Our Common Agenda Decoded: Making Policy Make Sense

By Harshani Dharmadasa and Lewis Broadway on August 11, 2023

Leaders gather in the General Assembly Hall at United Nations Headquarters in New York on March 6, 2023. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown

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Hello there, young thinkers and innovators!

Buckle up because we’re about to embark on an exhilarating journey to make complex UN policy accessible to everyone. In 2021, António Guterres, the Secretary-General of the UN, unveiled his vision for a better and more collaborative world in a roadmap called Our Common Agenda.

Fast forward to 2024, and the UN will host the Summit of the Future. This remarkable event will bring together world leaders, global champions, and industry titans, all united in their commitment to building a better world for the next and future generations, in line with Our Common Agenda’s key themes.

In preparation for this momentous event, the Secretary-General has released 11 policy briefs that are set to reshape our world. These briefs are not just words on paper; they’re our roadmap to a better future, aligned with the five principles of the Sustainable Development Goals: People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace, and Partnership.

The UN Secretary-General will release a total of 11 policy briefs on wide-ranging topics, designed to turn aspirations into actions for a better world.

However, the language in these policy briefs can be complex and lengthy, making it challenging for anyone on a busy schedule, especially young people, to grasp the vital information.

That is precisely why we are decoding each brief into comprehensible, visual summaries.

Each policy brief is a blueprint for change, outlining how to turn aspirations into actions. With an emphasis on collaboration, inclusivity, and sustainability, they present an inspiring view of what our world could become by 2100:

1. Future Generations – Imagine a world where our decisions today ensure a thriving planet for tomorrow’s inheritors. This brief focuses on safeguarding the well-being of our children and grandchildren, going beyond survival to create a future where they can truly thrive. By prioritizing the Sustainable Development Goals, future-proofing global institutions, and investing in young people and countries, we can empower future generations to lead fulfilling lives on a healthy planet.

Taylor Cassidy, Youth Advocate, addresses the UN General Assembly to mark the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Photo: UN/Eskinder Debebe

2. Emergency Platform – It’s time to tackle crises head-on. This policy brief describes how to build humanity’s survival kit, equipping all generations with the necessary skills, accountability, and leadership spirit to confront any challenges that come our way. By fostering resilience, preparedness, and coordination at all levels, this platform aims to ensure a safer and more secure future, tackling everything from natural disasters to health crises.

3. Meaningful Youth Engagement – Calling all young thinkers and activists! This brief recognizes the crucial role of the next generation in shaping our shared future. By promoting meaningful youth engagement, amplifying their voices, valuing their ideas, and providing platforms for collaboration and decision-making, we can harness their energy to address global challenges and build a better world.

Youth voices are key to sustainable global change despite remaining underrepresented in public policy and decision-making.

4. Beyond GDP – Let’s redefine economic progress by moving away from outdated metrics. This brief advocates for a shift beyond Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as the sole measure of prosperity on issues like debt relief. It calls for a world that values well-being, sustainability, and equality, recognizing that true progress encompasses economic, social, and environmental dimensions. By embracing holistic approaches and placing people’s well-being at the center, we can forge a future where everyone shares prosperity.

5. Global Digital Compact – In our digital age, the Compact ensures everyone can benefit from technology. It is committed to bridging the digital divide by making internet access and digital resources accessible to all, particularly in young countries across Africa. By promoting digital public goods and services, harnessing data responsibly, and creating a safe and secure digital space that is empowering and inclusive.

6. Information Integrity on Digital Platforms – In this information age, truth and transparency are paramount. This brief aims to uphold the integrity of information on digital platforms, ensuring reliable sources of evidence and enlightenment. It tackles misinformation and promotes transparency and digital literacy, envisioning a future where accurate and trustworthy information is accessible to all.

7. Reforms to the International Financial Architecture – Achieving an ambitious vision requires an equitable global financial landscape. This brief focuses on ensuring every person and every country has the resources to prosper, especially the Global South. By promoting development banking, lowering borrowing costs, strengthening the global financial safety net, and enhancing international tax regulation, these reforms aim to foster inclusive and sustainable development.

8. For All Humanity – The Future of Outer Space Governance – As we explore the cosmos, this brief emphasizes peace, sustainability, and inclusivity in space exploration. By embracing diversity, establishing universal frameworks, and advocating for gender equality in space governance, we can ensure the benefits and responsibilities of space exploration are accessible to all of humanity.

A 3-D rendering of a satellite in space. Policy Brief 8 emphasizes peace, sustainability, and inclusivity in outer space exploration.

9. New Agenda for Peace (coming soon!) – We’re navigating a world where peace and stability often feel elusive, particularly for young people in conflict-prone regions. This policy brief presents a comprehensive roadmap for creating a world where peace, stability, and security are accessible to everyone on land, at sea, in space, and in cyberspace. By implementing a series of concrete actions, we can strengthen international institutions, promote responsible arms control, and foster a culture of peace.

