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YES Alumna Promotes Youth Voices at UN

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This article by Razan Alaqil (YES 2014-15, Saudi Arabia, hosted with FLAG in North Carolina) was recently published in the Arab News.

Over the past few weeks, social media has been buzzing with news of the preparations ahead of the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly, also known as UNGA week. It opened last week and was the start of the most important meeting in the world as leaders came together to discuss international issues.

The General Assembly sees 275 events take place at the UN headquarters and around New York City, with the participation of leaders of all government sectors. The topics to be covered include: Conflict and migration, economic development, climate and environment, education, health, and youth leadership.

To be very specific, I will focus on youth involvement at the UN. Last Tuesday, the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, Jayathma Wickramanayake, attended the launch of the organization’s New Youth Strategy, known as “Youth2030.”

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After a meeting of the UN Inter-Agency Network on Youth Development in March, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres directed the organization to draft a new youth strategy. With different agencies involved, and several meetings deliberating the content of the strategy, one of the main factors focused on during these negotiations was youth engagement.

The strategy was endorsed by Guterres during his executive meetings on June 22, and it was agreed that it would be released during the UNGA high-level week. This shows us the commitment and support that the youth is receiving from the UN, and this strategy could help tremendously in offering young people a voice and a seat on the high-level table. The empowerment of youth is crucial at such a global level, which is why there is always a need to give youth a role in these events.

Another major event that took place last Tuesday was the launch of the new class of UN Young Leaders. These are 17 young people who have been recognized for their work on the promotion and achievement of the 2030 Agenda of Sustainable Development. This initiative was started by the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth last year to increase the work done by the UN to boost youth participation.

We all aspire to change and develop in a world full of possibilities for those who choose to dream and take action to achieve their goals. Well, here in my country of Saudi Arabia, we are living in a time of amazing development for youth. We are given a voice and a seat on that table in our country.

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Razan meeting with Sec. General of the King Abdulaziz Center for National Dialogue

As for the UN, I was honored several times to attend events there as a Saudi Youth Representative. However, we can still do more.

Here in Saudi Arabia, there is a need to start implementing the Youth Delegate Programme to engage young Saudi leaders at the UN, because our participation would allow us to expand the role of our youth to the global level. We all have a joint story of how our Kingdom is empowering us to reach the sky, and I believe that, by starting to work more on our youth engagement at the UN, we will be impacting the world positively by sharing our ideas, thoughts and opinions.

This year’s UNGA week promises so much for young people around the world, and I look forward to seeing all the great things that will come out of the new youth strategy and the new class of UN Young Leaders.

The engagement and representation of youth to voice and express their thoughts and opinions on that high level are crucial to discussing and solving the challenges that young people are facing around the world.

Statistically speaking, young people make up about 40 percent of the world’s population. One thing I always hear during my engagements at the UN, at the beginning of each session, is: “You are the largest youth population that the world has ever witnessed. You are a voice and force to be recognized.”

The challenges we face today cannot be summarized in one article, but the first step to solving these issues depends on giving us young people the platform to participate and engage in discussions that concern our future — such as the importance of our participation during UNGA week.

Under the supervision of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, we have been witnessing increased support for young Saudis in entrepreneurship, science and technology and many other sectors. Additionally, even at the UN, I have personally witnessed the support given to the young people to participate at this high level and be part of our country’s continued commitment to youth engagement and involvement.

We are living in an environment that is encouraging all the young people to dream and change the world with our actions and I believe our increased participation at the UN will allow us to do even more.

– Razan Farhan Alaqil is a student of political science -international comparative politics and global studies. She is a Saudi youth representative at the UN.


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