In September, 193 governments will announce a set of targets to improve the world between now and 2030.
Young people from Kenya at various locations in Nairobi discussed the post-2015 development agenda and decided what they think should be at the top of the global priority list.
At one of a worldwide series of post-2015 youth forums, 108 Kenyan youth read and discussed research from 82 of the world’s top economists and 44 sector experts, organised by the Copenhagen Consensus Centre, they prioritised which targets attain the most value for money.
Their assessments are really needed, because the UN ambassadors still have an implausibly long list of 169 targets, and not all of these targets are great.
Some targets generate high economic, social and environmental benefits for their costs, while some cost a fortune and do little good. It is appropriate that young people should help guide the final choice of priority targets because it is their future.
Many major challenges are particularly acute in Africa, and so it is not surprising that the Kenyan youth focused on some of these regional realities. In total, the youths of Kenya chose not 169 targets but said a much smaller set of 10 were the most important ones for the world.
The Kenyan youth chose universal access to contraception as the most important priority, which is understandable bearing in mind that the UN expects 2.4 billion more people by 2050.
Supporting this rapidly growing population are the people of Kenya with a current population of over 44 million that is increasing fast. Women who on average give birth to five children in a lifetime are facing a social crisis which contributes to other issues.
If families have fewer children they can invest more in their future, giving them much greater earning potential and overall health. Another positive impact of access to contraception would be one answer to establishing social equality by allowing mothers more time to devote to bringing up their family and earning an income.
Taking the societal benefits into account, the benefits of universal contraception would be 120 times higher than the cost.
With conflict and violence plaguing various countries in sub-Saharan Africa, access to basic necessities for mothers and children can be difficult.
CONFLICT AND VIOLENCE
Realising the immense cost of conflict and violence, Kenyan youth placed eliminating violence against women and girls second on their priority list.
Clearly influential in the global economy, violence against women is very costly. Intimate partner violence was reported by 28 per cent of women in sub-Saharan Africa.
The total cost of such violence against women runs to $4.4 trillion per year, or about $10 billion just for Kenya. Together with violence against children, the social cost of violence reaches almost $25 billion in Kenya annually, and while not easy to prevent, eliminating it would do immense societal good.
Children are the foundation for the future, which is also why the young Kenyans chose reducing child malnutrition as one of their highest priorities. Globally, millions of children are deprived of proper nutrition. In Kenya, about 35 per cent of children under five years are stunted.
Spending a small amount on a child’s nutrition on providing supplements, improving the balance of the diet, and deworming pays handsomely.
The average benefit is about 41 times more than the cost. So it is obvious that feeding people properly and starting early is not just a moral imperative, it also makes a lot of economic sense.
Reducing premature deaths of children is also vital. Some 96,000 Kenyan children died before the age of five in 1990. In 2013, 106,000 have died before turning five.
With infant deaths on the rise, the youth were wise to include reducing infant mortality as a priority that is increasing in importance and with a return that is nine times higher than the amount spent.
It is brave of these young men and women to prioritise global issues, both because it is hard, but also because it is necessary to show what is most important. It is, after all, their future.
I look forward to taking their list, along with those from other youth forums from Africa, Asia and Latin America, to the UN in New York, to help the ambassadors make better choices.
Dr Lomborg heads the Copenhagen Consensus Centre