International Young Leaders Assembly Convenes at the United Nations, Supports New ‘Sustainable Development Goal’ Agenda

Eric Olsen
August 25, 2015

More than 1000 young professionals, entrepreneurs, social activists, and student leaders representing 115 countries gathered in the United Nations General Assembly Hall in New York on August 18, 2015 to discuss youth’s role in solving pressing global issues as the fifteen-year UN Millennium Development Goal target period comes to an end.

The International Young Leaders Assembly at the United Nations.

The UN assembly convened on the last day of the ten-day International Young Leaders Assembly (IYLA), which included forums and briefings at the World Bank and Capitol Hill in Washington DC and the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.

President of the World Trade and Development Group and director of the office of Government Relations for the Global Peace Foundation John Dickson opened with an explanation of the significance of this event and the rare opportunity the attendees had, as this year marks a number of landmarks for the United Nations—the seventieth anniversary of its founding, fifteenth anniversary of the creation of the UN Millennium Development Goals and five-year mark of the naming of the Secretary General’s Youth Envoy.

(Top to bottom): Federico Gonzalez, Ambassador of Paraguay to UN; Amb. Ahmad Alhendawi, UN Secretary General’s Youth Envoy; Arthur Kafeero, Chief of Staff of the Office of GA; Rabee Karkar, Global Advisor on Youth for UN Habitat.

Speaker Federico Gonzalez, Ambassador of Paraguay to the United Nations, brought attention to the upcoming sustainable development agenda, telling delegates that “in a few weeks’ time over 170 heads of state will be right here sitting right where you are again [engaging] with the future, with your generation, while they adopt the development agenda post 2015.”

Gonzalez noted that there are 1.8 billion young people in the world, the largest generation of young people in history, and that “the international community must put young people at the center of the [sustainable development] agenda.”

In a video message, Ambassador Ahmad Alhendawi, the Secretary General’s Youth Envoy, affirmed the same sentiments, saying that the current generation “is facing a multitude of challenges that we cannot ignore, and young people must have a say in the decisions that are affecting their future.” That is why an assembly such as the IYLA is extremely important, he added, giving young people the space to debate global issues and find solutions to some of these challenges.

Addressing the theme of the assembly, “Moral and Innovative Leadership: Vision, Service and Entrepreneurship,” Arthur Kafeero, Chief of Staff of the Office of the General Assembly, expressed the essence of moral leadership as “driven by a profound sense of ethics and values in the pursuit of a greater goal.”

Kafeero, speaking on behalf of the President of the UN General Assembly, H.E. Sam Kahamba Kutesa, called for a new generation of moral leaders who can inspire change and be a “transformative force” that will turn sustainable development into reality. He added that “the complexity of our global challenges calls for a new generation of moral leaders. We need innovators and problem solvers who can inspire positive change in their societies.”

Also expressing that youth values-based leadership is key in the implementation of the new sustainable development goals, Rabee Karkar Global Advisor on Youth for UN Habitat, said, “In 1936 the UN put youth’s role in peacebuilding at the forefront after WWI and fast forward to 2030 . . . we should be overcoming social injustice and celebrating diversity and equality!”

Global Peace Foundation International President James Flynn drew attention to the twenty-first century’s rapid technological advances that are leaving ethical development behind. “Our most pressing challenge today is an ethical one,” he said. “Our technology can gather massive data and our browsing habits and consumer preferences but cannot help us to understand each other, to respect each other or to forgive each other.”

(Top to bottom): James Flynn, GPF International President; Bella Hule, World Trade Center Association Exec. Vice President; Dedi Mulyadi, Mayor of the West Java Province; Poonam Ahluwalia, Executive Director of Youth Trade

Flynn cited the danger in this growing “values-deficit” as it gives rise to radical groups like ISIS that “provide persuasive, deeply flawed certainty” in an increasingly uncertain world. He explained that sustainable peace can be actualized when people understand the simple but profound message that we are all one family under God.

Giving young leaders some practical advice on how to become successful in their endeavors, World Trade Center Association Executive Vice President Bella Hule emphasized the importance of networking. She said to seek informational interviews, create business cards, stay connected with contacts they meet and “never ever stop networking.”

Dedi Mulyadi, Mayor of the West Java Province, Indonesia expressed the importance of democracy and empowerment of Indonesian youth in understanding culture and history. He explained that youth must understand the whole country, from rural villages to big cities, to create real economic growth and prosperity, and this point has been forgotten by Indonesian youth.

Focusing on the importance of entrepreneurship, Poonam Ahluwalia, Executive Director of Youth Trade and YES, highlighted “conscious capitalism” in helping youth develop and create a living. She had the young leaders hold each other’s hands and imagine the world they wanted and explained, “Only with love can we create a future that we all deserve.”

A high level youth plenary followed that highlighted successful young change-makers and their stories. They in turn encouraged fellow young leaders to follow their hearts and take risks in the pursuit of a goal worth fighting for—a world of lasting peace.

The IYLA is co-convened by the Global Peace Foundation and the Global Young Leaders Academy, with support from the lead partner Permanent Mission of Paraguay, the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy on Youth, and Air Canada. IYLAs have also been hosted in Paraguay, Thailand, Nepal and Mongolia.

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