As the U.S. Youth Observer to the United Nations, I have had the opportunity to meet so many passionate young people across the United States and the world. Being part of such a vibrant, optimistic generation has given me a renewed sense of hope for our future. Throughout my time in this position, I’ve met countless young people who are tackling some of the world’s most pressing challenges. My interactions with them have made it abundantly clear that young people are not waiting for some other time or some other person to make the changes they wish to see in the world.
I have had the privilege of traveling around the United States to learn about the issues young people are most passionate about and representing their voices at the United Nations. My time as Youth Observer began with representing American youth at the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) at UN Headquarters in New York. I couldn’t help but walk away from UNGA feeling not only reinvigorated and informed, but excited and hopeful about the future. I realize that there is no single way to tackle global challenges – be it hunger or gender inequality. It comes down to utilizing your platform and tapping into your unique skills to identify the best way you can contribute to shaping a better world for all people.
I have met with young leaders not only across the United States but also from countries across the globe. During the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Hyderabad, India, I met the powerful female leaders of a tech start-up and a women’s resource center. In New York, I exchanged ideas with youth delegates and diplomats from every corner of the world. Most recently, I traveled to Geneva, Switzerland for the UN Human Rights Council, where I sat in on high-level negotiations to address human rights in Syria and learned how young UN staffers make a serious impact around the world.
The best part of being the Youth Observer has been relaying messages from young Americans to senior U.S. leaders and UN officials, including Ambassador Nikki Haley and UN Youth Envoy Jayathma Wickramanayake. My hope has been to amplify the voices of young people at key decision-making tables. Far too often, the very issues that affect young people are discussed without meaningfully engaging us. Young people tend to be the most vulnerable, but also the least represented. We are told to “wait our turn” and that we do not have the experience to make an impact. Despite these challenges, young people are finding opportunities to get involved, beckon big changes, and make their voices heard. This is exactly what I have strived to do as U.S. Youth Observer to the UN, and this is what I hope young people will continue to do for many generations to come.
If you are interested in being the next U.S. Youth Observer to the UN, I encourage you to apply now. The most critical role of the Youth Observer is to engage young Americans in the work of the UN, empower them to be active participants in dialogue on international issues, and to have a positive impact in their local communities. Serving as the U.S. Youth Observer to the UN has been an incredible and humbling opportunity. Thank you to everyone who has engaged with me in-person or online, to those who have shared personal stories with me, and to those who are working towards making the world a better place in your own ways. I hope the next Youth Observer continues to inspire young people around the world to work towards the future we need and deserve. We are the changemakers we have been waiting for.
About the Author: Munira Khalif serves as the 2017-2018 U.S. Youth Observer to the United Nations.
Editor's Note: This entry is also published in the U.S. Department of State's publication on Medium.
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