This past week I had the opportunity and privilege to attend the Youth Assembly at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. I had heard about the YA from my friend Nivatha a few years ago but never remembered to apply until I came across cleaning my bookmarks manager.
Each year the Friendship Ambassadors Organization hosts the YA twice a year at the Headquarters for youth all around the world to interact in international affairs and policy making and contribute in process of getting youth involved in the decision making processes for global affairs. http://www.youthassembly.nyc/
I believe the application process for the summer session (August) begins February or March. They also hold a session in February as well. But keep checking the website for information to apply or to learn more about the YA. I luckily applied right before the deadline June 15th! The application process isn’t super difficult but there are a lot of questions but definitely put aside time to complete it.
This summer, YA held it’s 20th session and the conference was focused on #SocietyForAll #leavingnoonebehind with the main theme of implementing the SDGs by 2030 (as the UN has also focused on this year). As for the conference logistics, there were around 700 delegates from over 110 countries during the duration of August 9-12th. Registration begins August 8th with the organization recommending you to arrive a day earlier. August 9 was the opening ceremony and the 12th was the closing ceremony. The 10th and 11th were filled with different workshops and keynote speakers that tailored around three different tracks: economic, youth, and social.
A few examples of workshops that I attended or wanted to attend circulated around:
*The workshops I attended are bolded
- Building a Global Movement to End Violence Against Children
- Empowering Youth to Take Action on the Global Refugee Crisis (UNHCR, IDLO, OIC): discovered the problems that needed to be tackled in the largest refugee crisis, importance of integrating refugees into society, looked into statistical evidence of the benefits of refugees, tackled the varying opposing opinions against refugees, and explored the misconceptions regarding refugees
- STEM as a key to achieving SDGs (Microsoft)
- Using Values-Based Communications for Social Inclusion: narratives are crucial in our goals to create sustainable and effective change but often times we need to tackle the constructed narratives that are put forth by society (by profit seekers, exploiters of power etc), we learned effective media strategies to set forth a message that is informative, based in truth, and powerful
- World Bank Presentation
- Power Differentials: How to Reach the Most Vulnerable
- Op.s in Technovation to Create the World We Want and Achieve Gender Equality
- Wikimedia: Health, Science, and Inclusion Through Wikipedia
- The Power of Youth: Making a Difference Through Sustainable Tourism: understanding the important contributions of tourism as the world’s largest employer, hoping to use the creation of jobs in the tourism sector to solve the world’s largest youth unemployment crisis in history, pinpointing the need for sustainable tourism, voluntourism, and the impacts of tourism on the labour field
- Shaping the Narrative of an Inclusive Society (Instagram, Dear World, Great Big Story): learning about the impact of media and journalism in impacting social change or inflicting powerful and meaningful messages through our personal brand or initiatives
- Youth, Peace, and Security (SDSN, Duke University, Code Red, Peacebuilding UN Office)
This past week was overwhelming in a good way! I heard people speak who have done great work in their fields but also passionate youth from so many countries that are pioneering change. Many came from countries I did not know about but one thing for sure was that everyone there was passionate about what they were doing. Talking to anyone, you could see their faces light up with joy from the love they had from doing their work, research, or volunteering.
I met so many individuals (many surprisingly from Canada) but also from the United States, countries I can’t even pronounce, Japan, Uganda, South Korea, China, Haiti, Nigeria, India, etc etc etc. Each day was filled with new information, practical skill development, speaking to panelist speakers from various global development organizations, and working together with other delegates to help with the implementation of the SDGs.
I remember giving feedback on the 2017 Sustainable Tourism Guide (that was actually released at that session that day) to the Permanent Mission of Hungary and just talking to her about the independent research I was doing related to policy and economics. Though the speakers were super accomplished they were always willing to answer questions, give advice, and be open to conversations.
Another big aspect to this conference experience is that there are many door openers to getting involved either after the conference or during the conference. At the conference there is the Resolution Challenge which is a competition based on implementing the SDGs and helps the winners of the competition implement their entrepreneurship venture through mentorship and resources. The second opportunity is Ideas4Action which is what I got involved with and spent a lot of my time doing independent research for. Ideas4Action and Resolution Challenge are both organizations that strongly believe in the power of youth and provide tangible methods to connect passionate youth to funding and mentorship for the creations of projects stemmed in the SDGs. I believe that both organizations have been involved with YA for a while now and so I do believe that you will see them at future sessions.
To be completely honest, though this experience was eye opening to what it would be like to work for the UN or be a part of UN operations, I did not learn as much as I thought I would in the workshops. I attended very insightful workshops where I learned things I did not know but I also attended workshops that weren’t so great. With every experience there’s bound to be the good and the bad, but I would recommend this experience for someone who wants to pursue a career in global development, would like to get a taste of what the public sector looks like, or just wants to have an international network of amazing leaders.
I took down a lot of notes and am in the process of putting them together but in the meanwhile if you have any questions about my experience, do not hesitate to pop a comment below or contact me!