Over 1000 young leaders and activists came together last week at the United Nations headquarters in New York for the 21st session of the UN youth assembly.
The Friendship Ambassadors Foundation, a nonprofit organization that builds friendships, mutual understanding, and global cooperation through transformative intercultural exchanges and youth leadership, convened the event.
The theme for this year was ‘Innovation and Collaboration for a Sustainable world‘. The youth assembly was focused on empowering young active citizens with the opportunity to cooperate for global impact and achieving the SDGs, particularly goals 6,7,11,12 and 16.
The SDGs or Global goals or Agenda 2030 are a collection of 17 universally accepted goals that propose to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure development, peace, and prosperity for everyone on the planet.
Over 4 days, we met with 120+ speakers in academia, civil society, UN Agencies, private and public sectors. The first day started with a tour of the United Nations Headquarters, where we gained firsthand insights into how the UN works to ensure Human Rights, Peace, and Development. We also visited the German Permanent Mission to the UN for an overview of Germany’s role in the United Nations, and a Q&A session with the mission’s communications attaché Mr. Conrad Hassler.
The first day ended with the official opening ceremony held in the hallowed UN General Assembly hall and anchored by inspiring keynote addresses from high-level UN officials. Each speaker emphasized the important role of young people in achieving the SDGs. Most inspiring was the opening remarks by the UN Youth Assembly Chair Mr. Karim Babay “The world has finally embraced youth as the engine that fuels innovation social justice human, women and minorities rights…you are what my generation was not. You are what all generations should be…The future is here so go and grab it“.
The following days comprised of working sessions that allowed the delegates to collaborate on ideas, gain a broader perspective on global issues and learn key skills in achieving our different initiatives. Some of the topics covered in the sessions were fundraising skills, winning support for your ideas, transforming ideas into reality, eliminating human trafficking, scaling up renewable energy, innovation, and food security, conserving life on land and many more important topics.
My personal favourite was the session on Inter-generational Mobility by The World Bank Group. The facilitators spoke to the progress made in the mission to ending poverty. The session also gave valuable insights on what needs to be done to end poverty. The same session also gave us step-by-step tips on how to advocate for quality education from our government.
Also, we had various side events that allowed us to learn from other delegates on their initiatives. For instance, there was a Liberian delegate who shared interesting suggestions on Global public health in the wake of the Ebola Crisis; I also met Kelly from Brazil who runs an NGO that does great work in conservation of the environment. Then there was a lady from Afghanistan who in spite of the dangers involved, is working actively to end child marriage in her home country. All the delegates I met were inspirational. Young people are really using technology to change the world. The delegates were also hosted to a Gala evening with entertainment, food and a great environment to further network
The Youth assembly week concluded with a closing ceremony that highlighted all we had learned in the week. Six delegates topped the Resolution Social Venture Challenge for their initiatives and I was particularly proud to see that four of the six winners were Africans; Rutendo Ngwena from Zimbabwe, Zola Ncube from Zimbabwe, Daniel Sebeguao from Uganda and of course Representing Nigeria, Ilerioluwa, and Oshioke – Working on ECO drive Africa in Lagos, which looks to create cleaner environments by advocating for responsible waste management and fostering Recycling.
To end the closing ceremony, Ambassador Simona-Mirela Miculescu, the UN Secretary-General’s envoy on youth left us with the most uplifting words. “May you have enough happiness to make you sweet, enough trials to make you strong, enough hope to make you happy, enough sorrow to make you human well and enough money to make you comfortable”
My general takeaway from the session is how important it is for young people to be actively involved in achieving the SDGs. All of the goals are important, however as this youth assembly was focused on the environment, I left with a greater sense of understanding of the urgency with which we have to address issues of Climate Change, Sustainability of our planet, clean energy, and urban development. I look forward to taking the next steps beyond the conference and continue to make an impact in my world.
You too can get active in achieving the SDGs. There is always something you can do to leave the world better than you met it. The first step is to look at the SDGs and how you can help in your immediate environment.
I would also recommend that anyone working to achieve the SDGs attend the UN Youth Assembly. Though application to be a delegate at the assembly is, it is well worth it as the networking opportunities and experience are priceless. Visit the assembly website to apply directly.
Borrowing from the guiding words of the UN secretary general, Antonio Gutierrez, “do everything with heart, reason, passion, compassion”. The world is ours and we have the talents and ambition to overcome our biggest challenges.