“It’s not our job to be quiet or pleasant”

UNLEASH LAB 2017

I am happy, proud, ecstatic, overjoyed and honoured to announce that I have been chosen as an UNLEASH SDG Talent for 2017.

Today the chairman of UNLEASH Lab, Flemming Besenbacher had this to say:

In just 12 days, UNLEASH will kick off in Denmark. We are so excited to welcome our 1,000 global top talents from more 129 countries. We have tech-entrepreneurs, leading academics, young professionals, and development program officers. All talents have proved a passion for positive change.

We have gathered an incredibly diverse group of young and dedicated talents, and we cannot wait to kick start the co-creation of innovative solutions to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As UNLEASH Innovation Lab 2017 approaches rapidly, our team is working hard to finalize the program in Denmark.”

I’m always so humbled to get these kinds of opportunities and they always spur up energy and inspiration in me, and this time around I found myself thinking particularly about why initiatives like these are so critical, especially now. And the words of Jeffrey Sachs “It’s not our job to be quiet and pleasant” kept coming back to me as delved into my role as an UNLEASH SDG Talent.

Un-Pleasantries

I recently had the great pleasure of attending the T20 Global Solutions Summit as a Young Global Changer in the lead up to the G20 Talks which were held in Hamburg. It was a stimulating and exhilarating experience to meet people who are active scholars, policy makers and activists in some of the world’s most challenging issues. But what stay with me, and will probably stay with me for the rest of my life are the words of Jeffrey Sachs the ‘godfather’ of the SDG’s. I was watching his speech on the last day of the conference and you could hear a pin drop in that room. His presence, poise, command and passion captivated us all. His message was simple and badass “It’s not our Job to be quiet and pleasant.” This is what UNLEASH represents to me. UNLEASH is a global innovation lab that brings together people from all over the world to transform 1,000 personal insights into hundreds of ideas, and build lasting global networks around the Sustainable Development Goals.

We’ve become disillusioned into thinking that it’s someone else’s job to create a fairer and just world. UNLEASH Lab’s recognition and appreciation of the power of pooling resources and mobilizing consolidated efforts towards the implementation of the SDG’s is ground breaking. It’s a show of force in a world that is currently being dominated and inundated with messages of populism, division and self-interest.

As a Namibian who has lived in South Africa, Ethiopia and the UK, I am fortunate to have a great sense of perspective and outlook on the world — both regionally and internationally. My upbringing has nurtured a deep sense of curiosity and appreciation of the world we live in and the richness in diversity it boasts. Furthermore, having been extensively immersed in matters around youth, inclusive development and socio-economic emancipation, academically and professionally, demonstrates that she possesses a deeply nuanced sense of exposure, insights and adaptability. So naturally, for as long as I can remember I’ve had a very strong affinity to leave a mark on the world. A mark which will be a reflection of my continuous celebration of diversity, peace, hope and freedom. This is what being an UNLEASH SDG talent means so much to me.

A Broken System

Our democracies are not doing what they say on the tin. From Brazil to South Africa, to the UK to Namibia, to DRC. We are all collectively failing.

In contemporary development discourse, it is evident that a strong democratic state is a prerequisite for sustainable development. However, the foundations and meaning of development have become so distorted and manipulated that it is difficult to find any pure forms of democracy, not only in the global south but also in the global north. It is highly contradictory for Western countries who command control of international civil society institutions such the to demand countries become democratic in order to further excel. As clearly pointed out in good governance agendas and the Washington Consensus, pressure has been put on the international community especially developing countries, to adopt cultures of democracy where the state represents the people. However how often do we find substance behind the label democracy? Democracy in most cases, even in western countries, is to a certain extent merely a veil to keep the masses at bay.

Studies are showing that our systems and institutions are becoming obsolete in their efforts to adequately serve the people. Scholars such as Acemglu et al (2013) have found that “democracy tends to increase inequality and taxation when the middle class are relatively richer compared to the rich and poor”.

It is our job to inspire action. To break the rules which are working against equality, justice and freedom. These ideals are not independent living organisms. If we don’t feed them and actively fight for them, they will parish. This is what happened to democracy. We fell asleep at the wheel and thought it could drive itself, but it can’t. I think more than ever; the world needs rule breakers. That is in essence what innovation means to me. The audacity to question and challenge the status quo and introduce new and fresh solutions which will benefit humanity.

The people have the POWER

A key enabler, which often serves as a launch pad and foundation for solving many other societal challenges is education. Every year, UNLEASH chooses different themes within the SDGs to work on. This year seven themes have been chosen: Education & ICT, Energy, Food, Health, Sustainable consumption & production, Urban sustainability, and Water.

Under each theme there will be sub-themes and a number of actionable insights to guide the innovation work. I will be part of the Education&ICT theme and I’m particularly excited and proud.

The right to education directly affects more of the world’s population than almost any other socio-economic right. Its fulfillment is crucially important to all children — especially vulnerable populations such as minorities, girls, and children with dis- abilities — and for global development as a whole. Moreover, I’m interested to explore and experiment the power that Education has particularly as a force for creating a critical mass of citizens which are equipped to not only empower themselves but to be change agents for the broader society.

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