10. Transform Education (coming soon!) – We need a revolutionary vision for the future of education, sparking a paradigm shift in our understanding and treatment of learning. This policy brief explores the urgency to redefine the purpose of education to ensure all young people worldwide has access to high-quality education, thereby lifting all generations towards a brighter, more inclusive future.

Sixteen-year-old Sara Sekongo is taking a solar energy course at the professional high school of Korhogo, in the North of Cote d’Ivoire. Photo: UNICEF/Frank Dejongh

11. UN 2.0 (coming soon!) – Finally, it is crucial to modernize the United Nations to meet the demands of the 21st Century. This policy brief presents a comprehensive plan for reimagining and reshaping the UN, 80 years since its establishment. It aims to implement institutional changes in areas such as data, communication, innovation, strategic foresight, and more, to effectively support all the above areas and tackle the challenges of the future.

Our Common Agenda Decoded is supported by UN Foundation’s Our Future Agenda program, which offers a unique platform for young innovators, entrepreneurs, and champions to reimagine the UN for 21st-century needs. We tap into young people’s energy, collectivism, and long-term vision, fostering collective action, building alliances, and fortifying support for the United Nations.

It’s all about fostering international cooperation to drive solutions to our shared challenges, something we need now more than ever.

Frequently Asked Questions about Our Common Agenda

You might have numerous queries about Our Common Agenda and the policy briefs. These FAQs aim to provide comprehensive answers.

1. What is Our Common Agenda?

Our Common Agenda is a report that was presented by the UN Secretary-General in response to a call for stronger global cooperation made by Member States during the United Nations’ 75th anniversary. The report outlines a new vision for multilateralism and serves as a guide towards a more equitable, just, and sustainable world. It highlights the importance of the 2024 Summit of the Future, where a fresh global consensus can be reached to accelerate the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and bridge gaps in the UN system to tackle future challenges.

UN Foundation’s Our Future Agenda program began in response to the Secretary-General’s request for young people to shape the Our Common Agenda report. A group of young changemakers under the age of 30, the Next Generation Fellows, helped refine ideas in the Our Common Agenda report by speaking to over 600 young people worldwide and meeting with UN leaders. Their standalone report called Our Future Agenda outlines an ambitious vision and plan for the world’s young people and future generations and serves as a manifesto for the ongoing work of the Our Future Agenda program.

2. What are the Policy Briefs associated with Our Common Agenda?

The Policy Briefs, issued by the Secretary-General, provide detailed insights on certain proposals contained in Our Common Agenda. They assist Member States in their deliberations as they prepare for the Summit of the Future. These briefs offer an analysis of the proposals’ impact on the implementation of the SDGs and are informed by the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, with a cross-cutting emphasis on gender equality.

3. What is the purpose of the Policy Briefs?

The Policy Briefs are intended to provide in-depth information on the proposals contained in Our Common Agenda. They offer an analysis of the impact of these proposals on the implementation of the SDGs and inform Member States’ decisions as they prepare for the Summit of the Future.

4. What is the Summit of the Future?

The Summit of the Future is a critical event scheduled for 2024. It presents an opportunity to reaffirm and strengthen shared principles, and forward solutions to deliver more effectively for people and the planet. Member States are committed to adopting a Pact for the Future at the Summit to consolidate collective agreements and demonstrate global solidarity for current and future generations.

5. What is the Pact for the Future?

The Pact for the Future is a commitment to be adopted by Member States during the Summit of the Future in 2024. It aims to solidify collective agreements and showcase global solidarity for current and future generations. It forms part of the commitment to enhancing cooperation and delivering more effectively for people and the planet.

6. What is the relationship between the SDG Summit and the Summit of the Future?

The Summit of the Future builds upon the SDG Summit held in 2023. The SDGs are central to the discussions and outcomes of the Summit of the Future, as they represent the global community’s shared vision for sustainable and inclusive development. The Summit aims to reinvigorate global commitment to the SDGs and explore ways to enhance their implementation for current and future generations.

7. How can I get involved?

There are many ways to get involved in the Summit of the Future and contribute to making the Pact for the Future a reality. The first step is to join the Curtain Raiser on September 13, 2023, 9-11 a.m. ET to learn about how you can participate in dialogues, research, and campaigns next year leading up to September 2024 through UN Foundation’s Our Future Agenda.


Are you ready to influence the global discourse on the SDGs? Are you ready to share the stage with influential policymakers and fellow youth champions? Because the journey doesn’t end here.

On September 13, 2023, at the SDG Summit Curtain Raiser 2023, you can become a part of a collective movement that will shape the 2023 SDG Summit, highlight the importance of youth leadership and innovation, and pave the way for sustained progress towards the SDGs and the Summit of the Future.