About the Author: Kurtis Cooper serves as the Public Affairs Chief for the Bureau of International Organization Affairs.
On December 21, young people set the agenda at the UN Security Council. U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Susan Rice delivered the introductory remarks for the special event, Voices of a New Generation.
Ambassador Rice said, "This type of informal meeting is not what we usually do, but in my view it's one of the most important events of the month-long presidency of the United States of the Security Council in December. We called this informal meeting to bring greater attention to the concerns of young people around the world. Your lives are being shaped and sculpted by a world of challenge and change. And by bringing your voices into this room, we remind ourselves not only that real lives are at stake in our deliberations. We remind ourselves that we, the grown-ups, are only the temporary stewards of the Earth, and that we owe it to you, the next generation, to provide a more peaceful world of growing prosperity, equality, democracy, and opportunity.
"So let me say to the young people of the world: you have a stake in our debates every day. But today, you and your generation will have a voice as well."
She continued, "At the beginning of the month, when the United States began our Presidency of the Security Council, we invited anyone, age 13 to 21, from any part of the world, to tell us what they thought was 'the most vital challenge to peace and security facing your generation.'
"From December 2 to 14, we received almost 1,000 submissions from young people in more than 90 countries and on every continent. They came in dozens of languages, including all six official languages of the Security Council: English and Chinese, French and Arabic, Russian and Spanish.
"They poured in by e-mail, on YouTube, and through Facebook. And some were even written by hand.
"The responses, as I said, came from every point of the globe, but we heard a striking number of common themes. And I want to just share with you briefly a short sample.
"Hani Daou, a 16-year-old from Beirut, Lebanon, wrote: 'I've always asked myself, how does a war last so long? If a dispute was to originate in one generation between two nations, how is it that the same dispute ignites a war nearly 50 years after?'
"He went on to say, 'The most vital challenge to international peace and security facing my generation is the inheritance of a hateful outlook toward another culture or population from our previous generation.'
"Nineteen-year-old Check Wallah wrote from Cameroon, 'The main goal of every government is to maintain a calm and serene atmosphere both within its borders and beyond. However, a close examination of the issues reveals that the most vital challenge to international peace and security in today's societies lies in ineffective governance.'
"Abhishek Anirudhan, who is 15, emailed us from India: 'As modern terrorism is continually changing, and is in the hunt for innovative methods of carrying out attacks, propaganda campaigns and the Cyber World is without doubt a new combat zone -- and one that terror organizations are striving to take advantage of.'
"And finally, I'll just read another one from Janet Bering, a 19-year-old from Houston, Texas, who asked Security Council members this: 'In the year 2050, how old will you all be?... In the year 2050, I will be 59, and witnessing the most pronounced effects of global warming. Decreasing water availability, desertification of previously arable land, increasingly severe flooding and storms, extinction of potentially economically viable species: all of these are effects of climate change that will directly threaten international peace and security.'
"The majority of ideas we received came via e-mail, but we also received lots of videos posted on Facebook and YouTube. We've compiled a montage that we will play at the end of this session to let you hear some of those voices.
"I really wish that we had time to discuss all of them. But in the interests of time and focus, we've selected just three submissions to play in their entirety. And they'll serve as the basis for our discussion today. These videos present distinct voices from three different regions of the world, but together, they echo themes that we heard throughout many of the submissions we got.
"In short, young people long for peace, they want to be protected from war and bloodshed. They worry about conditions that could ignite conflict. And they see a clear link between their security and development.
"The three videos we will show now come first from a girl named Fabiola Mercedes Estrada, a 17- year-old, from Venezuela. Gloria Ramazani, a 20-year-old girl who lives in Goma, in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. And thirdly, from Oussama Bessassi, a 17-year-old from Tunis, Tunisia."