In a little more than a week, the United Nations will hold the 68th Civil Society Conference in Salt Lake City. We are excited to have the privilege of hosting thousands of people from around the world as this will be the first time the conference is occurring in the United States outside of the United Nations headquarters in New York City. 

This is an inspiring time for those in Civil Society who care about sustainability and inclusivity, since the theme of the conference is based on the Sustainable Development Goal 11: “Building Sustainable and Inclusive Cities and Communities.” 

A large component of the conference is led by youths (people under the age of 32). As members of the youth contingent, we’re grateful to have the chance to have a hand in planning the conference and organize the youth-related activities. In fact, our goal is to achieve 42% of overall attendance.

The presence of youths from around the world will be felt throughout all aspects of the conference. Young people are leading workshops on empowering homeless youth, taking climate action for small island-developing states and building capacity towards action. Throughout the entire conference, the south foyer of the Salt Palace Convention Center will be dedicated to the Youth Hub, a designated space to interact, network and learn about the work young people are doing around the world. 

As is recent tradition, the members of the Youth Sub-Committee are creating a document that communicates the vision shared by youth throughout Civil Society in relation to the theme of the conference. This year’s document will be entitled the “Youth Climate Compact,” and will serve to connect youth through a list of shared pledges. These pledges include dedicating to the end of single-use plastics, maximizing the voice of Civil Society by actively participating in the political process, encouraging the global transition to renewable sources of energy, and increasing mindfulness of our consumption levels. We hope that through this document, our youths will be able to harness their power through unity and create positive change on a scale not seen before.

Our youth host team has also put together a number of community service and engagement activities on the Saturday before the conference, Aug. 24. This day of community-based action will coincide with similar initiatives around the world to demonstrate our gratitude and support for the conference while promoting the themes of the United Nations and the Sustainable Development Goals. These efforts are made with the intent of promoting the importance of acting local in order to spur global change. 

On the morning of Aug. 24, several activities are scheduled at the International Peace Gardens — including a commemorative tree planting with Tree Utah, an all-levels yoga class under the pavilion, an exploration and trash cleanup in the gardens and a Jordan River cleanup with canoes provided by the Jordan River Commissions. In the afternoon, a conversation on the Sustainable Development Goals with a DGC representative and a local middle school which has implemented the SDGs into its curriculum will be held at the SLC Public Library. The day will end at the Jordan River where we will learn about the local habitat and birds with an ornithologist from the Tracy Aviary.

The planning of this conference has been a true collaboration between the United Nations and those within governmental and non-governmental organizations, the business sector, academia and general Civil Society. The Youth Sub-Committee is grateful to work with many talented individuals in the planning of this conference. We hope that our efforts will allow for a higher level of involvement by youth in building their communities and set the stage for a more prominent youth voice in the making of decisions regarding the future of our planet.

Madison Denkers is on the board of the Denkers Family Foundation. Rebecca Hardenbrook is a co-founder of the soon-to-be Salt Lake County Equitable Air Quality Commission. Vlada Yaremenko is a vice president of public relations and membership for United States National Committee for UN Women, Utah Chapter. All are co-chairwomen of the Salt Lake City Youth Sub-Committee.