APR 19 EDITIONInternational Affairs

Youths Take On Global Development Challenges

By: Charles Ojugbana Jnr

The 23rd Session of the Youth Assembly held in New York University, kicked off with the Opportunities Fair, an exclusive opportunity for all delegates to navigate and build upon connections that matter. Participants used the avenue to meet and connect with each other ahead of the conference. Delegates also got acquainted with admission representatives from some of the best prestigious educational institutions in the United States to learn about their program offerings and opportunities for higher education. There were also group and individual interaction with notable organisations who were looking for youth talents and support for their campaigns and initiatives.

Some parcipants at the recent UN Youth Assembly in New York

The evening of the Opening Ceremony held at Hunter College featured over 1,000 delegates representing close to 100 countries started off with musical performances and inspirational talks. The keynote speeches came from the Representative of the UN Secretary General and Head of the UN in Belgrade, Ms Simona-Mirela Miculescu, the Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations & Head of the New York Office, Mr Satya S. Tripathi and the President of the African Renaissance and Diaspora Network/Coordinator of the UN Senior Africans Group, Dr Djibril Diallo On the Assembly’s second day, activists, diplomats, entrepreneurs, and academics joined delegates in discussing pressing development issues and specific regional needs. It involved break-out sessions that centred on Education, Gender Equality, Economic Growth, Peace & Justice, Social Inclusion , Social Entrepreneurship, Innovation, Climate Change and why community-based solutions are the most effective. Panellists and youth delegates exchanging ideas aimed at fostering a better world for the global community.

A cross section of Youth Ambassadors at the UN Assembly

A number of key speakers from different world organisations partnered with The Youth Assembly to deliver ground breaking solutions on areas that affect each continent. On behalf of the Friendship Ambassadors Foundation, The Executive Director Mr Andrew Macdonald gave a special vote of thanks that ended with the assertion “Make no mistake, the youth will carry on the work, whether they are included or not.” The impact of this Conference and its tireless commitment to empowering youth for sustainable development will be felt far beyond the walls of the conference rooms as all delegates are now a part of a global community of young change makers whose voices will resonate at the 24th Session coming up in August at Washington DC.

MAJOR HIGHLIGHTS OF THE 23RD YOUTH ASSEMBLY

•      Speakers and Representatives of different World Organisations were present.

•      Nigerian artist Korede Bello was among the Nigerian delegates of the 23rd Youth Assembly and performed at the Closing ceremony.

•      Nigeria and Brazil had the highest number of Delegates present

•      Certificates were presented to every delegate before the closing ceremony

The Youth Assembly will now be held at different locations starting with the 24th Summer Session to be held at Washington DC, USA in August 2019.

The YA 23 Partners & Educators

•      United Nations

•      UNDP

•      UNICEF

•      UN Department of Global Communications

•      UN Foundation

•      UN Girls Education Initiative

•      World Bank Group

•      Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN)

•      Idealist

•      Civics

•      Schwarzman Scholars

•      New York University

•      Boston University

•      The Climate Reality Project

•      International Center for Non Violent Conflict (ICNC)

•      Institute for Economics & Peace

AT THE AFRICAN ROUND-TABLE BREAK OUT SESSION

Theme: A Continent on the Move Speakers and Panelists from notable organisations were present including the likes of Dr. Djibril Diallo, President of the African Renaissance and Diaspora Network who is also the Coordinator of the U.N. Senior Africans Group, Tabitha Mpamira-Kaguri, Founder and Executive Director, EDJA Foundation, Alexandra Raymond, Principal Account Manager, International Rescue Committee and AW Worku, Founder and Executive Director, Seeds of Africa.

Dr. Djibril Diallo, President African Renaissance & Diaspora Network

The well-attended breakout session was a two hour event with special focus on Africa which was described as a continent on the move. Pressing issues like poverty, gender inequality, conflict and violence prevention, human rights, social inclusion, political rule and oppression (Zimbabwe and Nigeria as case studies), lack of good or no education in rural areas, female genital mutilation (FGM), sexual and domestic violence and women empowerment where discussed in detail. One major topic that stood out was the education and empowerment of women with the SDG index showing the likes of Africa and Asia having a high percentage of girls out of school.

Gender inequality also featured as a fundamental problem that most African countries face today and empowering the girl child was identified as the smart and right thing to do across the continent. One of the core targets in the United Nations push for reduced inequalities around the world (especially in Africa) is the achievement of equal rights and opportunities for women and girls.

Excited youths at the Assembly

Gender parity means more than just the end of discrimination against women, and often involves addressing structural issues such as misogynistic social norms and developing legal frameworks that promote equality for women. Progress is being made in this field, and awareness is growing with the Me Too and Time’s Up movements, but there is still a long way to go. The gender pay gap is still prevalent and sometimes wide around the world, large percentages of women report having experienced at least one incident of sexual abuse in almost all countries, and in global politics, only 23% of parliamentarians are women. Even worse, there are 650 million women worldwide who were married in childhood, and in 30 countries a third of girls are subjected to female genital mutilation Africa presents some of the greatest challenges on the sustainable development agenda, but also some of the most exciting opportunities.

Participants in attentive mode during a session at the Conference

The share of those living in poverty has declined, but estimates still put extreme poverty rates at 40-50%, while the absolute number of those living in poverty has been rising as populations grow. Moreover, an estimated 25% live in hunger, and one in three children do not have access to education, an issue that is especially prevalent among girls. Indeed, social inclusion and equal rights for minority groups is also a highly pressing concern across the continent. Worse yet, several countries, such as Somalia, South Republic of the Congo remain in the midst of intense violence and conflict. Nevertheless, though many African countries rank among the world’s poorest, recent years have also seen countries such as Ethiopia, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal and Tanzania dominate the leadership boards of fastest growing economies in the world, while many major companies see the continent as promising for the future.

Nigeria’s music star, Korede Bello in a group photograph with some members of the Youth Assembly

In certain countries, improved governance, urbanization, new technology and a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation are bringing positive change at ever greater speeds. In addition, Africa’s 54 countries are increasingly trying to work together, particularly through the African Union and the United Nations. Youth Delegates were given an in depth knowledge of some of these pressing issues that affect Africa and how they can provide solutions and various steps to end some of these inequalities. The Youths need to work closely with each other and be empowered to impact their communities through social inclusion, participation in meaningful social and political harnessing the power of technology and innovation, investment, opportunities, skill building and the need for greater infrastructure and learning opportunities. However, the government and other organisations need to protect and respect the rights of young people who are agents of change in their various communities.

Long-term pressing issues were also analysed, with exploration of how progress can be made and new ideas implemented. At the same time, the potential of new technology and other opportunities were assessed as to to their realistic chances of making an impact. In addition, delegates were shown how other regions and countries can assist Africa, through trade, foreign direct investment, aid and development assistance.

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