A Global Youth Ambassador reports back on young people's involvement at a major UN event in New York.
Youth are active members of society whose decisions impact the communities around them. Their enthusiasm and passion for a better world are an inspiration.
The 67th United Nations Department of Public Information/Non-Government Organisation (DPI/NGO) Conference was held at the UN in New York.
The conference involved youth convening to discuss solutions to problems in the international community. The theme was “We the Peoples,” which are the first three words of the UN Charter.
The conference had a people-centred, multilateral approach to finding solutions to global issues. Some of the sessions throughout the event included workshops and roundtable debates based on themes surrounding the collective responsibility to work towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and human rights.
The chair of the conference was Winnie Byanyima, the Executive Director of Oxfam, whose experiences, leadership and vibrance emphasised the importance of multilateralism throughout the event.
Youth had a strong presence at the conference through their various activities, including interactive sessions and dialogues. Prior to the conference, there was a meet and greet held outside the United Nations in order for the youth participants to interact and get energised for the event.
Youth also had the opportunity to express their voices to the various panellists throughout the conference.
Fellow Global Youth Ambassador Javita Nauth, one of the youth delegates, described speaking to the panellists on The Women and Girls Mobilising Roundtables at the 67th DPI/NGO Conference.
It was very important to advocate from a social workers' perspective, how young girls and women’s mental health is interconnected to physical health, growth and advancement.
We should feel the same confidence to say we are going to get our mental health wellness check from our therapist and/or psychiatrist.
The Youth Hub, a designated space for youth delegates, included panels with UN officials and civil society members. Some of the events held in the Youth Hub included an interactive dialogue with the DPI Under Secretary-General for Global Communications, Alison Smale.
The intergenerational dialogue was on the role of youth throughout the conference, to discuss solutions to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, and advice on building a career towards multilateralism.
Some of the speakers included Byanyima and Maher Naser, DPI Outreach Division Director. Outside the United Nations building in the public area, there were musical and dance performances, including hip hop and Zumba, and a cashmere and cultural fashion show. Some of the youth participants also wore their national costumes for the cultural fashion show to represent diversity.
One cornerstone aspect of the conference was the youth declaration -the outcome document incorporating all the voices of youth from the conference.
One of the workshops was youth-led, focusing on empowered youth who wish to develop a project entitled "A Young Activist’s Toolkit for Advancing the SDGs". The panellists shared their expertise in planning and executing a project.
The toolkit they presented is a beta version and will incorporate input from the public. Through a collaborative effort, the finalised version will be presented next year.
One of the roundtables at the conference was called "Youth: Today’s Leaders" and included an inter-generational discussion on issues concerning youth. One of the speakers was fellow Global Youth Ambassador Prince Gideon Olanrewaju, who discussed the importance of education from his personal experiences.
Preceding the panel was the Youth Film Festival, where members of the youth sub-committee sent a call for submissions for youth to share films highlighting their work prior to the conference.
The best selected films were screened and included films on gender equality, drugs and a faith-based approach to achieving the goals. A panel on civil society regional issues was also held to gather perspectives from all the youth participants.
One cornerstone aspect of the conference was the youth declaration "We the Future - A Youth Declaration", which is the outcome document incorporating all the voices of youth from the conference.
The momentum generated from a previous conference in Gyeonjgu, South Korea, in 2016 led to the first youth outcome document and for further youth inclusion in achieving the goals.
The first youth outcome document attested youth’s dedication to achieving Education for Global Citizenships, the previous conference’s theme. This year’s document focuses on youth as an integral part of people-centred multilateralism.
In the months prior to the conference, a survey was disseminated to gather voices of youth around the world including those who were unable to attend the event. Town Halls (virtual and physical) were also held prior and throughout the conference to include more voices.
The youth declaration was adopted at the closing plenary at the conference, showcasing the efforts of youth throughout the event. More information on the youth declaration.
The DPI/NGO Conference garnered a dynamic spirit to work towards inclusion of all individuals through multilateralism. The youth presence at the conference captured their vivacious spirit and dedication towards making an impact on society.
Byanyima stated the youth component of the event was a "conference within a conference" and Smale also referred to the importance of youth in her remarks at the opening ceremony.
Youth are an integral aspect in achieving the goals. As American anthropologist once said: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."