So, why the YA at all?
I suppose this is where I should begin regarding the annual Youth Assembly at the United Nations. This event has been so very meaningful to so many people… Well, you can read all the accolades from the UN types down to the delegates themselves, and so many others in between at http://faf.org/unyouthassembly/ya_home.htm.
But why did we begin this and what is its merit today?
Do you that nearly 90% of all Americans have never heard of the 8 UN Millennium Development Goals? Do you know how difficult it is for youth to get involved at UN Headquarters? Do you know how ‘opaque’ the UN system is to most of us, worldwide?
Well, these were some of my reasons to work on a project that would invite youth into a process where they could help find ways to make those goals a reality.
I do not believe that older folks in the developed world care enough about the MDGs. Only the youth see this as their future now, and only they will be able to ensure their ultimate success. I do not think that the people of the developing world have the ability to realize the MDGs on their own; once again, it will fall to the youth worldwide in the developed world to assure that they have the means and the partnerships to see the MDGs through to a successful realization.
I never wanted to create just another conference, where people would feel good, inspired even, then return home and forget about everything they did here. Like so many other conferences before this one ….
So, we made an Assembly, where young people could come and be part of a movement, a campaign, that they would create and be responsible for. Like the Clinton Global Initiative, I want the youth who attend to be witness to the situations that give rise to the need for the MDGs and to commit to creating the ways to finding its success.
I want us to meet as one global family, just like the UN itself is and commit that in our own limited ways, we will work together and make the world a better place. This is how peace is gained: not by nice words and sweet sentiments, but by actions that develop the underdeveloped, level the playing fields, and provide hope to those parts of our family who are hopeless now.
Many UN critics state that the UN does not do enough, does not accomplish all the goals it sets out for itself, and seems to be at odds with itself more than acting in harmony toward these specific goals. To this, I say: of course. It reflects a typical family. Who among us does NOT have a dysfunctional family, who among us has a family that achieves all its goals in orderly fashion? And, so, why would we expect the UN to be any different?
I see the UN like a welcoming parents’ house; it is where we all can feel comfortable visiting but we may not all agree once we sit down to the table. So what? That is life – and this is our chance to be at the table – and that is the important part. A good and giving life is not about songs of Kumbya and love. It is about hard work and commitment to making tomorrow better than today.
That is the mission of each Youth Assembly at the UN. That is why youth must not only attend but commit to MDG success while here and once they return home. Each one of us is a useless island all alone, but together we form a global campaign for action; together we can envision the better world, the more peaceful one we all hope to see. And yet, alone, we also benefit personally from attending this event each year: meeting new people, networking with youth delegates from over 40 countries, being in New York at UN Headquarters and perhaps meeting our own Ambassadors there. There is so much personal benefit here, while focused always on the global benefits of the MDGs. That is probably what I love most about the UN and think others find exciting about it too: by putting our needs behind those of our brothers and sisters, by making them Point A and we Point B, we actually help ourselves, too. We improve our understanding, capability for concern and care, and by helping those much more needy than ourselves, we also consistently help ourselves to be better, to meet better people, and to grow. Through others. Ah, life. It is so complicated and yet so simple: help others and help oneself, come from far away to benefit those closest to home, become a bit dysfunctional in order to find the order within the community of humans on this planet.
I hope to see you at the YA in January. For those who wish to create and do and live and learn and help the world become the better place they would want to grow old in, where else would you want to be this January 20 and 21? For me, I cannot think of a better place.
Welcome to the YA; see you all next month!
P.S. To learn more, go to http://faf.org/unyouthassembly/ya_home.htm!