UN Youth Dialogue
Hosted by UN President of the GA: Mr. Miroslav Lajčák
By Patrick Liu and Lizzie Mcgowan
This one-day event sought to listen to the ideas, needs and concerns of young people on bridging education and skills training with employment in the 21st century, as well as on the prevention of radicalization. The event further aims to galvanize the efforts of many global alliances and initiatives that are empowering young people.
1. Opening Speech from Mr. Miroslave Lajčák - President of the General Assembly
Mr. Lajčák expressed his excitement to listen to the ideas of young people, follow their lead, and take their advice on the world’s most pressing problems. Since young people are the future, it is imperative their ideas and solutions be heard. He stated, “The UN is an organization for the people and the UN is an organization about the people.” Therefore, it must foster dialogue and bring people together. If there is a solution towards improving access to education, jobs, and reducing the risk of extremism and radicalization,then youth engagement is the answer.
2. Speech from Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al-Thani - CEO of Qatar Foundation for Education
Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al-Thani lamented that 263 million children are not in school around the world. Sadly, a vast majority of this number live in areas affected by natural disasters and war. They often have to make difficult decisions choosing between life, death, or education. Not having a stable path to learning can become cyclical and represses children in being agents of change.
Education has the capacity to lift children out of poverty and improve the global economy. The UN ascribes high value to education and ensuring young people have access to it via the Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4). If we cannot educate our youth, there will be a void in minds capable of solving the world's problems. Unfortunately with the 263 million children not in school, the SDG 4 is falling short. That means that a significant number of children are not being equipped with the tools needs to develop their potential and be gainfully employed. Education enables children to be active global citizens and feel entitled to participate in civic engagements.
3. Speech from Mr Pita Taufatofua - Tongan Olympian
Pita Taufatofua offered empowering words to be successful and reach your dreams. He cited that to become a superhero you have to experience failure, dream big, and not to be afraid to struggle. Often times when Olympic athletes win medals and defy the odds they are considered an “overnight success.” The “overnight success” idea is flawed because it diminishes the years of hard work and dedication put in to accomplish your goals. Years of failure, injuries, and at times wanting to quit, is not an overnight process and takes perseverance to get through. In order to succeed in life, you have to accept failure, grow from it and not minimize yourself when you fall short.
4. Speech from Ms. Mari Malek - Model, DJ
Ms. Mari Malek, a renowned South Sudanese model and DJ, and creator of Stand for Education, sought to inspire the audience with her journey of being a refugee and immigrant to the U.S. After fleeing the war and living in an Egyption refugee camp for four year, her family was granted asylum in the U.S. As a child, her mother taught her to never forget where she came from, the importance of education, and to give back to her community. As an activist, she noted the illiteracy rate in South Sudan was 80% and the daunting obstacles children faced in receiving an education. Education can lead to improved quality of life and bring economic opportunities to lift people out of poverty. Through her nonprofit, she seeks to empower underprivileged children and women through education and peacebuilding.
5. Speech from Ms. Jayathma Wickramanayake - Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth
Jayathma Wickramanayake cited that education is the key to prevention and can transform communities. The power of the youth is often underestimated when it comes to finding solutions to problems such as access to education, unemployment and prevention of radicalization. It is often thought that young people should be on the receiving end of policies designed to help them instead of including them in the policy development process. Unfortunately, the power of the youth to change the status quo is often overlooked. Through innovative ways the youth have the power to effect change through creativity and commitment.
6.Performance by Mr. Emmanuel Kelly - Singer and Songwriter
Artists Emmanuel Kelly entertained the audience with his cover of Titanium by David Guetta and Sia and his original song entitled “I will never be alone.” His energetic and inspiring song conveyed his message of hope determination and will power. Originally from Iraq, as a baby he was found in a box and taken to an orphanage. After witnessing the atrocities of war and being shot, he often questioned his purpose in life but always maintained his will to survive and love. Emmanuel. While at the orphanage, he met his guardian Moyra Kelly who took him in and raised him as her own. Love and determination are key to keeping hope alive and not giving up on your dreams. Without these attributes, he would have made it thus far in the entertainment industry, and learned to love himself despite his circumstances in life.
Chat #1 - The future of work: Bridging the gap between education and employment
1.Moderator: Ms. Jamira Burley - Head of Youth Engagement and Skills at Global Business Coalition for Education
Jamira Burley provided insightful words about the youth taking control of their own destiny being the change they want to see in their communities. With gun violence and poor educational infrastructure it is now more critical to address this issue and provide youth with sustainable skills and quality education. She cited Emmanuel Kelly’s cover of “Titanium” as an example of how young people are resilient in difficult situations and find innovative ways to survive man made trauma. Through her advocacy work, she mentors young people on how not to let their circumstances define them and they can, “ be the author of their own stories.” Further, she wants to continue to engage in dialog with today’s young leaders to brainstorm ways for children to not only have access to education, but to have adequate literacy skills to critically think and comprehend.
2. Ms. Shamoy Hajare - Founder of “Jamaica School for Social Entrepreneurship”
Shamoy Hajare addressed the detrimental impact of school not have educating students on the environment and sustainability. Growing up in rural jamaica on a farm, she explained that she always had a connection with nature. However, after finishing college, she was disheartened by difficulties in getting a job; and subsequently, she was unemployed for three years.
