An international group of young people have held in June the Seminar on global participation organised by Youth Act – EDIW in New York during which, among other activities, they have visited the UN headquarters.
In the midst of a world so torn by violence, indifference, division..., a light shines in New York City with the arrival of an international group of young adults from Brazil, Portugal, Chile, Mexico, Spain, US, Italy –and Bolivia and Peru joining online– committed to the task of building a better world with more sustainable societies, in their countries of origin. They are attending a Youth Act seminar –a project of EDIW (Education for an Interdependent World) with an invitation to visit and experience the role of the United Nations in the world.
We are given some guiding questions, for our work these days:
- Is the UN the Icon for democratic values today?
- 9/11: challenge for diversity?
- Does civil society have a voice in decision making at a global level?
- Immigration, inclusion and participation, is it possible?
Brahim Lehib Mohamed, from Spain, says: “From the word go there was a connectedness among us... perhaps because we all shared the same objectives, the same spirit: our common desire to contribute to making this world a better place for all... even in spite of our diverse origins, ethnic background and beliefs.”
The first day of the seminar was dedicated to learning about the UN, starting the seminar experience with a reflection from former UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold at the meditation room within the UN headquarters. We spent the whole day at the UN main headquarters beginning with a comprehensive tour which provided us with basic information about the UN, its mission, its organizational structure, etc.
“It is impressive that it is the only forum in the world where peace and security, human rights and development are debated by all countries in the world. I was excited, honored, and humbled to step into the same space where all countries come together”, says Lizelle Marcial, from Chicago, USA.
The tour was followed by time to process the information received at the personal level, small group and plenary sharing of learnings, and ways forward.
The group met with diplomats from Spain, Mexico and Italy at their different permanent missions (embassies) close to the UN Headquarters.
“It was an incredible experience … I was inspired by the work of these diplomats.”, says Eli Ampo, from Chicago, USA.
And Allen Bueno Magsino from Italy concurs. “Thanks to the face-to-face meetings we had with these diplomats, I understood better what the role of the UN in our society is, and learned that we cannot have any effective action without a continuous dialogue.”
“If anything defines today’s times, it is the abundance of information”, says Ambassador María Bassols, Deputy Ambassador of the UN Permanent Mission of Spain, about which Clara Medeiros from Brazil comments: “The information we access forms our opinions and the decisions that affect our own lives and that of others. This is why is so important to develop critical and analytical thinking, to process the information by checking the data and the sources…The invitation of the Ambassador to confront misinformation, reminded me of the work we have done in Youth Act, as I realized the importance and the challenge to be well informed, to analyze carefully and to pass information in a coherent and responsible manner.”
An essential aspect of participation, a central theme of Youth Act, is the element of inclusion. We had an opportunity to go to Ellis Island, an immigrant inspection and processing station from 1892 to 1954, and now a Museum, where nearly 12 million immigrants were processed to enter the US. We also visited Covenant House, a center for homeless youth, and met with undocumented students at a university center.
“It was an encounter of different realities, different cultures, different generations… an ongoing invitation to seek the necessary changes towards a more just society, knowing that all efforts –individual or communal– are worthwhile, as we are in touch with so many, in so many parts of the world.” says Andrea Sanhuenza, from Chile.
And Laura Pulido, from Chicago, USA says: “I enjoyed meeting with diverse persons, from across the globe, all of whom were very interested in making an impact in their respective communities”.
And Sara Cascais, from Portugal says: “We went back to our countries more empowered and with more hope … It was a moment to recognize that the future of our world is in our hands, and that it is important to walk together.”
“This Seminar, among other things, helped me to realize the importance of the role and participation of an organized civil society to lead in the necessary changes for the good of all. We cannot leave everything to governments, but we need to participate actively… we must promote a culture of encounter, of embracing diversity” annotate Esther Villacetin Estrada, from Mexico.
“If I had to summarize this experience, I would say: New York is the city beyond comparison, unique. We enjoyed wonderful days filled with opportunities for learning... we discussed different aspects of democracy, immigration, and the role of the UN in the world… No doubt that experiences like this help us to grow individually and with others as well, in realizing the fundamental responsibility we have in our society, helping to build a society which has values and who is committed to the common good.”, adds Alba Maria Rubio Rosa, from Spain.
And to close this reflection of the extraordinary experience we had as Youth Act - EDIW in New York…“This seminar was once in a lifetime learning experience, living the processes and procedures of democracy at the global level, and exchanging ideas, encouragement and knowledge with my peers. I look forward to applying all I learned at the local level, so that I may positively impact my own community”, says Karina Crespo, fromMiami, USA.
Patricia Stockton and youth participants.