Pietro Pisciotta recounts the The Friendship Ambassador’s 11th Youth Assembly at the UN.

The United Nations, New York, August 25-27, 2015

By Pietro Pisciotta ‘16

It came and went in the blink of an eye, and I am so thankful to have been a part of it. The 2015 Summer Youth Assembly took place from August 5th to the 7th at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City. Making the event even more special was the significance of this year. The year 2015 is the 70th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations.

This year is also the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), set back in the year 2000. With these goals ending, the focus of the UN this year has been on the new Sustainable Development Goals, a new set of goals for the next 15 years. Similar to the original MDGs but now, as the name would suggest, with the goal of sustainability in mind.

In all, approximately 600 delegates, mostly high school and college students, attended. People came from every continent and corner of the world with one goal in mind: promoting the voice of youth in the UN’s Post-2015 Development agenda. This diversity in cultures brought with it a diversity of ideas impossible to achieve in any other forum but the United Nations Youth Assembly. Delegates attended on behalf of NGO’s,  companies, universities (as I did), or just on their own for the amazing experience.

Some of the major themes of the Assembly were to be expected. These were the foremost problems in the world that the Post-2015 Development agenda aims to solve, such as poverty and hunger, gender inequality, and climate change.

But one of the big topics of discussion throughout the conference that may not be expected was youth involvement. In all the cultures and countries represented at this Youth Assembly, time and time again the same concern was expressed by hundreds of delegates: youth may be informed of global issues and may have innovative ideas on how to solve these problems or may just want to get involved to help, but many youth do not know where to start or may not have the resources to make their ideas a reality. This is a problem faced by youth around the world. For many, just getting people to take them seriously is an obstacle in and of itself because of their youth and supposed “inexperience.” For this reason,
the main focus of many of the Assembly’s panel discussions and presentations was on organizations founded and run by youth, some as young as 15, that have dedicated themselves to solving some of the world’s biggest challenges, and doing so by inspiring their fellow youths. Organizations such as Youth Corp and Earth Guardians all had representatives at the Assembly.

The Youth Corp’s mission is, according to their website, “to connect and integrate youth-run organizations, companies and initiatives by employing a global network of said organizations, companies and initiatives in order to realize a more youth-empowered world.” At the Assembly, they were represented by their co-founders and president, all youths, younger even than many of the delegates. They spoke about the challenges they faced in creating their organization and gave helpful advice to anyone seeking to do their part to improve their community and the world.

Another youth group, Earth Guardians, describe themselves as “a tribe of young activists, artists, and musicians from across the globe stepping up as leaders and co-creating the future we know is possible. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” Hearing from their director, Xiuhtezcatl Roske-Martinez, was truly inspiring and one of the highlights of the Assembly for me. Xiuhtezcatl, along with his younger brother, is an environmental activist as well as hip-hop artist, with the focus of their music always being the environment and the desperate need for people to mobilize and save it from the devastating effects of climate change. Despite his age—just 15—environmental activism is nothing new for Xiuhtezcatl. His knowledge of climate change is greater than that of someone twice his age. How much he and his organization have accomplished can be an example to youth all over the world.

This is a brief narrative of the Youth Assembly from my own perspective, my own recollection of the more memorable parts of the Assembly. But this is just one perspective. One perspective out of the hundreds that all learned from different experiences at the Youth Assembly. Such diversity of perspectives brought together for three days in one of the most diverse cities in the world illustrated the power youth can have when united, and that despite the distances travelled and the differences in language or culture, we are much more similar than people realize. We are the future, and it is time we had our voices heard.

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