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the un at 70: working together to make a difference

A UN Department of Public Information NGO BRIEFING at the UN Headquarters in New York on 22 October 2015 was organized to celebrate the relationship between the UN and NGOs representing civil society over the past 70 years. 

In the two-part panel, there was a reflection of past accomplishments, and a vision crafted for the future of the partnership.

The program began with a short video stressing the accomplishments of the UN over 70 years. Then H.E. Mogen Lykketoff of Denmark, President of the 70th Session of the UN General Assembly, talked about how member states cannot tackle the challenges of the 21st century alone. It takes all stakeholders- government, business, civil society, youth, etc.- to come up with creative ideas, set strategic plans, help to implement said plans and finally to measure successes to insure that the UN continues to deliver on its mandate in the years to come.

Representatives of three NGOs which were present at the signing of the UN charter were invited to reflect upon their organizational focus and how they influenced the UN’s mission at the start and through the years. Those NGOs were the Lions Club International, Rotary International and the League of Women Voters.

Then three extraordinary youth representatives presented their dream as they looked 70 years into the future on what they might contribute. They spoke of how their grasp of developing technology and social media could dramatically influence information and communication, promote education, empower those without a voice, and their energy would inspire rapid action in an interconnected world. Youth cannot be detached from the process; they must be in on the planning from the start and their ideas must be valued and trusted. 

They used the word trust often. These young people do not want to be ONLY beneficiaries but rather, they want access throughout the process to become change agents. The UN must tap into their power.

An audience member spoke of the importance of inter-generational relations, sharing ideas across generations so that creative new ideas are balanced with the experience of their older partners. It was suggested that every group, government, and the UN itself must organize these inter-generational partnerships.

The youth demographic is growing by leaps and bounds globally. Out of the world’s 7 billion inhabitants, 1.8 billion are youth. Their numbers can make a huge, positive difference if their creativity is utilized. Governments must adopt a clear and strategic youth policy. 

Interestingly, it was suggested that youth remain in that demographic category for just a few years before they move on into adulthood. During that time, we must capture their enthusiasm, connect them with youth peers and inter-generational partnerships so they are not marginalized. Soon they will be contributing grand ideas locally but thinking globally.

It was a very motivating session and a fine celebration!