UN Assembly Urges Young Leaders from 72 Countries to Tackle Global ‘Values Deficit Disorder’

Eric Olsen
August 22, 2013

Forum Hosted by 22 UN Permanent Missions

International Young Leaders Assembly participants, United Nations, New York

Addressing a forum of youth leaders at the United Nations in New York on Thursday, August 22, Global Peace Foundation International President James Flynn urged participants to address the pressing global “Values Deficit Disorder.”

“The greatest challenge today,” he told the young professionals and student leaders filling UN Conference room 2, “is the ethical challenge.”

“Technology is value-neutral,” he continued. “Whether it brings benefit or destruction depends on the framework of values you act from. What moral compass guides our decision-making makes all the difference.”

Over 600 young leaders from 72 countries registered for the forum at the UN, part of a nine-day program on the theme “Moral and Innovative Leadership: Vision, Entrepreneurship, and Service.” Organizers said the IYLA aims to foster collaboration on strategies for sustainable peace and economic development and to promote a model of leadership based on a vision of one human family transcending boundaries of race, ethnicity, and religion.

The assembly is being sponsored by the Global Peace Foundation, Global Peace Youth Corps, Global Young Leaders Academy, and Points of Light Foundation. The UN convening was hosted by the Permanent Missions of 22 nations, with the Paraguay Permanent Mission to the UN serving as lead sponsor.

Indonesia’s Ambassador to the UN, H.E. Mr Desra Percaya; and Former Permanent Representative of Kenya to the UN, Ambassador Josephine Ojiambo address the IYLA at the United Nations.

Indonesia’s Ambassador to the UN, H.E. Mr. Desra Percaya, and Former Permanent Representative of Kenya to the UN, Ambassador Josephine Ojiambo, also greeted participants. “We, the present generation, are borrowing the world from you,” the Indonesian Ambassador said. “Youth have always been at the forefront of change. The voices of 1.2 billion youth in the world must be taken into account very seriously, as key and equal stakeholders.”

Ambassador Ojimbo call the young leaders “facilitators of change” who are closely involved with their communities. “You can act as facilitators with your peers,” she said.

UN Youth Envoy Cites Growing influence, Responsibility of Youth

The Youth Assembly highlights significant demographic changes in recent decades that underscore the growing influence of youth, particularly in the developing world.  In Africa (both Sub-Saharan and North Africa), nearly 70 percent of the population is under 30, with the proportion of young people between the ages of 12 and 24 expected to rise from 18 per cent in 2012 to 28 percent by 2040 according to a World Bank study.

In 2011—designated as the International Year of Youth by the United Nations—the General Assembly held a high-level meeting, “Youth: Dialogue and Mutual Understanding,” to address the important role that youth play in issues of peace and security and economic development. In January 2013, Secretary Ban Ki-moon appointed Mr. Ahmad Alhendawi, a Jordanian born in 1984, as the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth. The appointment aims to advance a Five-Year Action Agenda, “Working with and for Women and Young People,” which emphasizes reducing poverty and unemployment through entrepreneurship and service.

In an address at the IYLA High Level plenary, Mr. Alhendawi said that “today we have the largest ever generation of young people on the planet–1.8 billion people. We need to create 425 million new jobs over the next 15 years. Consequently we need entrepreneurship—for the UN, governments and the private sector to work together.

Mr. Ahmad Alhendawi, the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth and Ms. Loida Lewis, former Chair and CEO of TLC Beatrice International, discuss the importance of vision and entrepreneurship as a path for success.

“Government can no longer be about the provision of services to youth, Mr. Alhendawi said, “but must work in partnership and with the active participation of young people. Unemployment is not just about incomes and economics. Staying at home with nothing to do is psychologically damaging.”

The importance of entrepreneurship in addressing underdevelopment was also highlighted at the Assembly. Ms. Loida Lewis, former Chair and CEO of TLC Beatrice International, described three qualities that make a successful entrepreneur: inner disposition, intelligent money management, and wisdom and discernment.

“You create your own heaven or hell by your own mental attitude and code of conduct,” she said. “You also need to know how to count. If your income is $1000 and you are spending $1200, you can’t count.”

Wisdom and discernment, she said, comes from God. “Every day take time to get in touch with the divine guidance that resides inside you. Just as you do with your loved ones, develop a deeper and deeper relationship with a Higher Being. And act on the basis of the discernment you gain.”

Following the high level plenary, university students and young professionals from diverse backgrounds shared perspectives on service, entrepreneurship and shared values as members of the human family at a Young Leaders Panel.

Following the UN forum, the IYLA will host a program on America’s founding values at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. At the U.S. Capitol and the World Bank in Washington, IYLA participants will meet and interact with policy makers in areas of poverty reduction and entrepreneurship and will attend at the 50th anniversary celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic ‘I Have a Dream’ speech at the Lincoln Memorial.

For more information on the International Young Leaders Assembly visit www.iyla.info.

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