I was invited to join hands together with my young leaders in organizing an incredible event. Yes, The Youth Assembly took place from Feb. 11-12 at the United Nations headquarters in New York. The exciting event brought together almost 500 Youth leaders and social entrepreneurs from more than 30 countries. The theme of the event was, “Bridging the Gap Between Youth Employment and Global Development”. The Youth Assembly has been founded and organized by the Friendship Ambassadors Foundation, based in Connecticut and it happens twice a year. Every year, thousands of young people come together to have a constructive dialogue about United Nations areas of work, Millennium Development Goals, Sustainable Development Goals, inspiring speeches from the UN high officials and dignitaries, youth-led and community development organizations.
The Permanent Mission of Romania to the United Nations was the lead endorser and host of this event. In the opening remarks, the Permanent Observer of Romania to the United Nations, Ambassador Ms. Simona Miculescu appreciated and welcomed young people in her friendly salute and with wonderful remarks, “if you have a dream or an idea, there is no better time to make it happen than TODAY! Remember! Your input to the new sustainable development goals will influence the well-being and livelihood of present and future generations! This includes me, you, your friends, your parents, your brothers and sisters.”
The Executive Director of the Friendship Ambassadors Foundation, Mr. Patrick Sciarratta called the event a historic moment; “young people are actively participating and promoting the changed on ground, tomorrow’s leaders.” He also appreciated the support of Microsoft, UNOP, UNF, UNAUSA and the Permanent Mission of Romania to the United Nations.
The United Nations Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth, Mr. Ahmad Alhendawi in his remarks focused on the strength of young people and encouraged young people to be creative. He said, “It’s time to invent jobs, not just seek jobs, to write new business plans, not just CVs. It’s time to create structural and permanent ways to engage. Young people don’t need to carry a UN badge to work for the UN, you just need to carry its values in your heart.”
In the two-day program, the delegates and young leaders had the wonderful opportunity to visit the Permanent Missions at the United Nations to know more about the countries’ perspectives and areas of work within the UN system. There were also plenary sessions, workshops, round table discussions, networking opportunities, new social venture competitions, and Millennium Development Goals related workshops.
Since the last couple of years, I have been part of the team that organizes the Youth Assembly at the United Nations. I had wonderful experiences meeting my fellow young global citizens of the world who were full of energy, enthusiasm and passion to be the change, they wanted to see in the world.
Ms. Amy Timmerman, 17, from Canada said, “the Youth Assembly opened my eyes to the processes that occur at the United Nations. Most importantly, though, the YA@UN was a gathering of the leaders of tomorrow.”
An active participant from Moldova, Mr. Veaceslav Cretu, 20, said, “Although we are young, we have potential and we have to use it now. We must learn from the past, act in the present, and secure the future for generations, because what we will never be able to bring back, is the lost opportunity and the chance to make this world a better place.”
16 year old Ms. Paige Leddy from the U.S. said, “Being one of the youngest people there I got to listen to a lot of educated people present issues and topics I felt strongly about and new things that peaked my interest.”
23 year old Ms. Yuliya Samoylina from Ukraine said, “We were not only conversing and exchanging our opinions on major topics of the world’s economy and politics but we were also exchanging our ideas.”
20 year old Ms. Emi Zibaei from Canada said, “I must say that my life has completely changed. The different speakers, panels and workshops had a severe, positive impact on me and inspired me to continue my efforts to create impactful social change.”
25 year old Mr. Amaar Rashid from Pakistan said, “Thanks to the organizers of Youth Assembly for hosting young people at United Nations and engaging them in a productive event fostering a positive change.”
17 year old Ms. Alisa Choubay from the U.S. said, “We are the future and we are the ones who will make things better.”
17 year old Raina Kadavil from the U.S. said, ” The Youth Assembly broke barriers and harnessed our differences in background and ideology to help us grow from one another – something that we need more of in our globalizing world.”
I think events like the Youth Assembly at the UN are great opportunities to raise the voices of young people. We must take a stand against all the problems in the world and work together for finding solutions of our problems. Young people shouldn’t wait for an opportunity to arrive but they should open a new door for themselves and engage their communities in the process.
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals can only be achieved if we, the young people stand side by side and shoulder to shoulder with each other and our leaders. We should make our governments accountable, challenge corruption, speak up against injustice and help the vulnerable communities. Yes, we can!
The problems of the people in Africa, Asia, Europe, Americas, Australia or Antarctica shouldn’t be treated as their problem but as our problems and it’s our shared responsibilities to help each other, grow together and make the dream of achieving sustainable development true by leaving no one behind.
I hope to see many of these youth leaders making a positive change in their countries by influencing their own communities with the great learning and experience they had, here at the United Nations. Be the leader today and start doing with any idea, a small initiative and make your fellow global citizens proud of you.
This article was also posted on UNICEF’s Voices of Youth here.