainable development globally.

At the end of each day, participants came together in smaller groups to reflect upon the various topics discussed at the Symposium. These dialogue sessions kept the momentum going, encouraging participants to translate the insights and learnings into action in their own community.

Day 2: Session 3 - Human Rights and Dignity

We kicked off Day 2 of the Symposium with an address by HRH Princess Eugenie, Co-Founder of the Anti-Slavery Collective, who underlined the need for humanity to collectively address modern slavery, which she described as a "global epidemic" much closer to home than people think:

Slavery exists from within a mile where you live.

She was joined by Ms. Asmita Satyarthi, Executive Director, Global Sustainability Network (GSN); Ms. Rania Ali, journalist and human rights activist, and Ms. Karol Arambula, Chief Executive Officer & Founder, My World Mexico.

Day 2: Session 4 - Sustainable Cities & Communities

The following session focused on the implementation of SDG 11, Sustainable Cities and Communities. The speakers shared their experiences with the rapidly evolving urban landscape and the dire need for reimagining our cities. This session was filled with youth energy coming from the cohort of young speakers including Ms. Ana Ynestrillas, Project Lead, the Local Pathways Fellowship (SDSN Youth); Mr. AY Young, Founder, Battery Tour and UN Young Leader; Mr. Edwin Namakanga, Climate Activist, Rise Up; Fridays for Future; Ms. Alexandria Villaseñor, Founder, Earth Uprising and Ms. Aditi Rai, Senior Design & Strategy Executive, Godrej Properties Limited and Alumni of the Local Pathways Fellowship. 

Day 2: Closing Session

The closing session was the perfect curtain call for the Symposium. Nobel Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus, Founder of the Grameen Bank, highlighted the key role of youth in this Decade of Action:

Planet Earth is a spaceship, and young people are the navigators who can take us to the right direction.

Mr. Chris Kelly, CEO of the Queen's Commonwealth Trust, echoed Professor Yunus' emphasis on youth leadership. So how can we actually support and scale efforts driven by youth leaders? As we wrapped up the Symposium, we teased out the SDSN Youth Seed Fund Awards, a joint initiative being launched in partnership with NOVA Impact designed to identify, empower, and recognize outstanding innovation and creativity led by young changemakers advancing the SDGs.

Stay tuned for the official launch of the Seed Fund!

Catch up on the main sessions of the 2021 Symposium if you have not already!

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