Posted by Gidado Yushau Shuaib, who was in New York | 13 September 2015 | 4,395 times
Few months after the launch of Youths Digest magazine, I received an invitation as an editor to attend United Nations Youth Assembly (UNYA) in New York organised by Friendship Ambassador Foundation.
Realising that confirmed sponsorship of an event in America doesn’t guarantee automatic visa to the United States, I filled the online application form for the visa and waited for a miracle.
At the US Embassy in Abuja, I was not only scared but terrified seeing the number of prospective travellers, especially businessmen and politicians whose visa requests were rejected. I prayed deeply when I overheard an applicant cursing her unknown enemies, for failure to get the visa.
“Young man, you are the next person!” A voice interrupted my thought. I looked up only to see the visa officer beckoning to me to come over.
Being an undergraduate, I have learnt that job interviews are tedious; I didn’t anticipate visa interview could be more rigid, tough and penetrating. Having read most of the correspondences from organisers on the scheduled programmes and activities in New York and other studies, I found it easy responding to the questions. Though convinced on my response, I still had palpable fears of rejection.
“Your visa will be ready next week!” the Visa Officer declared suddenly.
I was not only excited for the opportunity to visit the USA, the fact that the International Youth Conference, known as Youth Assembly would take place inside the United Nations Headquarters in New York was an added impetus.
After two stopovers in Amsterdam and Boston, we finally landed in New York City in a breath-taking 18 hours journey. We arrived in New York City at night with a thick cloud hovering over the legendary city. The impressive wide boulevards and flyovers were fascinating and lovely.
On arrival at the UN Headquarters, delegates were issued tags for easy identification in the building. The Youth Assembly had in attendance nearly 600 delegates from over 30 countries. Most of the discussions and deliberations focused on the Sustainable Development Goals the successor to the Millennium Developments Goals (MDGs) due to lapse this year after 15 years of reign.
Nigerian-born Amina J. Mohammed, who is Special Advisor to the Secretary General of the United Nations on Post -2015 Development Planning, was among the guest speakers. She set the tune for the conference when she declared: “Now you have a real chance to make a tremendous impact in the world – as the chosen few.”
Another inspiring speaker was Andy Rabens, US Special Advisor for Global Youth Issues who narrated his experience at the UN General Assembly Hall more than 10 years ago as a young man and intern. He talked about a “Pager” being used then as a mobile device. He said “it would buzz, a number would appear, and you’d go to a pay phone, throw in a quarter, and call them back in a different time. Mobile phones were not too popular then.”
That the period, which was before the infamous 9/11 attack on the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in United States, there were no Facebook, Twitter, smartphones, selfies or any powerful social networks for easy communication.
As he spoke, I wondered how the youths were communicating before year 2000 when there were no easy means of communication through technology. In fact the youths had far less power at their fingertips compared to today. We could not imagine a life without smart phone, internet and social media platforms.
Other speakers agreed that because of technology and demographics, we now live in the most empowered generation the world has ever seen. With about 60 percent of global population below the age of 35, the youths have the power to change the world positively by mobilizing towards just causes.
The delegates lauded the launching of the Sustainable Developmental Goals (SDGs) that would expand on the successes of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). While they agreed that MDGs recorded reductions in people living in extreme poverty and access to clean water among others, there are more loopholes to be blocked and tackled.
The new agenda of SDGs will likely consist of additional goals for the next 15 years towards further eradicating extreme poverty; ensuring environmental sustainability and conservation; advancing gender equality, continuing to tackle conflict and climate change and building peaceful and economically prosperous societies so that no global citizen is left behind.
The young people at the Youth Assembly unanimously agreed that with modern technology and the world of connectivity, there is greater opportunity to not only help shape the worldview but to implement SDGs and ensure that concrete progress takes place before our very eyes.
The UN Youth Assembly not only broadened my scope of knowledge on MDGs and SDGs, the trip exposed me to exceptional youths that are passionate about changing the world positively.
•Gidado Yushau Shuaib (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a student of Baze University, Abuja. Photo shows a cross-section of delegates during the UN Youth Assembly, including Gidado Shuaib (left), Johnny Quispe, founder of Renew Africa Initiative.
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