Even after receiving good grades and successfully completing school, finding a job was still an arduous task. The tools she learned there were relevant in that her learning was refined, but it did not secure employment, or effectively educate her about how to adequately use the resources on our planet.
Shamoy elaborated that what is not taught in schools is that we, “live in an ecosystem and this ecosystem means that were living on a planet called earth.” Unfortunately, economics dictate resource allocation and almost every aspect of our lives, on the other hand, nature is teaching us that there are limits to how much we can grow and take from the earth. Therefore, it is important to invest in projects that promote sustainability and push for environmental education in schools.
3. Ms. Safaath Ahmen Zahir - Founder of “Women and Democracy”
Safaath Ahmen Zahir stressed the importance of women in leadership and how it is not only a problem in the Maldives and the developing world, but a problem internationally. Since there is a void in women’s leadership, we must think of constructive ways to address this problem. The time is now to find practical solutions and approaches to this issue. In reality the, the core problem is not just one specific factor, rather it is multifocal and complex involving cultural, religious, and gender norms. To find a solution, there must be a collaborative effort to change social norms and formulate policies that are designed to include women in the decision making process.
4. Mr. Mohamed Sidibay - Peace activist, Global Partnership for Education
Mohamed Sidibay, a former child soldier of Sierra Leone told his story of trauma to triumph as he relentlessly pursued his education and defied the odds. After losing his entire family during the civil war, at the age of five years old, he was forced to be a child soldier. However, at age nine with the help of Unicef, he was able to go to school. Though we have hopes and goals like the various SDG initiatives, we still need to do more to help the 263 million children who do not have access to education. Hope is an “essential part of the human race” but it not is reliable phenomena to ensure the barriers to education and inequality are lifted. Every human being has the right to a quality and inclusive education. Further, hope without meaningful and effective action will not bring an end to economic disadvantages and difficulties in obtaining an education.
Chat #2 - Prevention of Radicalization and violent extremism: What are the push and pull factors?
1. Moderator: Mr. Achim Steiner - Administrator of UN Development Programme
Achim Steiner expressed his concerned for marginalized youth, who are prone to be victimized by extremists. These impressionable young minds are easily influenced by jihadists and are perfect targets to be recruited due to their youth. Nonetheless, the international community must come together to get to the root of the problem and find out what causes this kind of marginalization and what makes these groups attractive to join. The problematic narrative that the youth are the problem disregards the notion that policy makers have not adequately addressed their needs. For these reasons, more has to be done to ensure that our youth do not fall prey to manipulative strategies of extremists.
2. Panelist: Ms. Joy Bishara - Student at Southeastern University
Joy Bishara, a survivor of the Chibok schoolgirl kidnapping crisis, cited that respect, love, and care are necessary to make people feel included. Abiding by these principles is necessary to prevent marginalization and extremism because they encourage respect for diverse ethnicities and backgrounds. Having the heart to love one another is a key element of sustaining peace and accepting people who are different. Also being willing to open up to new traditions and not othering people with different skin tones and religions can prevent marginalization and make people feel included.
3. Panelist: Dr. Siniša Vuković - Assistant Professor for Conflict Management Program and Global Policy Program at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced Studies
Dr. Siniša Vuković proclaimed that we are all social beings and that it is normal for people to want to identify with a group. Saliency of identity is one of the main factors in mobilizing the formation of groups. According to Dr. Vuković this means, “that the more you believe, the more you are being told, the more you are being raised into believing, that you are treated.” This causes people to fear, dislike, and be suspicious of the “other.” As a consequence, we have the in group/ out group factor that gets exploited by extremists and terrorists. The group, which lures you in, acts as a substitute for your family when social structures fail. Therefore, it is imperative that young people question the conditions they were raised in, not fight the battles of their ancestors, and chart their own path to venture outside of their cultural and ethnic norms.
4. Panelist: Mr. Farea Al-Muslimi - Co-Founder of “Sanaa Center for Strategic Studies”
Farea Al- Muslimi, like his fellow panelists, contended that to ensure inclusion, we must respect each other’s cultural and racial differences. People often view cultural diversity as a problem rather than looking to tolerance and acceptance as a means to be more inclusive. In terms of terrorism, the focus is on fighting terrorists instead of addressing the root cause of extremism.
In many countries around the world, young people live in societies where there are imbalanced restrictions and freedoms. For example, in Lebanon, at the age of 18, you can drink, smoke, and drive a car, but you cannot vote. These rules indicate that young people do not have control of their own destiny and are not trusted in the political process. However, when joining an extremists organization, you are trusted with an AK 47 and given a sense of free will. Given these points, including young people in the political process and finding ways to be more socially inclusive can result in less marginalization.
Open Mic Session
Willie Conrad Asseko of Gabon proclaimed that it's important to promote entrepreneurship among youth. Youth participation in Sports can promote management and logistical skills. The skills learned in sports are transferable and provide youth tools for employment to have their eventually have their own businesses and perform well in the classroom.
Tommaso Murè of Italy explained how non-formal education is crucial in preventing extremism. This kind of education focuses more of social and moral education. The aforementioned attributes cause students to have better problem solving and conflict resolution skills.
Farah Ghodsinia of The Philippines displayed a poster made from young people in Mindanao on how they view peace. The poster featured various pictures that reflected surviving violence and extremism. HeThey cited walking home without being shot and not living in fear as true peace and living happily at home with their families..