Lead the way: Youth in North Macedonia are driving progress on the SDGs
06 September 2021
* Youth can clearly offer new and innovative methods to deal with long-standing issues related to the SDGs
Making big plans after school
While some high-school students in North Macedonia — and worldwide — can’t wait for the bell to mark the end of the school day, Orhan Bagashov, Boris Nocheski, Anamaria Ilieva and Teo Kitanovski prefer to stay behind after school. Their work paid off when their projects in biology, programming, robotics and engineering won them the global Generation Unlimited challenge, organized by UNICEF.
Generation Unlimited (GU) helped transform their individual projects into something bigger. “We saw it transform into something that made a significant change in our society,” says Bagashov, “while allowing us to develop further as a team and launch a start-up.”
The eBionics team, led by Bagashov, designed a solution to improve access to prosthetic care with an open-source 3D printed bionic arm for people with upper limb deficiency. Their bionic hand can be made for as little as 100 euros.
Winning the Generation Unlimited challenge brought them financial support, skills, connections, and opportunities. It also made them role models. “Our project is an excellent example of how young people can make our society a better place to live for all people,” says Nocheski.
Generation Unlimited is one of various initiatives led by UNICEF to engage youth. Others include the UPSHIFT programme, the U-Report platform, and — with Stevo Pendarovski, President of North Macedonia — the “Reimagine the Future” initiative.
Thanks to their “uninhibited thinking and the youthful energy, youth can clearly offer new and innovative methods to deal with long-standing issues related to the Sustainable Development Goals,” or SDGs, says Rossana Dudziak, UN Resident Coordinator in North Macedonia.
Making progress, faster
Managed by UNDP, Accelerate2030 is the world’s largest programme supporting entrepreneurs from developing and emerging markets to scale their solutions for the SDGs. In North Macedonia, the programme consists of a three-month acceleration journey led by Seavus Accelerator and Business Impact Lab, which combines workshops and networking opportunities.
One of the Accelerate2030 participants is Gorjan Jovanovski, founder of start-up AirCare and developer of the AirCare air-quality tracking app.
He says, "The number of inspiring and amazing people in the programme will help us make the right connections and cooperation to enter markets we previously didn't think was possible."
UNDP also supported an innovation centre called Skopje Lab to help transform public spaces in the capital city towards more sustainable solutions.
“By bringing different types of people together and connecting them to urban planners and other experts that work in the field, as well as to city officials, [participants] are empowered to be more proactive in the city's decision-making processes," says Sofija Bogeva, coordinator of Skopje Lab.
Y-PEER, a UNFPA led initiative, was involved in the first Voluntary National Review process, aiming to measure North Macedonia’s progress against the SDGs.
Many young people have never heard of the SDGs, says Aleksandar Miloshevikj, who is in charge of Y-Peer North Macedonia.
“Youth can take the lead role, but that can’t happen without the proper infrastructure and the proper support for youth networks and organizations to really thrive.”
It’s not just the UN family that is trying to boost youth participation in sustainable development. The Government of North Macedonia is at it, too.
“We made a major step forward with the adoption of the new law on youth participation and youth politics at the beginning of 2020,” says Gjorgi Tasev, Youth and Youth Policies Adviser to the Prime Minister of the Republic of North Macedonia. “With this law, each municipality has to create at least one youth centre. There is still a lot of work to be done, but we’ve brought the youth to the table.”
Produced by UN in North Macedonia. Written by UN RCO North Macedonia Communications and Advocacy Officer, Aleksandar Dimishkovski, with the support from communications colleagues Simona Ristoska (UNICEF), Irena Spirkovska (UNFPA) and Ivan Mickovski (UNDP).