Youth Empowerment: But How?
Imagine a long queue of over 1,000 young people in front of the United Nations (UN) headquarters in midtown Manhattan on Feb. 14. The group consisted of people who had travelled from more than 70 countries: a group so mesmerizingly diverse that some of them had even traveled for 48 hours to get there. What made their journey so mind-numbingly irrational was that their trip would only last three days. After that, they would have to undergo the same flight procedure. Now, you might be wondering why anyone would fly such long distance for merely three days? Well, the specific answer to this question might vary from one attendee to another, but what most of them had in common, including myself, was a desire to witness an idealistic project: youth empowerment.
The 21st UN Youth Assembly looked like oversized conference rooms and unfamiliar faces -- professionals in business attire, sitting above the city in a high rise grayish skyscraper. To give a brief overview, Youth Assembly is a platform founded by Friendship Ambassadors Foundations that welcomes more than 1,000 youth activists between the ages of 16 to 28 across the globe in order to foster team building and networking along the lines of youth empowerment. Due to the limited number of youth delegates they can accept, every applicant has to undergo a certain procedure where each candidate must specify how they can contribute to and promote global development.
The assembly’s opening ceremony commenced with a speech from one of the five keynote speakers, H.E. Mr. Miroslav Lajčák, purposefully engaging the audience with big words and ideas: youth empowerment, global growth, ending poverty.
The youth involvement is, without a doubt, essential in improving the global standard of living. However, no matter how knowledgeable and enthusiastic we can be in our rhetoric, the barrier that we face as outsiders is improving our rhetoric without dwelling on its specific roots. In other words, we have mastered the art of using big words to make ourselves marketable without feeling the need to work towards global prosperity. This may not be our fault, because the adults — whether in power or not — have historically been known to hamper the youth in participating in the decision-making process that might affect their communities.
Along the lines of this status quo, it was clear that the keynote speakers unintentionally implied the same status quo in their claims. Although stating big words like the necessity of youth engagement captivates our attention as young people, it is nevertheless futile unless the adults in power change their mindset by ceasing to cast a shadow on our enthusiasm, finally incorporating the youth in the decision-making process.