Global Youth Collaboration

Samantha Holmes
October 2, 2013

On the night of September 17, 2013, I could not fall asleep. The hours came and went and the night drew on. Yet, my mind was too active for me to get some rest. My thoughts were consumed by the the fact that in less than 24 hours, I would be attending an open meeting in New York City for youth organizations at the United Nations.

A plethora of scenarios played through my head as I tried to envision what the experience would have in store. In reality, the event was much more impactful and incredible than I had imagined.

At the onset of the meeting, I was amazed by the large amount of young change makers that I encountered within the first hour of the meeting. Attendees hailed from all parts of the world such as Ireland, Germany, Canada, Colombia, Fiji, Lebanon, Syria, Finland—the list goes on. Despite our varied backgrounds, we were all united by our passion for youth advocacy. As I spoke of my involvement with environmental and social justice activism in America, I heard fascinating stories from other Millennials who are striving to spark change in their own communities.

The purpose of the meeting, officially called the Open Meeting of the United Nations Inter-Agency Network on Youth Development (IANYD) with Youth Organizations, Networks and Movements, was to create plans that would connect youth organizations with numerous agencies from the United Nations. Entities such as UNESCO, UNICEF, UNFPA, and the World Health Organization have joined together to form the Inter-Agency Network on Youth Development and we were there to contribute youth voice to their efforts. Breakout groups, question-and-answer sessions, and candid discussions allowed us to openly communicate our ideas.

The purpose of the meeting echoed the sentiments of the Campaign for a Presidential Youth Council. Throughout the panels and discussion groups, we discussed the pertinent issue of youth rights and youth representation in government. Participants from all around the globe agreed that issues such as unemployment, unjust policies, inequality, and inadequate education are severe hindrances for young people.

United Nations representatives from Sri Lanka and Norway acknowledged the obstacles that young people in their respective countries face. They emphasized the need for a system-wide action plan that would address employment, entrepreneurship, education, political participation, protection of rights, health, and civic engagement for adolescents. There was an inter-generational consensus that change cannot wait.

Other than the sheer excitement of meeting so many young visionaries, the gathering impacted me because of the words of wisdom that numerous people shared with the group. Ahmad Alhendawi, the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on youth, stated, “…We believe that we cannot be relaxed anymore when we talk about young people, they are half of the world’s population and we need to respond to the challenges that are facing young people. That is why we are having a meeting over the next three days and meeting with over one hundred youth organizations from all around the world..”

The United Nation’s dedication to young people was truly inspiring and I hope that this commitment to youth will continue around the world.  

Samantha is a senior in high school with a passion for writing and the environment. She serves as Vice President for the international youth council of Greening Forward and is a member of the national youth council for Keep America Beautiful. Samantha is also a Spring 2013 Global Population and Environment Fellow at the Sierra Club and a blogger at SPARK Summit.  Samantha is one of the Top 24 of 24 Changemakers named by SparkAction and the Campaign for a Presidential Youth Council in July 2013. Read her story >>



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