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International Assembly Addresses Moral and Innovative Youth Leadership at the United Nations

Young leaders gather at the United Nations for the IYLA Global Youth Summit
Young leaders gather at the United Nations headquarters in New York City during the
2018 International Young Leaders Assembly

Over four hundred people joined the 2018 International Young Leaders Assembly (IYLA) Global Summit at the United Nations headquarters in New York City on August 14. Convened by Global Peace Foundation (GPF), Global Young Leaders Assembly, and the World Assembly of Youth, the 2018 IYLA Global Summit was hosted by the Permanent Mission of Uganda to the United Nations. Ambassador Philip Odida, Deputy Head welcomed the delegation, “The energy that we feel in this room is totally amazing – to be confronted with youth from all over the world full of aspirations, full of dreams, full of potentials, full of possibilities. The agenda is not that you are for the future but that you are actually the leaders for today.”

Twelve delegates from Uganda, many of whom were newly appointed political leaders who also attended the Global Peace Leadership Conference in Kampala, joined the summit. Head of the delegation, Hon. Jacob L’Okori Oulanyah, Deputy Speaker of the Uganda Parliament implored youth, “An opportunity of a lifetime will be seized upon the lifetime of that opportunity. That opportunity is here, and it is now. Let it not pass. Find your purpose and serve it.”

Representatives from the UN host mission, summit co-conveners and additional partners addressed the theme “Moral and Innovative Leadership for Peace and Development.” The panel echoed the importance of leadership in the rising generation. Secretary General of the World Assembly of Youth, a recent co-convener for the IYLA, emphasized, “A moral leader always seeks for a larger purpose, the greater good of the whole, and upholds the noble qualities of humanity in the leadership that they hold.”

Capt. Shinwon Moon speaks to the IYLA at the United Nations headquarters
Captain Shinwon Moon speaking at the Global Youth Summit at the United Nations

President of GPF James Flynn deferred his speaking role to Retired Captain of the U.S. Army Shinwon Moon, son of the founder and chairman of GPF, Dr. Hyun Jin Preston Moon, who touched on the moral and innovative aspect of leadership by conveying his motivation to serve the military like those before him who fought against tyranny and injustice for the greater good of the world in pursuit of peace. He also explained how humanity’s God-given creative nature can help advance the human condition and challenge existing paradigms to bring greater advances and freedoms to the world.

The Captain spoke on his personal experiences on the frontlines of Afghanistan in the city of Kandahar. Out of his own initiative, he and his men eventually spent months to set up a school in Sangsar, the “birthplace of the Taliban” where there were no schools in the district. With the challenges of conflict oftentimes breeding the next generation of fighters, the school presented the structure and stability needed to prevent the children from following in the footsteps of those before them.

Capt. Moon shared, “After emerging from the crucible of war, I have internalized a core conviction that all people – regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, or socio-economic status – are all members of one human family… This core conviction can be encapsulated in a single statement: One Family under God.” He recognized the power and applicability of this vision across all fields that can be the common vision that guides the rising generation of moral and innovative leaders.

“In order to problem solve and address some of the challenges that we’ve been talking about today, we need all kinds of players, all kinds of partners. We need to work together.”

Gina Tesla, Vice President of IBM Corporate Citizenship, shared her own journey into the corporate world after her time in Peace Corps. She found her personal strengths and passions that eventually led her to her current position. “I knew that I could find my place at the intersection of business and society. In order to problem solve and address some of the challenges that we’ve been talking about today, we need all kinds of players, all kinds of partners. We need to work together.”

IYLA delegates await the Global Youth Summit at the United Nations
International delegates stand outside the United Nations
awaiting the IYLA summit

The latter portion of the event invited young leaders who also provided their insights and thoughts to their peers. Robert Lee, co-founder of Rescuing Leftover Cuisine, underscored the importance of starting small. He recounted his college years and thinking about how he can tackle age-old issues like poverty and hunger. “We all have a role to play in solving problems around us. The little things add up, just as a drizzle does in the rain, so that the little things amount to a big thing.”

In the face of such globally significant institutions, Digital Governance Consultant for the World Bank Group Osama Alsaleh encouraged the young people to be part of the solution. “I urge you not to be skeptical of these large multilateral institutions. Rather, join them so that we have a voice; we have an impact there.” IYLA Global Ambassador and Life Foundation Malaysia Founder Vikneswaran Raj echoed that sentiment, “Leadership is not about wielding authority. It’s about empowering people, creating opportunities for others. Our voices can be amplified at boardrooms and the corridors of power. How are we going to use that strength? Because we are the grassroots. We can bring about receptive change with innovative change.”

Indeed, young people are the present and the future. What is done today can have tremendous implications for generations to come. Collectively, amazing things can be achieved. Hon. Oulayah reminded the audience, “Nobody wins until we all do. That should be our focus. Winning alone is selfish. Winning together is humanity. Ubuntu means ‘I am because you. I am because we are. I am not because I am.’ I am because humanity is.”

The 2018 International Young Leaders Assembly was made possible through the partnership with Senator John McCain of the US Congress, American Red Cross, U.S. Department of State, Korean Economic Institute, World Bank Youth to Youth Community, Heritage Foundation, National Constitution Center, Mayor Wilson Goode, EastWest Institute, United Nations Department of Public Information, International Business Machines Corporation, the United Nations permanent missions of Uganda, Ireland, Kenya, Mongolia, Nepal, Paraguay, Philippines, the Republic of Korea and United Kingdom.