Last week, I found myself on the crowded, bustling streets of New York City, commuting through morning rush hour traffic. I could hardly contain my excitement as I walked through Midtown East with a coffee in one hand and a bagel in the other. I first stopped by the Turtle Bay Music School to pick up my registration pass, I then headed to the United Nations Headquarters, where I would be joining over 1200 youth from all over the world to participate in the 2018 Youth Assembly. As a youth delegate representing the United States, I was ready to learn more about the United Nations, hear from great speakers, and discuss the role of youth in addressing global challenges.
The Youth Assembly at the United Nations is a three-day conference intended to foster dialogue and generate partnerships between exceptional youth, UN high officials and staff, the private sector, and civil society. The theme of this year’s conference was Innovation and Collaboration For a Sustainable World.
Hosted in the General Assembly Hall of the United Nations, the opening ceremony started with greetings from several UN high officials, as well as Karim Babay, the Youth Assembly Chair. A favorite among the crowd was Her Excellency Ms. Simona-Mirela Micusecu, Representative of the UN Secretary-General and Head of the UN Office in Belgrade. She highlighted how youth are incredibly important to the implementation and success of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and closed her remarks by taking a selfie with the audience.
Following the opening ceremony, we spent the next two days participating in various panel sessions and workshops all focused around achieving the United Nation’s SDGs. The SDGs provide a shared global development agenda from now until 2030. The SDGs cover gender equality, food security, peace, health, clean water and sanitation, sustainable cities, among others. As someone who is interested and engaged in achieving these goals, it was great to meet so many young people who shared this passion for sustainable development and equality.
The 2018 Youth Assembly was a great opportunity to gain a broader perspective on world issues and learn about other delegates’ passions and the challenges they face in their home countries. For example, in the session on “Gender Equality for Education 2030”, we were split into several groups and asked to come up with three things that need to be addressed in order to achieve gender equality. Our group discussed multiple ideas including; education, access to reproductive care, equal pay for equal work, and changing laws to stop child marriage. Each group reported back along the same lines of what our group had discussed. However, a person from a country with ongoing civil war brought up that in his country, there is nothing more important than peace and security, as this is something they have to deal with on a daily basis.
This year’s delegates were encouraged to examine how they could play a role in the 2030 agenda. By using their diverse skills, those at the assembly were urged to contribute to achieving the goals in big and small ways. For example, in the session on “Our Planet’s Future: How Youth Can Take Action Now To Tackle Climate Change”, the presenters Nathan Currier and Melissa Griffiths Parrott (from the Climate Reality Project) encouraged delegates to take action in their home countries. Everything from turning your lights off to talking to your elected officials can have an impact on mitigating climate change.
The 2018 Youth Assembly ended with visions of the future – a more impactful one, with youth engaged at every level and a true aim to turn the SDGs into reality. After having some time to reflect on the event, I have even more confidence that today’s youth will be able to make the world a better place. When youth are given a seat at the table, there is no limit to the impact they can make. I was honored to attend the 2018 Youth Assembly, and I look forward to using the knowledge and connections I gained at the United Nations to help continue to foster international engagement and cooperation.
If you are interested in learning more about the Youth Assembly, visit their website here.