COVID-19 Op-ed

Filipino youth volunteerism in the time of Covid-19

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Kenneth Jim Joseph M.
Jimeno
Department of Foreign Affairs, Republic of the
Philippines

Just because there are lockdowns everywhere, it does not mean
that Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are on hold and can be postponed
indefinitely. The Covid-19 pandemic should serve as an impetus for working
double or even triple time to attain SDGs by 2030. We cannot afford to have
another crisis of this magnitude and scale. One may argue that our level of
resilience is higher than what we think and we can overcome any challenge
thrown back at us. This assertion might be true but do we need to hit the rock
bottom before we can grow as humanity? When will developing countries not
suffer from policies they did not subscribe to in the first place? Let me
rephrase that question to fit our context: When will the young not bear the
brunt of the adults’ decisions? If that time comes, would it be not too late
for all of us?Many young people on Social Media want to change the world for
the better. They should be and rightfully so. Unfortunately, most of them
will soon realize that making a difference is a long, daunting, and miserable
pursuit. Reality is far from that of the university where all problems have
solutions. There are many reasons to quit along the way and redirect efforts
to something more pragmatic or something that can put food on the table. Those
who remain are the “veterans of idealism” who keep the fire burning within
them despite failures and rejection (Schmidt, 2012). In the process, they
have become tactical communicators who carefully choose their words. They
rather not speak of their idealism but talk about what they are proud of,
their results.Realism is not necessarily a bad thing as it taught me how to
put my ideas into perspective and assess what is wishful thinking. Even so, I
still volunteer in my free time because I want to nurture the child in me.
Creativity is not exclusive to the artists, but vital skill for everyone that
enables us to think critically, communicate well, develop ideas, and
challenge ourselves. Innovation does not happen in a vacuum; collaboration is
the key.Amid “community quarantine” imposed by the government to flatten the
curve, the Filipino youth has been active in addressing food security,
supporting healthcare, supporting healthcare workers, promoting civil
accountability, among others. The projects have been adapted to a new normal
by collaborating with others and utilizing technologies such as email and
videoconference. For my part, I spearheaded Project Sugo (Global Shapers
Manila, n.d.) together with my colleagues at the foreign ministry. It aimed
to provide one-month mentorship to eligible youth who demonstrate an aptitude
for diplomacy work. Twenty-two promising youth graduated from the program and
committed to using the learning to promote the Philippine interests in their
work. Modeled after the United States public diplomacy, Project Sugo seeks to
build a community of key influencers whose views can have a ripple effect
throughout society.The youth can mobilize resources as part of SDG 17, which
is specifically related to the right of all peoples to self-determination,
the right of all peoples to development and international cooperation, the
right of everyone to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its
application, and the right to privacy (OHCHR, n.d.). It demonstrates that we
do not have to do all the work alone and we can join forces globally to
achieve the goals faster. While the Global Goals are integrated, I consider
Partnership for the Goals as the most important being the call for policy
alignment among states and for those countries that have more shall assume
bigger responsibility. It is lamentable that the global process for achieving
SDG 17 is lagging behind other goals (Sachs et al., 2020).Today’s generation
is born with technology, thus, they are in a better position to leverage it
for the SDGs.  This should not dissuade our predecessors from the
sublation of the status quo. In Hegelian dialectic fashion, the youth should
not find identity and difference as competing privileges, but ultimately
interdependent (Palm, 2009). Working for SDG 17 is like being employed at the
back office—it is out of the limelight, nevertheless, it holds all the other
SDGs together.References:Global
Shapers Manila. (n.d.). SUGO: A foreign policy mentorship
program
. https://globalshapersmanila.org/project/sugoOffice
of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. (n.d.).
Summary table on the linkages between the SDGs and relevant
international human rights instruments
. https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/MDGs/Post2015/SDG_HR_Table.pdfPalm,
R. (2009). Hegel’s concept of sublation: A critical
interpretation
. Leuven Institutional Repository and Information
Archiving System.Sachs, J., Schmidt-Traub, G., Kroll, C., Lafortune, G.,
Fuller, G., Woelm, F. (2020). The Sustainable Development Goals and Covid-19.
Sustainable Development Report 2020. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.Schmidt, G. (2012, March 4). Why do we
hear phrases like “youthful idealism”? What happens when people get
older?
. Quora. https://www.quora.com/Why-do-we-hear-phrases-like-youthful-idealism-What-happens-when-people-get-older

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