Monash student Siamak Sam Loni has been named Global Coordinator of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) Youth at the launch of the group in Paris last week.
SDSN is a global network of universities and other organisations that collectively are mobilising scientific and technical expertise in support of sustainable development. Monash University, through the Monash Sustainable Development Institute (MSDI), hosts the SDSN regional network for Australia/Pacific.
SDSN Youth was kick-started by Sam and fellow Monash University students, Melissa Peppin (Head of SDSN Youth Communications), Michelle Huang and others in collaboration with MSDI as an SDSN Australia/Pacific initiative. It was launched in May 2014 at a two-day youth forum with over 100 participants on Sustainable Development and the Urban Opportunity.
This success led Sam and fellow Monash student Gemma Muir to New York in September 2014 to convince the SDSN Leadership Council to expand the group globally. But, Sam said, convincing the Council – which includes former Presidents and Prime Ministers and other world leaders – was no easy task.
“Many of the members thought we just wanted a greater voice. We explained that the main objective is that young people can introduce new ways of living through behavioural and generational change. So you have a whole new generation of people who can live better with the planet, who can prioritise sustainable living and are more likely to adapt to new models than the older generation.”
Having finally obtained the Leadership Council’s blessing, Sam and his colleagues have since worked with young people around the world to design a global SDSN Youth program and to start branches in the Mediterranean, Turkey, Germany, Brazil, the Amazon, Caribbean, and North America.
SDSN Youth will empower youth globally to create sustainable development solutions, and be engaged in the implementation of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
“The Sustainable Development Goals are ideal for engaging young people,” Sam said. “They don’t just look at some band-aid solution. They look at our entire world from our economics, our politics, our governance – it looks at a whole range of issues. That’s what attracted me to the process.”
And that transformation isn’t possible, Sam asserts, without serious change to the status quo. “Agents of change do that best,” Sam said. “And young people are the best agents of change because they think outside the box, are a lot more passionate, are more likely to adapt to new lifestyles and more idealistic. And they don’t have the interest of the institutions or government at heart. So they’re inherently well positioned to be able to change the system. They just need mentorship, influence and to be empowered. That’s the idea behind SDSN Youth.”
As SDSN Youth’s first Global Coordinator, Sam shared the stage at the Paris launch with such luminaries as Tarja Halonen, Former President of Finland; Jeffrey Sachs, Director of SDSN; and Laurence Tubiana, Special Representative for the 2015 Paris Climate Conference and French Ambassador for Climate Change.
In contemplating the exciting and challenging work ahead of getting SDSN Youth off the ground, Sam said that coming from Monash has given him the best possible opportunity and head-start. “It has been great because of the institutional support Monash has given. Without that and the support of different mentors that have come mostly from Monash, this wouldn’t have been possible.”
“Our aim is to empower the younger generation to transform their own lives and the lives of those around them.”