Where is the energy to (re)charge our global SDGs?

On the 18th and 19th of June, along with three other European World Youth Alliance interns, I went to the European Development Days (EDD) in Brussels. A whole new world opened up when I walked through that door. Was it due to the several airport-like security checks? Could be at least part of it. At the same time, this new world triggered my strength and my frustration in listening to the problems of global inequalities and injustices. It reminded me of the bedtime stories my dad used to tell me about inequalities in Congo. All of this made me realize that I want to personally contribute to the aims of sustainable development. On top of that, it also opened another kind of door: a door to a room full of questions. Which resulted, of course, in a short-circuit in my head which was another good reason to get my thoughts in order and write this blog.

How WYA changed my perspective

‘What is the true drive for sustainable development? Is there an underlying core in all kinds of sustainable development such as reproductive health, economics, agriculture, environment or health care in general? Is there an infinite source of energy to (re)charge our global SDGs?’

If you would have asked me these questions two months ago, my answer would most likely be: ‘It is found in natural, (infra)structural and financial resources which we have to divide equally in our world by using science and the principles of justice enshrined into law.’ This answer was crystal clear to me since I grew up studying science. Evidence based claims were the main kind of arguments I could defend for 100%. Although I studied physiotherapy, which involves every tiny detail of the functioning of mind and body, the deeper ethical questions concerning human beings – and how to act on this – was never discussed. However, all of this changed one month ago during my WYA internship while reading the Certified Training Program (CTP), the Human Dignity Curriculum (HDC) and talking to the staff and interns in our office in Brussels.

Since I started the WYA internship, I learned that morality and rationality go perfectly hand in hand and that you don’t have to destroy morality in order to think rationally. Realising that they both have undeniable objective value changed my relativistic views on our world. More and more I realized that we are biased because of society and partly, due to our education in school. The place where we should be provided with true information all too often ignores the part of moral education. It is crucial to develop ourselves – physically, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally – and our values to make our own decisions based on unbiased information and education. Because let’s face it, what is rational knowledge worth if we don’t know ourselves?

Are we focusing on the right issues?

During the various EDD talks, I tried to see the bigger picture, I tried to find sense in all of it by applying my personal experiences and physiotherapeutic background in non-developed countries and WYA internship. Even if I did not agree with all their statements, I began to understand what was missing in their (and my) view on sustainable development: human-centered education. The first panel was about “sexual and reproductive health and rights” including contraception and abortion. They saw abortion as a normal and easy solution, labeling it with the same value as contraception. But where do we put our focus then, on abortion or on preventing it with education? Shouldn’t we focus on prevention through providing non-manipulated information? Shouldn’t we look at it from a long-term perspective instead of drowning in our problems of ‘the now’ and grasping on to false resolutions? The same questions were raised during the talk about the interference of business in agriculture. The same answer popped up: human centered education in economics is needed. The same could be applied to the panel on sexism and gender inequality.

Personally, the last EDD talk about primary health care intrigued me the most. The statement that I will take home was from Dr. Elisabeth Wala (from Amref Health): “Make prevention sexy again by investing in it through education!” The reason for that was because I could relate it to my physiotherapeutic work in Ethiopia. Over there, the main focus was on acute cases which could actually be prevented. For example, people required surgically elongating muscles in order to be able to walk and participate in daily life. This could have been prevented through stretching education. Sickness due to unhygienic reasons could be prevented by applying basic health knowledge to daily behaviour. Again, it all leads back to human centered education including basic health tips. This triggered ideas for my further global health studies but I will not bore you with that.

Thanks to the EDD I was able to experience – with practical examples – the importance of this human centered education that WYA taught me. The puzzle pieces of WYA and EDD fell into the right place and I could give you my proper answer now:

‘The energy to (re)charge our SDGs arises from the only infinite resource available on earth: the capacity of the human mind.’

It starts with human centered education and becoming aware of your value and the value of others.  As a strong foundation for an individual’s integral development, this contributes to building up a (global) sustainable society. This personal and societal growth is critical in order to achieve the sustainable development goals.

Lastly, I would like to highlight that the prevention I’m referring to goes beyond simply avoiding bad consequences. It is about, as I mentioned before, putting the focus on the human being. Through investing – from the start of life – in their development with human centered education, it teaches them their capacity to freely choose their own good based on access to true and complete information. In this way, by developing ourselves, the sustainable development of our global society will be guaranteed. So in the end, I am going to shift my main question towards ‘WHO is the energy to (re)charge our global SDGs?’ It should be all of us, human beings.

Written by Rosalie Buytaert, a WYA Europe intern from Belgium.

Published on: July 2, 2019