SDG16+ Champions of Change

The Ghanian youth advocate championing the SDGs


Champions of Change is an initiative started by the Pathfinders to highlight advocates who have made an impact in their communities and have helped to create peaceful, just and inclusive societies (SDG16+). It provides an opportunity to feature individuals, businesses, and organizations doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities. As part of the Movement to Halve Violence by 2030, hear from Champions who have made building peaceful societies their cause and mission in life, and learn what you can do to join them!

Emmanuel Ametepey is the Executive Director of Youth Advocates Ghana (YAG) and a Convener of the African Youth SDGs Summit. He is also a youth development consultant with a particular interest in governance, participation and youth empowerment.

In 2017, Emmanuel launched the African Youth SDGs as the largest forum on the Sustainable Development Goals in Africa, which attracted over 1,400 delegates of young leaders and policymakers from Africa and beyond. The summit has become a rallying point, and a catalyst for partnerships with local governments, CSOs, local UN systems, and in some cases the summit participants have themselves become accountability or monitoring champions for SDGs delivery in Africa. Emmanuel is also named as one of the UNDP’s 16x16 Global Youth Leaders advancing peaceful, just and inclusive societies.

We spoke with Emmanuel Ametepey to learn more about his work and what drives him:

What ignited your pursuit for safe and peaceful societies?

As a teacher in my early career, I witnessed first-hand how children and young people were victims of sexual violence. This was my inspiration for establishing Youth Advocates Ghana to stand up for the rights of children and provide them with opportunity to overcome poverty and live with dignity.

Ever since, YAG has scaled up its programs and activities to cover domains like improving access to education for vulnerable children and young people, awareness and advocacy on children rights, improving young people’s access to sexual and reproductive health services and governance.

To achieve a peaceful, just, and inclusive world, what does success look like to you? And what are the key factors in achieving this vision?

We cannot achieve peaceful, just and inclusive world in an isolation. Achieving the SDGS requires we work together to together all the Global Goals for a better world for everyone. Key factors we must consider are to create equal opportunity for the economic empowerment of the youth, promote human rights and justice for all.

We must also break through the socio-cultural and institutional barriers that undermine the power, leadership, and contribution of young people to Africa’s development efforts. Not getting replies to emails or phone calls, the loss of documents, and the failure of institutions to commit resources towards the same causes they represent are some of the challenges we face.

How does your work significantly reduce and prevent violence?

As the Executive Director of Youth Advocates Ghana (YAG), the goal of my work is to empower children and young people to influence decisions that affect their lives, enjoy their rights, and assume their responsibilities as full citizens. This we do through different programs, including access to education for vulnerable children and young people, awareness and education on sexual and reproductive health, and youth inclusion in governance and policymaking processed.

Additionally, as the Convener of the African Youth Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Summit, we create a platform for youth dialogues on the SDGs and the role of the youth in ensuring the full achievement of the SDGs with peace, justice, and inclusion residing at the core of our work. When young people are socially and economically empowered, they are more peaceful, less likely to participate in violent acts, and better equipped to uphold our tenets and values of democracy, good governance, and accountability.

How has COVID-19 impacted your work? Are there any lessons learned from the pandemic that you hope to apply in future work?

COVID-19 has disrupted our work plan for the year as our major event-the 3rd African Youth SDGs Summit has to be postponed indefinitely. An important lesson learned from the pandemic is how to leverage technology. The world has changed drastically and therefore having a good knowledge and application of ICT will shape how organizations can survive difficult situations like this pandemic.

What advice do you have for those seeking to make a difference for a more peaceful world?

To achieve just, equal and peaceful world, we need to invest in all sectors of our lives and economy, most especially in the education and economic empowerment of our youth.