UN officials discuss impact of youth assembly
The Taliban shot Malala Yousafzai on the left side of her forehead on Oct. 9, 2012, but barely two years later, she stood in front of the United Nations Youth Assembly and spoke about equality, peace, the power of education and the voice of women.
The United Nations Youth Assembly provides a forum for 15- to 35-year-olds to come together and make a difference in the world, said Humza Nomani, president of the Rutgers United Nations Club.
The U.N. club held “Reflections of the Youth Assembly” in the Livingston Student Center last night, which was co-sponsored by Douglass Friends of UNFPA and the Association of International Relations.
Nomani, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, said the goal of this event, which he has been planning since August, was to teach students about the youth assembly.
“People like Malala and other people who are starting up organizations go to the youth assembly and they try to motivate people — motivate the youth and [show them] how they can … make a difference in the world,” he said.
Bill Yotive, the project manager of the U.N. Global Teaching and Learning Project, and Patrick Sciarratta, the executive director of the Friendship Ambassadors Foundation, spoke at the event.
Yotive has traveled the world working as an advocate for education reform, Nomani said. He is in charge of setting up school curriculums in in many countries, focusing on those that are occupied with other activities like Syria and Iran.
Nomani said Yotive tries to build a foundation for education to prevent students from falling behind academically in civil war-stricken countries.
Yotive said youth has jumped to the top of the U.N. agenda because of the “youth bulge,” or the fact that 20 percent of the United States’ population is between the ages of 15 and 24.
“This is very significant because we now have the largest generation of youth in the history of the world,” he said.
Because of the youth bulge, young people need to be provided with the opportunities, now more than ever, to shape their future, Yotive said.
“They need to be involved in the decision-making process. … They need to be empowered,” he said.
Yotive said the U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has made working with youth one of his top priorities for his second term.
“They key areas that he’s defined are youth unemployment — that’s probably one of the top issues that youth face — entrepreneurship, participation in the decision-making process and protection of rights,” he said.
Yotive said the U.N. has created a program in Germany that gives young people internships in the field they plan on working in during their college education. What they are studying in class can be relevant to where they would be working in the future.
“The U.N. envoy, he is working with governments around the world. … Not only to bring the voice of the U.N. to youth, but as he likes to say, to bring the voice of youth to the U.N.,” he said.
Yotive said the U.N. does not exist to disseminate information about the work of the U.N., but to listen to the youth and incorporate their opinions into decision-making.
Yotive said for the first time, the U.N. is working to form advisory groups of youth that sit in on the meetings of the adult U.N. country teams to share ideas and opinions.
“At the U.N. itself, we have a program called the Youth Delegate Program, where countries are choosing youth representatives to come to the U.N. to … participate in committee meetings, they are reading statements on behalf of their countries,” he said.
Most importantly, these representatives are helping devise the youth agenda of the U.N., Yotive said.
Being the diverse campus that it is, Rutgers has a lot of international students who want to do something for their countries, Nomani said. Students are interested in finding ways to help their families back home.
“We can integrate all these nationalities here at Rutgers and we can have them at this one forum at the Youth Assembly,” he said.
Sciarratta, who helped create the U.N. Youth Assembly program 12 years ago, said the Youth Assembly is a unique platform to begin a dialogue among youth about global development.
“The program focuses in on an aspect of the U.N. Millennium Development Goals … because certainly who is the beyond 2015 agenda at the U.N. for, if not for you,” he said.
Five hundred young people plan to attend at the February youth assembly, Sciarratta said. It is one of the oldest and largest youth leadership events run by the United Nations.
The program is an engaging mixture of U.N. officials, private sector employees and many others from around the world, he said.
Students need to be aware of and actively involved with the world around them, Nomani said.
“It is important for us as students to be involved with world issues, and this would be the perfect forum to try to get some advice and motivation on how to get involved in the world — for any worldly issue that goes on,” he said.