4 December 2017

Young leaders advancing sustainable development

In this article, United Nations Academic Impact member Millennium Campus Network (MCN) reports on the ninth annual Millennium Campus Conference (MCC17), held last month in Rabat, Morocco, and its focus on achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

4 December 2017 - Two hundred young leaders from over 30 nations convened from 16 to 19 November in Rabat, Morocco for the ninth annual Millennium Campus Conference: MCC17. The global conference, which coincided with the seventh anniversary of the founding of United Nations Academic Impact, celebrated the role of young leaders in advancing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

This ninth edition of the conference was the result of a partnership between two youth organizations: the Boston-based global Millennium Campus Network (MCN)—a member of United Nations Academic Impact—and Moroccan Millennium Leaders (MML).  MCN had hosted previous annual conferences at such venues as Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the White House and the United Nations. MML leadership, which had participated in the past three annual conferences, made the case to convene the event outside of the United States for the first time. In Rabat, MCC17 featured sessions at the OCP Policy Center, the EGE (Ecole de Gouvernance et d'Economie) and the Centre d’accueil et de Conférences.

Over the course of four days, young leaders engaged with each other and over 30 distinguished speakers to share best practices and learn more about their role in advancing the SDGs. Speakers included Hilary Ogbonna of the UN SDG Action Campaign and Fethi Debbabi of the United Nations Information Centre in Rabat.  Youth leaders engaged in session topics including “Managing Cross-cultural diversity: the key to success of global organizations” and “Agenda 2030: the role of youth in peace, security, and sustainability.” As Millennium Delegate Fatima-Zahra Boudra, a student at Mohammed V University in Rabat, shared: “At first, it seemed to me that achieving the Sustainable Development Goals is the job of the United Nations itself, yet thanks to MCC17 I realized within four days that they can be achievable with the contribution of youths as well.”  Millennium Delegate Prince De Makele Mounguembou, a student at the University of Massachusetts Boston, reflected: “Prior to MCC17, I had a very narrow knowledge on the SDGs. Attending MCC17 has not just broadened that knowledge, but also taught me that just as with a small needle we can knit a huge sheet, we can also address the many challenges we encounter in our communities with small deeds.”  

On Saturday, 18 November—Morocco’s Independence Day—MCC17 marked the occasion with the annual Global Generation Awards. The annual Awards celebrate role models for the next generation of social impact leaders.  Recipients included His Excellency André Azoulay, Senior Adviser to King Mohammed VI of Morocco, advocate for cross-cultural dialogue; Aïcha Chenna, Moroccan social worker and founder of Association Solidarité Féminine, advocate for women’s rights; and Ambassador Scott DeLisi (ret.), former United States Ambassador to Uganda, Eritrea and Nepal, advocate for youth leadership and MCN Advisor.

During the MCC17 closing ceremony, the winner of the third annual Millennium Oceans Prize was announced: Jodi Robertson of Northeastern University, whose prize-winning campaign Raising Fins advances SDG 14 through creating a set of responsible diving principles and behaviors that will ensure divers are strong advocates for the oceans.  As the Conference drew to a close, Delegates reflected on some of the core challenges and opportunities for the future of Africa and the global community.  Sara Aghzafen, a student at Mohammed V University in Rabat, affirmed: “MCC17 has made me realize that in any global challenge, you do have to ask the question, but also pursue the answer. I am now more motivated to make a change in my country, Africa, and the world.”  Kimberly Klebolte, a student at the University of Applied Sciences in Osnabrueck, Germany, left MCC17 with a profound question: “MCC17 has shown me that the SDGs are more than just words, they are brought to life by the fantastic people from all over the world. If only four conference days are enough to believe in the goodness of the world, what can be done in all those years in which people work together?”